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October 26, 2023 Newsletter

Updated: Dec 2, 2023



New Release & First Chapter


If you love emotional character-driven romances, then this one is for you!! Keep scrolling for a signed paperback giveaway!!



What you'll love:

💖 Second Chance

💖 Reverse Age-gap

💖 Sweet Romance

💖 Soul Mates

💖Character Driven

💖 Emotional Journey

Keep Reading for chapter one: Introduction It’s no secret why I’m here, so I won’t string you along only to break your heart later. I’m here to die unless fate has other plans. Prologue No one warns you about the soul-crushing, life-altering reality of grief. The way your body folds into itself and the world you once knew just vanishes like an exploding star, a dusting of feelings and truths scattered in the past. They don’t prepare you for the world to ebb and flow in a completely different way either. A way that feels wrong and vile. Maybe no one talks about it because it’s an indescribable experience. My mind struggled for a long time with how to process the loss. I lived in the early days of grief for almost a year, but learning to move forward with the grief tightly wrapped around me like a second skin was just as slow of a process. One breath at a time turned into one step at a time and finally one day at a time, but it would always be there with me. The friend I never wanted. The friend I never invited over. The friend that would be my shadow whether it was day or night, until the day I died. Chapter One CHARLEE “Where are we going?” I took my eyes off the road to glance at Bridger. His head was slumped back on the headrest as he stared out the window. He looked so fragile. A far cry from what he used to be. I had to force my eyes not to blink so the tears would dry before they fell. It’s as if I could feel my heart shredding one slow piece at a time. The tears flowed so freely these days. Nothing but Bridger mattered now. Nothing. “It’s a surprise.” I had tried to sound cheery. He rolled his head toward me. Holding it upright was a struggle for him now. Everything was a struggle. “I thought the surprise party was the surprise?” A going away party was not the last memory I wanted Bridger to die with. My chest tightened at the thought. His hospice nurse had told us he only had days now. In my heart I knew, realistically, he only had hours. “Why does there have to be only one?” I teased through the painful reality. I reached over and took his hand, daring another glance at him. He smiled weakly. We thought we’d have more time. Decades, but it turned out to be only a little over two years since his diagnosis. It took a long time for me to come to terms with his impending death. I lived in denial until I couldn’t deny it anymore. The first year after his diagnosis we had hope. He was healthy, and his initial symptoms had disappeared. We even considered the doctor had misdiagnosed him altogether. We made plans. So many plans. The last six months had changed those plans, though, and not to the kind anyone wanted to talk about. Breathe, I reminded myself time and time again when the memories flooded me. I turned down the mountain instead of the freeway. He would know now where we were heading. This road led to one place. Our place. “Charlee…” He reached over and squeezed my hand weakly. I couldn’t hold back the tears now. I rolled my lips between my teeth to hold back as best I could, but my face grew hot as my eyes overflowed, and the tears streamed down anyway. I blinked them away and took in a deep breath as I maneuvered the car through the tight turns. Any other time we would have music playing loudly and the windows down, but today we kept the windows up, and the car was silent except for the soft whooshing sound of the fan. It had been a warm day, but as the evening neared, the air had cooled down a bit, so I brought a bundle of blankets to help keep Bridger warm and comfortable. Safe. The parking lot had pretty much emptied. The surfers usually left by early afternoon, and the stragglers that remained on the beach were from the nearby campground. Bridger and I had always planned to buy a travel trailer and stay there one day on our way up and down the coast, but those plans changed, too. There were a lot of things we would never get to do together. Be strong. “Wait here,” I told Bridger as I grabbed my large tote bag full of snacks and the bundle of blankets. I walked the path to the beach and laid out a blanket, tossing the rest in a pile and leaving the tote behind and ran back to the car to help Bridger make his way slowly down to the beach. It was still light out, so we didn’t have to worry about tripping on washed up branches and half-buried rocks. He was almost dead weight at this point, but Bridger was determined to use the last of his strength to share this moment with me. For us. When we made it down to the beach, I wrapped Bridger in two blankets, making sure every part of him was protected from the dewy chill, before wrapping myself in one. “This is nice,” he said weakly. “Thank you.” I rested my head on his shoulder and we watched the waves crash on the beach, not saying anything for a while, taking in all the memories that washed up and splayed across the sand. “Do you remember when you lost your bathing suit out there?” He broke the silence and managed a light laugh, choking on the air for a moment. It was a sound I could never get used to. I would never take breathing for granted again. “Do you need your oxygen? I can run up and get it?” He shook his head and cleared his throat. “No, I’m okay.” He opened his arm so I could snuggle into him. “Do you remember, though?” I laughed. “How could I forget? I had to float in the freezing cold water until you could get a towel for me. And even than I had to come partially out of the water completely naked.” I had been mortified. Bridger had been teaching me how to surf for the first time and it had been a spur-of-the-moment thing, so I didn’t have a wetsuit. I was adamant to never make that mistake again. On our way home, we had stopped and bought me one. It was also the first time Bridger, or any boy for that matter, had seen me in all my glory. “I remember thinking how incredibly stunning you were. Still are.” I playfully nudged him. “You weren’t supposed to look! You’ve been lying to me this whole time.” “I figured what better time to come clean, if not now.” It always came back to that. To the end. The pain took hold in my chest, squeezing so tightly I couldn’t breathe and bringing tears to the surface once again. Bridger glanced over. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring down the moment.” He squeezed me closer. The weakness in his embrace broke me further. Before he got sick, I could feel the muscle behind his hugs. Now there was only skin and bones. “Please, stop apologizing.” I choked back the lump in my throat. “This is not your fault.” He sighed. “Char, I need you to promise me something, and I know it’s going to sound cliché, but I need you to be okay. After I’m gone, after you grieve, I need you to move on. You can’t give up living for yourself.” He took my hands into his and locked eyes with me. The emerald color almost seemed to have faded with him. What was once bright and captivating had become dull and lifeless. “You can’t join me until you’re old and gray,” he said with stubborn resolve. The sounds of my cries drowned out the crashing waves. I shook my head defiantly. “How am I supposed to do that? You’re my whole world. You have always been. Bridger, it’s only ever been you.” Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but we had always been fated for forever. I just never imagined forever would be so short. He twisted slightly and wrapped his arms around my neck, placing his forehead on mine. “I know what I’m asking is a lot –” “Impossible,” I whispered. Bridger continued, “I can’t leave until you promise me.” I understood what he was saying. He would stay here and suffer for as long as it took until I promised. For me. His disease had taken a turn for the worse over the last several weeks. We knew he didn’t have much longer, and the suffering was becoming unbearable for him. I didn’t answer him. I just snuggled into him closer and treasured the sound of his beating heart. I wanted to remember us just like this. In our favorite place, together. The clouds moved on and the sun disappeared, leaving us with a brilliant display of infinite twinkling stars. There were millions scattered across the sky, kissing the water at the edge of the horizon, uniting as unlikely partners and sharing the night with one another just as Bridger and I did for the last time. “More coffee?” I startled out of my daze, wiping away a tear before responding. “I think I’ve had enough,” I joked, trying to conceal my pain. “You alright, hon?” I nodded with a small smile. Beverly was always so sweet with me. I had been coming here every morning for months now, but we didn’t say much past my breakfast order and coffee refills. I paid my tab at the register and slid outside, the sun blinding me momentarily. As my vision cleared, I saw a young man leaning on the wall of the Beach Break Café, cup of coffee in hand, staring at me. Instantly, tingles of anxiety dispersed throughout my body and my heart started to beat faster. I ducked my head and walked quickly past him to the path back to the campground. “What’s your story?” he asked before I made it a few steps past him. I froze. His voice was smooth and gentle with an edge of genuine curiosity. What’s your story, I repeated in my head. Those three words, when separated, had minimal effect, but strung together like a tragic melody were so damn profound. How could I possibly answer that? Did I start from the beginning when I was born? Or later when my life took a turn for the worse? No, that one would scare him away. Maybe stay positive and highlight all the best parts of my life, but even my fondest memories would inevitably lead back to the unfortunate path which brought me here to this very moment. Probably best not to dive so deep during a casual introduction. But did I care if I scared him away? Did I care if his focused interest turned into pitying stares? No, I didn’t. But I also didn’t care to answer him either. “No story,” I said and walked past him without a care of what he thought. It was a lie, of course. Everyone has a story. We all begin and end the same, but the middle, the arc of the story, if drawn on paper would be an unreadable mess full of knots and tangles. No two stories alike. My story, like most, is filled with calm seas and disastrous tornadoes. Lots of predictability with some unbelievable surprises tossed in. I hated surprises. The thought of them made my stomach muscles tighten and my heart race uncomfortably. On the other hand, I also became restless in the mundane. Some days were up, while others were down. Sometimes I thought my mind was a bigger mess than my “story”, as the coffee guy labeled it. He hadn’t bothered to introduce himself before asking me a fully loaded question so he would be forever branded with the name Coffee Guy. Heading into forty, I thought it was just a number, another Hallmark milestone. That’s what everyone said, at least. You’re only as old as you think you are. Forty wasn’t just a number for me, though. Arthritis wrapped around my hands, my hair had started to thin, and fat hugged me in places it had never before. Forty-one wasn't treating me much better, although the years of suffering had melted some fat off my hips. When Coffee Guy called after me with a confused apology, I didn’t look back. Acknowledgment would be an invitation of another exchange. Instead, my bare feet kept their steady pace over the sandy covered asphalt, through the partially visible path flanked on both sides by dead brush, and down to the beach. I walked up the berm to my modest little aqua retro trailer that I had purchased off a young woman whose mom had just passed, the trailer no longer a use to her family. Every morning I walked to the Beach Break Café and sat for hours in the far corner watching the tide slowly swallow the beach and fill the nearby tidepools. The café was quietest in the early hours after the dawn patrol headed out to surf, and their coffee was better than the coffee I made in the trailer. This morning had been interrupted by Coffee Guy, maybe a decade younger than me. I had seen him come in every day for the last several mornings to grab a to-go coffee. He lingered in the waiting area longer than seemed necessary and, occasionally, I would catch him staring at me, which was slightly unsettling. He was good looking, garnering my attention, but what fascinated me more was his sudden decision to make conversation with me today as I left the café. I was average and looked to be quite a bit older than him. Young, handsome men didn’t seem to take notice of women like me. At least not for long. My beauty had faded with Bridger, and I didn’t care much about getting it back. And yet, I had somehow captured his attention even though I was hidden in a corner, and it made me slightly uncomfortable. Him engaging me in words was even less appealing. After a small climb, I reached my makeshift porch of my campsite facing the ocean and plopped into my chair. Trailers were lined up along the frontage road and kids ran freely on the narrow strip of exposed beach as their parents looked on. It was a familiar scene I used to enjoy. Before worse became worst. Grief was something no one could possibly become accustomed to. Numbness was mistaken for acceptance that seeped into the broken parts of your soul and filled the void so you had a reason to wake up every morning. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. I knew the only way to heal would be to leave the past behind me. My house. My friends. My life. A fragile and stagnant existence that was drifting in the middle of an ocean waiting for the winds to decide which way it should go. I was still waiting for that deciding wind, one year, eleven months, and twelve days later. My phone vibrated on the little side table next to the book I was reading. It was my neighbor from back home. “Hi,” I answered. “Hi,” she exclaimed. The silence stretched out longer than warranted, so I knew what was coming next. “Are you coming home soon?” The concern in her voice was evident. “I…” I didn’t know how to answer that. “I’m sorry. I know I keep asking you, but I miss you around here.” Kim was such a good friend. I missed her, but going home seemed impossible. “Please don’t apologize.” I paused. “I’m just not ready yet,” I sighed and held back tears that were pushing against the lump that had formed in my throat again. “I understand. I worry about you, is all.” A tear had escaped, and I wiped it away quickly, sucking in a quiet breath. “I know. Thank you for that.” “Of course. I love you.” “Love you, too. I have to go. Talk with you soon. Bye.” I pinched my eyes shut, tears escaping around my fingers. Get it together, Charlee. Midnight barked from inside the trailer, perfectly distracting me from becoming a mess for everyone on the beach to witness. I popped my head inside. “Did you miss me?” I scratched her little head, scooped her up, and brought her outside with me. “Maybe I’ll get to finish my book today,” I teased as I situated her on my lap. She stretched out and immediately closed her eyes. She was the perfect size to nap on my thighs. “Laziest dog on the planet.” I laughed to myself. “I’m glad you like the beach, because we may never leave.” I hated the ache that coated the truth in my words. I hadn’t been home since the funeral, and I just couldn’t see myself going back any time soon. Kim was an amazing friend and had offered to watch over my house for as long as I needed. Neither of us thought it would be for this long, but I didn’t have the strength to be there alone. Who would? “We’ll go back one day,” I told Midnight as I stroked her back. I couldn’t avoid my past forever. My tragedy. But wasn’t that why I was here? To face all of my past with Bridger. I had no intention of getting a dog. I had cherished my independence, and dogs just seemed like a lot of work. Plus, traveling would be more difficult. Would we take it with us, or would I ask my neighbor if she could watch it? But the second I saw that furry little face, black and wavy with a white patch just on its chin, and those sweet black beady little eyes, I knew I couldn’t live without it. Someone had surrendered the mom, not knowing she had been pregnant. The mom had been a small white poodle, so imagine everyone’s surprise when out popped five black puppies. Midnight was the runt and the last to be adopted. By me. I shook my head as I walked out of the humane society, officially a first-time dog owner. I told Bridger over the phone and he was less than thrilled. All the doubts I had he shared as well. “Wait until you meet her. It’ll be love at first sight.” Bridger had always been a sweet and gentle man with a soft spot for animals, so I had been right about Midnight. He instantly fell in love, and so did she. I tried not to be jealous when Midnight chose him over me time and time again. “Midnight? Pretty cliché, don’t you think?” He raised a brow. “Would you rather name her Snowball and really throw everyone for a loop?” When he laughed, his smile reached his eyes, revealing an irresistible dimple on his right cheek. “Midnight it is,” he finally agreed. He had doted on her, and we were both pleasantly surprised by how smart Midnight was. The humane society said the pups were part Yorkie and poodle, but all I saw were poodle attributes, and that would explain how intelligent she was. The first time we sat down to train her, she impressed us with sit and fetch. She even walked off leash, never straying far from our sides. When it was just Midnight and me after Bridger died, she was confused at first. She would look for him every morning and wouldn’t give up until lunch and then she would start all over again at bedtime. She would eventually curl onto his pillow and fall asleep. I had thought it would get better, easier. That when I rolled over and looked at his side of the bed, the sharp pain that filled my chest would fade and eventually subside. Morph into happy memories of him. But that day didn’t come fast enough, and that’s when I knew I had to leave our life behind.



BLURB

My brother’s teammates know not to touch me — but that doesn’t stop me from daring Jaxson Brittain to be the first to break the rule.

After one steamy night in Austin, I’m all too aware of the hot, broody defenseman with icy blue eyes and ink sprawling his muscular arms. He was the one my brother assigned to keep me safe — and I had far too much fun tempting him to be the one to put me in danger.

It was just one night of tip-toeing the line, of teasing and flirting and messing around knowing nothing would ever come of it.

But when the universe throws me back into his lap two weeks later and we end up on a secret road trip together, all bets are off.

I can’t help but touch him. I can’t help but pray for him to touch me. And I can’t resist the temptation to test him at every turn.

Jaxson is smart and doesn’t have a death wish. So, like a gentleman, he keeps his hands to himself… the jerk.

But the closer we get on the road and the farther we get from reality, the less those warning signs from my brother seem to deter him.

When we started this road trip, we set a boundary. We promised to keep all arms and legs safely in the friend zone.

Now, miles and miles away from all the reasons we shouldn’t, all I can hear is my heart thumping out the resounding reason we should.

And the way those heated blue eyes watch me, I know I’m not the only one.

___________________________________________

TROPES:

Pro Hockey Romance Teammate’s Little Sister/Brother’s Best Friend Road Trip Forced Proximity One Bed Age Gap Opposites Attract Forbidden ___________________________________________

Watch Your Mouth is book two in the Kings of the Ice series: a series of interconnected standalones following a team of professional hockey players and the women who bring them to their knees. They do not need to be read in order, but you will gain glimpses of future characters/couples in each book.

EXCERPT

He smirked, shaking his head and nodding toward the bar. “Alright, little Nova. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

His hands found my waist then, and he lifted me like I weighed nothing — just like he had the night before. I couldn’t fight back my smile as I found the height necessary to grab the bar, and once he was sure I had a good grip, Jaxson let go.

“Okay. Now what?”

He chuckled from behind me. “Engage your back, tighten your core, and lift yourself up.”

I nodded with determination, sticking my tongue out a little as I attempted what he’d said.

And barely budged.

I laughed hysterically, letting my body fall limp as I held onto the bar. “Nailed it!”

Jaxson laughed, too, but then his hands were on me, and suddenly laughing was the furthest thing from my mind.

His hands were massive where they enveloped my rib cage, and he held most of my weight as he moved in close behind me.

“You want to think about lifting through here,” he said, running his fingertips along my lats. I knew without looking to confirm that a wave of goosebumps had erupted at his touch. “And here,” he added, ghosting those fingers over my deltoids and rhomboids.

And just when I thought I was safe from passing away at the feel of his warm hands on me, he wrapped them around my waist, one holding fast to my hip as the other splayed my stomach.

“Breathe,” he encouraged — as if that was easy with him touching me. “And tighten your core. Use the energy here.”

His touch lingered for a long pause before he pulled away, and I let out a shaky breath before feeling that determination sink back in.

With a grunt, I focused on all the areas he’d pointed out, using that sexual energy stirring in my gut to help propel me. I managed to lift myself halfway, and then I kicked my feet, tilting my chin up as if that would help it sail over the bar.

When I failed, I dropped limp again, hanging like a little kid from the monkey bars.

“I suck.”

Jaxson chuckled. “No, you’ve just never attempted a pull-up before. These take a lot of strength. Here, let me help you so you can feel the proper form.”

I waited for him to grab my waist again, but instead, he jumped, his hands finding the bar on either side of mine.

And that, of course, brought him flush against me — his chest to my back, our bodies in a tight-fitted seam.

Oh. My. Fucking. Fuck.

Heat rushed through me, from the point where his breath skated over my neck to where his massive biceps caged me in. He smelled like leather and fresh-cut cedar, the scent invading my senses and scrambling my brain just as much as his touch did.

“Oh, come on, Nova,” he teased, lifting himself a little so his voice rumbled right behind the shell of my ear. “What was it you said to me that night in Austin? Don’t look so scared.”

My eyelids fluttered shut, heart racing like I was doing cardio instead of weight training. Because that little jest, those four little words… they answered my question.

He did think about that night.




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