99 Cent Summer Sale!

It feels a little funny writing “summer” when we’re having a weirdly wet start to our summer here in Eugene, Oregon. I refuse to complain because we’ve had so many bad forest fires the last few years. Still, it’s almost mid June and sunshine is on the way! Plus, it’s been forever since I’ve done a 99 cent romance sale.

I’ve had a fun, busy, crazy year because we started a food truck called Squacho’s Nachos in January, and we just went into a new, permanent location. I learned how to hire employees and run payroll, yay me! I still managed to finish two novels this year so far and have an idea for another new project, but first I want to enjoy summer a bit and make sure the food truck is running well.

So, I want to celebrate summer and my new releases this year – The Billionaire Who Bought Me and Sarah’s Song. Below are three of my older novels that I love, that make great beach reads for this summer. You can preview them here and get them on Amazon. I have even more 99 cent romances on my Amazon profile.

Happy camping or beach-going, or whatever fun activities you’re doing! And of course happy reading.

Preview Sarah’s Song

I can’t wait for you to meet Sarah, her best friend Melody, and our hero Michael and his band mates Aidan and Conor.

Too bad Conor from the story wasn’t here to do a drum roll… because I’d like to share the prologue and first chapter!

Prologue

Sarah Austin

Eugene, Oregon, USA

“God, Sarah, I just wish you’d think about someone else for once.”

Ian’s words burned into me. Sliced into me. Filled me with rage – an emotion so sudden and new that I had no idea what to say. I clenched my fists in my lap and glared out the passenger window, not seeing the people milling around downtown Eugene in the mist. Sunshine broke through for a second and I saw myself reflected back in the window, outrage in my dark eyes. The silence inside the car rang loud and long.

Think about someone else? That’s all I’ve done!

I’ve spent the last three years thinking of him, taking care of him, putting my life on hold for him. Could I ever make up for my horrible mistake three years ago and make things right again? No, I knew better than that. But I only wanted to take a girl’s trip with my best friend Melody. Was that so selfish?

He drummed his fingers on the wheel, fast, irritated. He had cracked his window, even though he knew it bothered my ears, and even the tires rolling on wet pavement sounded passive aggressive.

I worked so hard to erase his pain, to make things right in his life, but they never got better. Really, things were getting worse. Maybe I had finally reached my breaking point.

“Time shouldn’t matter,” he added in a low voice, and the cold anger startled me. “Everyone thinks I should get over it, but what do they know? What do you know, Sarah?” He said my name like it was a dirty word.

A tiny whisper somewhere in my head asked, what about me? Do I ever get to move on? Hadn’t I paid enough?

A feeling had been growing inside me, something restless and wild, and it was reaching a critical point. I wanted more—more what, I wasn’t sure. More life? More adventure? More direction? More connection with other people? I wanted to live a life and not just take care of Ian, alone all of the time.

Maybe it was selfish but the desire was growing more each day.

I worked my jaw side to side to loosen the tension. “I never once said you should just move on. You know that. You know I’ve been there for you.”

Like, every… single… day.

I couldn’t remember how to think about myself anymore. I just wanted a few days to breathe, to think. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I needed to think about, but I just needed to step back from my life to see it. Right now, it all felt like a fog that I couldn’t escape, where I couldn’t really see anything clearly.

In the last few weeks, the trees started budding for spring. The earth was renewing; starting over. Some days, it felt as if everything else on this planet got a fresh start but I wasn’t allowed one.

Some other faint thought followed that one, but I couldn’t grab onto it. A memory? An echo of a dream? Maybe it was a song – I could almost hear a man singing.

If you want to fly, I’ll let you fly away…

I know you were tired of running… I’ll let you fly

 The music was just out of reach. It felt like I was trying to remember something urgently important, something that would change everything. I wanted to pull it out of the mist and convince myself I wasn’t going insane.

“I can’t move on,” Ian said so low it took a few seconds for the words to register.

Half of me wanted to turn toward him and reassure him, but what could I say? ‘It’s alright, you don’t have to move on. We’ll stay in our apartment together, just us, and wallow in the pain.’

No. Maybe I didn’t deserve to move on, but I needed to. Wanted to. I wanted to go back to work and see people and live again. Instead of saying any of that, I continued to glare out my window, feeling my heart beating too hard.

We’d driven through downtown to the other side where the intersections were wider. Soon we’d hit the split and turn to go up Coburg. He stopped at a light for a split second before stomping on the gas. I looked forward and gasped.

“Ian, it’s red.”

He slammed on the breaks. The car screeched to a halt right in the middle of the intersection, nothing in front of us.

“What are you doing? Don’t stop! You have to go.”

He gripped the wheel in both hands, staring forward. Horns blared at us. A car flew by from the right, inches from the front of ours. I looked in that direction. A giant silver truck barreled toward us. Our car still didn’t move.

“Ian! It’s not stopping! You have to move!”

Why wouldn’t he move—

Lauren McAlister

Dublin, Ireland

Lauren pulled a long sip from her drink before reaching over and hitting “record”.

Her reflection stared back at her, with her sky blue eyes and strawberry blond hair looking washed out. An odd feeling overcame her, like she was looking at someone else. She dropped her gaze. It was her, not the video quality that was fading.

It took a second for her shaky fingers to find their place on the guitar strings. Then she strummed, closing her eyes, pulling the intro out like taffy. She wanted to feel the music, really feel it like she used to—in her heart and soul.

Music made her. It saved her. But not anymore.

That could be a line in another song but those songs were for someone else to sing, not her.

Lauren brought her attention back to this song, the one that had been weaving itself inside her for weeks.

As she strummed, she talked.

“I’m not sure what this is titled. I’m calling it ‘Carry me Home’. It’s more about carrying my music for me. I wanted to share it and say… I wanted to say I love you all. And… and rock on.”

She started to sing.

A bird in a tree, singing

Does the world hear?

A bird in a tree, singing,

Does the world care?

It’s my song

Maybe your song

something we all need to hear

A cry from the deep, secrets meant to keep

Except the bird is singing

So much hurt, everything so weighted

All the time I wasted, all the things I hated

Hope had a home but I couldn’t see

Music was my phone, my way home

Now it will find you for me

Sing, keep the music alive

Just sing

Take wings and find a home

Take my words and roam

Don’t waste away like me

Find somebody, find somebody

Let the world see

Let the world hear

A bird in a tree

… is singing for me –

somewhere

Chapter One

Michael Singer

Red Rock Beach by Dublin, Ireland

Who are we now? Is Mystic Mist done?

The spike of anger surprised me. It was new, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be angry at Lauren—that was how her dad reacted to everything. I was her safe place. Or had been.

Lauren was gone. Really gone.

And I was thinking about the band? Honestly?

We trudged up the hill like we had an appointment, a destination besides the cliff. Once there, we stood in silence, Conor and Aidan on either side of me. As lead guitarist, I was often looked at as the leader of the band. I wasn’t leading anyone these days. I tossed the handful of sandy dirt over the cliff, watching the wind scatter it into oblivion, off into the Atlantic Ocean.

I had found her in her room this morning, her face so at peace that I couldn’t make myself understand that she was gone. Where had she gone? How could she be here last night and gone today? My brain didn’t bother with answers that my heart couldn’t comprehend.

After all the emergency people left, we’d been sitting around the band house in shock. Aidan decided we were coming here, to say goodbye I guess. Or maybe to have some quiet to gather ourselves. He chose here because this was a place that brought her peace.

Are ya at peace, Lauren?

Conor shook his head, drawing my attention. “She didn’t have to do it.”

The wind almost hid his hoarse voice but then we realized what he said. Both Aidan and I snapped in his direction.

“Conor,” Aidan started in a warning tone, his jaw tight. I clenched my fists but couldn’t contain everything. I threw my hands up, twisting and rushing away from them. Instantly, Aidan and Conor ran around in front of me. Both put a hand on my shoulder.

When I semi collected myself, I said, “We don’t know.”

We didn’t know. All her medical issues, the drugs, the booze… We just couldn’t say what happened yet.

“Yeah, we don’t know it was on purpose,” Aidan said, directed toward his cousin Conor. To me, it didn’t matter, but I wondered why there wasn’t a note or any kind of goodbye. Unless, maybe there was a note somewhere and I missed it? I would look later.

We turned toward the ocean again but didn’t walk back to the cliff. That would be too dangerous, too close to the edge. We were on the edge emotionally already. The daylight was fading away. I didn’t want this day to end this way, without her. But I couldn’t make the minutes stop. Waves roared far below, their briny scent rising up. Staring straight out into the blue endless sky, I picked out the faint shape of the moon. Maybe it was that faint because it was showing from the other side – where she was. Maybe she could see it too.

“Should we say something?” Aidan asked. But no one did. No one could. Especially after Conor’s comment—it was too fresh to even process yet. We couldn’t talk about how wonderful she’d been or how the world would be darker without her. She’d been like dynamite blowing through everything. Her fire went into our lyrics. Her passion and anger in her voice drew crowds at our gigs. She’d been consuming. But, without doubt, we all loved Lauren.

Thinking her name shot a stab of pain through my heart and I looked heavenward, fighting the tears. It wasn’t fair. She was hardly given a chance in life. I had tried so hard to make it better for her and carry some of her pain. I’d been her best friend, listening ear, sometimes her man. It’d been complicated but I had always been whatever she needed.

We started out as neighbors turned friends over a shared love of music. It didn’t take long for me, even as a boy, to know something was off in her home. We were ten the first time I heard fighting. We were playing a board game on the floor in the living room while music videos blared on the TV. She moved her piece on the board and went back to head banging. It took a minute to register the yelling from another room.

I watched the sparkle disappear from her eyes. The front door slammed, and her dad’s current girlfriend continued yelling from the front yard as she left.

Lauren shrugged and turned the music up. “It’s your turn!” she yelled, jabbing a hand at the game. I thought it was okay for a second, but even as a kid I noticed how stiffly she sat and the way she glanced behind me every few seconds.

We heard her father stomp up the stairs and slam another door.

“He’ll be fine after he drinks,” Lauren said as if that were normal. That was her typical reaction, at least the first few years. Then she started down her own path of drinking, drugs, and self harm. It spiraled out of control when her health took a dive—thanks to sickle cell disease running in her family, along with alcoholism and some schizophrenia. Talk about getting the shitty end of the stick in about every instance.

Some days, she was full of fire. Other days she just wanted to hide from all the pain, both emotionally and physically. And through all the days, we had music. Starting a band in my garage happened so naturally that I couldn’t remember who thought of it. We could escape the violence in her home and the entire outside world to get lost into our own.

I choked on a sob, trying to push the past away. Conor and Aidan both wrapped an arm around me.

Conor had been my friend since we could push toy trucks around. He joined the band to play the drums. We’d been lucky to know someone with natural talent, plus Conor’s parents had paid for private lessons from a young age. Conor took only one thing in life seriously, and that was drumming. In all other aspects, he had a ‘live and let live’ attitude.

Conor brought Aidan in to play bass—they were cousins but opposites in some ways. Conor was a ginger with light reddish blond hair. Aidan had dark hair like me, but with deep brown eyes. Their personalities were like night and day as well.

From a young age, Aidan was obsessed with bass players from all over the music world, Duff McKagan, Flea, Cliff Burton, Getty Lee, despite so many Irish bands not including the bass. He was the guy you could go to when you needed advice. He kept the peace when needed. It made sense that he thought of coming here to remember Lauren.

What did that make me? I wasn’t sure. I actually didn’t know my role in life besides making music, keeping the band on track, and keeping Lauren alive. Except I hadn’t.

“Is this the end?” I asked out loud, not thinking.

“What the hell?” Conor nudged my arm. He leaned forward to share a look with Aidan on the other side of me.

“What do you mean?” Aidan asked, “The end of what?”

“The band. Us,” I said. A long pause followed.

“We’re still here,” Aidan finally said quietly. “She didn’t want us to fall apart.”

But we would. I hated that thought, but wasn’t that how it worked? What if I didn’t want us to go on without her?

Conor shook his head. Cleared his throat. He was gearing up to say something important, which wasn’t his style. After some feet shuffling, he said, “People need us.”

I looked at him for a long moment, wanting to believe that but not sure I could. We weren’t that famous. Did our band mean anything to other people, or just to us?

 It had been something that kept Lauren going, until it didn’t anymore. Why did this have to happen? Everything felt wrong now. Why couldn’t I have just kept her alive?

Sarah

Eugene, Oregon

It was more than a thought or feeling, so much more, yet it stayed at the edge of my perception, ever so quietly and slowly coming my way. I wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t coming for me, just to me. Peace settled into my chest, like morning sunshine and music at the same time. Chords on a guitar played a soft song. Notes came in from another guitar, both acoustic. A man’s voice seemed to rise out of the song followed by a woman’s, singing in perfect harmony.

I’ll let you fly away . . .

Was this the memory that had tickled my mind? It didn’t matter. This felt so sweet, feeling the music flow through me.

This is what it feels like, I realized, to not be full of guilt.

 Then the peaceful feeling evaporated, replaced by darkness and a question: why would I feel guilty? That brought it all back: the argument about the girl’s trip, the intersection, the red light, the truck barreling toward my window as I sat still, helpless. No.

Ian, why didn’t you move?

“Sarah?” The voice was unfamiliar but when I pried my eyelids open, Melody’s face swam in front of me with tears pooling in her greenish-hazel eyes. Her cascading brown ringlets were swept over one shoulder as she leaned toward me.

Why was she so worried?

“Melody?” I tried to reach for her and she took my hand. My mind felt torn between a story it was weaving and reality, but each breath took me farther away from the fragmented thoughts I’d been chasing.

Melody wiped at her eyes, trying for a wobbly smile.

“You really do have crazy long eyelashes,” I said, my voice airy like I hadn’t talked in a long time.

She gave a gurgled laugh. “Sarah, you okay in there?” 

“Hello, there.” The voice came from behind Melody. A young woman doctor waited for me to focus on her. Her brown eyes reached out, caring. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Sarah Austin. Melody didn’t tell you?”

The doctor smiled. “You weren’t so sure last time. This is progress.”

 Melody took a shaky breath. Her hand tightened around mine. “Sarah, welcome back.”

This was a hospital—this was like before, yet, it wasn’t. This was new.

 “Sarah, I’m Dr. Sharma. Are you in any pain?”

After a second’s thought, I said, “No, not that I can tell right now.” I almost shook my head but it felt weird. Maybe something was wrong.

“That’s good to hear.”

“Am I okay?”

“You have a concussion and contusions from the seat belt—that just means bruising. Those will probably get worse over the next few days but I can prescribe a pain killer. You’ve been in and out since arriving here, so I ordered a brain scan. No swelling or bleeding.”

I looked at Melody, confused. Hadn’t I just woken up? How long have I been here? The words didn’t come out.

The doctor had me track a light with my eyes while asking a series of simple questions to check my memory. When she turned to speak to the nurse, a long sheath of straight black hair swept down her back, swishing with her movement. She came back to me and said they were going to monitor me at least until the next day. “I’ll be around in another couple of hours, okay? If you need anything, call for your nurse.”

This all felt routine, but something felt very wrong. Once we were alone, I asked Mel, “What about . . . Ian? He’s gone?”

She nodded and I sucked in a breath.

“He left with his mother.”

My breath rushed out as stars sparkled in my vision from relief. Melody started gushing, “No, no, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean he died. He just left, and I haven’t seen him.”

“What do you mean, just left? Did he at least check on me first?”

Her gaze dropped as she gave a small shake. It didn’t make any sense that he would take off and leave me alone, like he didn’t care. Maybe my brain was rattled and I was missing something, or maybe his overly controlling mother forced him to leave. Still, he couldn’t stand up to her and stay for me?

“So he didn’t get injured, if he left? Do you know if he’s okay?”

When she didn’t have an answer, I asked for my phone. My things were in a bag and my phone still had a charge, so I called him.

It rang for a long minute, and just when I expected voicemail, he answered.

“Hello.” It was his mother’s chilly voice.

“Oh, hi Lucinda, is Ian alright? Where is he?”

“My son wants nothing to do with you. Leave him alone.” She hung up.

I stared at my phone and then looked at Mel, utterly confused and hurt. Melody must have known something was going on because she was quiet, just sitting beside me and holding my hand.

Just then I caught sight of blue uniforms lingering in my doorway. My heartbeat halted, my chest constricting.

“Sarah Austin?” The taller officer asked as he stepped into the room. “Can we ask you a few questions?”

Melody jumped in. “She’s confused right now—the doctor said she has a concussion. Ian was driving.”

“We talked to the doctor, got an update,” the officer said, catching my attention. He was slim and had a very pretty face, making him look like a catwalk model and not a cop at all. The shorter, stocky officer remained by the door. 

“What happened?” I asked, wondering if it was all wrong in my head.

“We’re here to ask you that. Do you remember what happened?”

At first, music filled my head, but I pushed past that. My mind didn’t want to go back to the accident, but I remembered the panic, the oncoming traffic, the scene playing out silently for some reason. Oddly, I didn’t remember a crunch or the sound of screaming. Just getting flung sideways.

“Ian ran a red light, then slammed on the breaks. I yelled for him to move, but he wouldn’t. He just hung onto the wheel. Then I saw a truck coming at us, at me. It was coming so fast.”

“I heard she was texting,” Melody said quickly, again sticking up for me, but it made me wonder if I looked guilty. Was I in trouble? The tall office started to glance at his partner but simply nodded instead.

“She didn’t look up in time.” He explained the oncoming truck hit the back end of our car, spinning it. Then traffic coming from the other direction hit the driver side, where most of the damage occurred.

For a second, I could visualize the car, crumpled in on all sides. I suddenly felt very lucky that I wasn’t seriously hurt. How did Ian walk away? But he must be okay if he left the hospital. I shivered, thinking of his mother, Lucinda Warrant, who loved to blame me for everything wrong with the world.

“Do you remember what happened before that?” he asked. Did the police want to find out what I did to cause the accident? Did they know about the other accident?

If I lied, they would find out. Lucinda would tell them, and Ian was possibly using me as a scapegoat for this accident. Lying would only make this worse, and I couldn’t think fast enough to lie anyway.

“We were arguing, I guess. Not like yelling, but he was mad. I wanted to go on a trip without him and Ian didn’t like that. He has trouble being alone, ever since

The first officer finished for me: “Since his accident three years ago?”

They knew

“Accidents happen,” the shorter cop said by the door, his tone light, as if those two words could explain it all away. “You don’t remember what happened?”

I didn’t want to remember this accident or the one three years ago. I closed my eyes for  a second. The second stretched out and I heard Melody tell them about my concussion and how I needed to rest.

If accidents just happened, why did they happen to me so often? Why did I cause so many?

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Sarah’s Song on Preorder now!

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“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”

William Blake

This line (from the book’s dedication) echos throughout the story. I came across it because my daughter’s boyfriend sent it to me. We lost him last year in a car accident, after I had been working on this novel for a while. There were so many parallels that for a bit it was hard to get back to work on the story. In the end, this novel helped me work through things.

This was an emotional project for me but I’m so glad I wrote it – I got to experience music in a new way and explore Sarah and Melody’s friendship. Sarah started out like me: not musically inclined (even though I’m creative in so many other ways). I’ve always wished I was able to sing or play music, so in a way I got to through Sarah in this story.


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Sarah can suddenly, magically make music. Michael thinks she stole Lauren’s last song.

Sarah Austin never had a musical bone to her body…until suddenly she does. A car accident reveals her boyfriend’s darker side and turns her life upside down. She moves in with her best friend Melody and finds herself turning to music, playing the guitar and writing songs like a pro. Melody’s entire life is about music so she’s ecstatic but also confused, and maybe a bit jealous…although this might be what she needs to launch her own career.

Half a world away, Michael Singer, lead guitarist and singer of Mystic Mist, is mourning the loss of a band member when he sees a video of someone singing Lauren’s last song. How did this American girl steal it? With his band falling apart around him, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Sarah wants to know where her musical ability came from—and if she has any right to use this talent she didn’t earn. Sarah and Michael both want answers for very different reasons. Neither is prepared for how they’ll feel about each other.


A little zing of attraction hit me, irritating me. I was not getting the hots for a rock star, accent or not. He surly had plenty of fan girls out there, all over the world. I had to keep my face blank because Michael looked up at me.

“So how does it work? Do you know chords and progressions and how to read music?”

I shook my head as he talked. “I can just start playing. Well, I knew how to tune a guitar. And when I play, it’s like I understand more.”

“Come here.” He scooted back and patted the cushion between his legs. Oh, no no no. “I want to show you a few things.”
His words rolled off his tongue, sounding fun and flirty like most of the things he said in that Irish voice.

“Why?”

“Just humor me.” His eyes lit up, his lips doing that lopsided smile. Did it work on everyone?

Happy Valentine’s Day! (And a sneak peek from Sarah’s Song, my work in progress)

Romance is in the air! It’s also a great day for thinking of the special people in your life like your mom, sister, and friends.

After a long period of beautiful, sunny weather here in Oregon, we’re having a stormy, rainy day today. I don’t mind! It feels like a perfect writing or reading day by the fire. (And I just happen to have a new book out if you need one! Check out my home page for all the links.)

You’ve probably seen my posts about my Billionaire trilogy. I’ve also been working on another book. It’s highly emotional and that’s one reason why I’ve been working on it longer. I wanted to share a little from the opening of that book.

Here’s the blurb:

Sarah Austin never had a musical bone to her body…until suddenly she does. When her life is turned upside down, she finds herself turning to music, playing the guitar and writing songs. Half a world away, Michael Singer, lead guitarist and singer of Mystic Mist, can’t believe he’s hearing his band’s unfinished song from someone else. How did this American girl steal it? They both want answers for very different reasons.

(There’s so much more to this story, but I don’t want to give away too much, too soon!)

Chapter One – Something’s gotta give

Sarah

Eugene, Oregon, USA

“God, Sarah, I just wish you’d think about someone else for once.”

Ian’s words burned into me. Sliced into me. Filled me with rage – an emotion so sudden and new that I had no idea what to say. I clenched my fists in my lap and glared out the passenger window, not seeing the people milling around downtown Eugene. The silence inside the car rang loud and long.

Think about someone else? That’s all I’ve done!

I’ve spent the last three years thinking of him, taking care of him, putting my life on hold for him. Could I ever make up for my horrible mistake three years ago and make things right again? No, I knew better than that. But I only wanted to take a girl’s trip with Melanie, and actually spend some quality time with my one real friend. Was that so selfish?

He drummed his fingers on the wheel, fast, irritated. He had cracked his window, even though he knew it bothered my ears, and even the tires rolling on wet pavement sounded passive aggressive.

I had worked so hard to erase his pain, to make things right in his life, but they never got better. Really, things were getting worse. Maybe I had finally reached my breaking point.

“Time shouldn’t matter,” he added in a low voice, and the cold anger startled me. “Everyone thinks I should get over it, but what do they know? What do you know, Sarah?” He said my name like it was a dirty word.

A tiny whisper somewhere in my head asked, what about me? Do I ever get to move on? Hadn’t I paid enough?

I worked my jaw side to side to loosen the tension. “I never once said you should just move on. You know that. You know I’ve been there for you.” Like, every… single… day.

I couldn’t remember how to think about myself anymore. I just wanted a few days to breathe, to think. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I needed to think about, but I just needed to step back from my life to see it. Right now, it all felt like a fog that I couldn’t escape, where I couldn’t really see anything clearly.

In the last few weeks, the trees started budding for spring. The earth was renewing; starting over. Some days, it felt as if everything else on this planet got a fresh start but I wasn’t allowed one.

Some other faint thought followed that one, but I couldn’t grab onto it. It tickled my mind so I couldn’t make it out. A memory? An echo of a dream? Maybe it was a song – I could almost hear it.

If you want to fly, I’ll let you fly away . . .

I know you were tired of running . . . I’ll let you fly

 The music was just out of reach. It felt like I was trying to remember something urgently important, something that would change everything. I wanted to pull it out of the mist and convince myself I wasn’t going insane.

“I can’t move on,” Ian said so low it took a few seconds for the words to register.

Half of me wanted to turn toward him and reassure him, but what could I say? ‘It’s alright, you don’t have to move on. We’ll stay in our apartment together, just us, and wallow in the pain.’

No. Maybe I didn’t deserve to move on, but I needed to. Wanted to. I wanted to go back to work and see people and live again. Instead of saying any of that, I continued glaring out my window, feeling my heart beat too hard.

He stopped at a light for a split second before stomping on the gas. I looked forward and gasped.

“Ian, it’s red.”

He slammed on the breaks. The car screeched to a halt right in the middle of the intersection, nothing in front of us.

“What are you doing? Don’t stop! You have to go.”

He gripped the wheel in both hands, staring forward. Horns blared at us. A car flew by from the right, inches from the front of ours. I looked in that direction. A giant sliver truck barreled toward us. Our car still didn’t move.

“Ian! It’s not stopping! You have to move!”

Why wouldn’t he move—

~~~

If you want to read more, you can follow the book on Vella where you can read the first 3 chapters for free and follow as new episodes come out. I’m having fun writing for this new platform but I know it’s not for everyone. This story will be released as an ebook later this year as well.

I hope you have a fabulous Valentine’s Day and week!

A little preview….

The Billionaire Who Bought Me

Ch. 1. Just a sleazy fake girlfriend for sale over here

Of course I didn’t want to, but did I have any choice?

I glanced at the text from my friend Jenna that read, “Zoe, are you sure you want to do this?”

She knew I needed a LOT of money to save my sister’s life and get my family out of financial trouble. Jenna was even the one who told me about this site in the first place. It was called Pay to Play and it allowed men to buy video time with women.

At first I was shocked she’d do something like that, but we had both struggled the last couple of years, and Jenna had two small kiddos to think about. She video chatted with men at night after her kids went to bed. She had a waitressing job in the mornings, but it wasn’t cutting it.

I had tried not to judge her. Actually, I was more worried than anything else. Then my little sister got sick. My parents put all their earthy assets into getting her the best care, trying to keep her alive until she could get a heart transplant. She was only fourteen. The stress got to my dad, and ironically, he had a heart attack. Then my grandfather died. We were drowning.

 So, yeah, I asked her about the site.

I needed a way to make money while still having time to be with my family and help them. She showed me the ins and outs of the site, how to avoid things I wouldn’t want to do, and then we noticed the ad.

It was listed under “In person, extended projects” so I shouldn’t have been looking there in the first place. The title read, “Fake GF for a few weeks.”

That didn’t sound that bad. The ad read:

“Looking for female companion, someone with little or no online presence or a high profile job. Not what you think but it pays very well. Six figures. Must be willing to travel, sign NDA, and take on assigned persona. Reply with your photo and current job. ”

I just had to go on a trip with this man? Pretty easy for one hundred thousand dollars. Not what you think. It could be a really old guy who wanted a nurse or a pretty lady by his side. I could be changing diapers or living it up like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Who knew why he was doing this. I didn’t care. And I wouldn’t want to get to know him ‘for reals’—just for the job.

And besides, I could keep Jenna updated on my whereabouts to stay safe, if I actually secured a job like this. Maybe I could also download an app that would track my location and report it to Jenna and my family.

I clicked a link to see more about the man behind the ad. His level said Billionaire, but I wasn’t sure it they had to prove their income level. However, I knew he had enough extra money to pay for this project. That wasn’t a small chunk of change to just hand over.

He hadn’t included a photo or any personal information in the bio section, just a sentence: You won’t need to get to know me, just the character sheets for myself and you.

Hmm. Maybe he liked mystery and the power it gave him. This could be about a power rush, something outrageous that he could do simply because he had the money. Would he be mean?

I sent a text back to Jenna: It’s not always about what we want, is it?

Then I sent another text promising to put safeguards in place. My fingers shook, but I hit ‘reply’ to the ad and wrote:

“My name is Zoe Montgomery and I’m a home health nurse, although I also work a few hours in my family’s bookstore when I can. My last client recently died so I’m awaiting a new assignment. Attached please find my photo. I just joined this site so I’m learning how it all works still. Thank you for your consideration.”

Seriously? It sounded like I was applying for a librarian job, not some fake girlfriend ad.

“It’s just an application, Zoe,” I told myself, questioning if I had the looks and body for a job like this. I was a nurse who liked helping other people, and a bookworm who collected old fairytales. This billionaire would read my response and laugh, unless he wanted a naughty librarian?

But I had to look into every way possible to make money to keep Belina alive.

Every time I doubted if I could do this, a memory flashed in my mind in a series of images. It was almost a year ago now. At first I would see Bel smiling at me, tall oaks behind her with loads of green leaves shading the park.

Belina looks so much like me, just as I look like our mother: the same long dark hair, same long body, same long legs. We all share a wide smile and dark eyes that get shiny with happiness or anger.  

A flash, and the picture changed. Her smile fell. Her face went blank.

Another flash. She looked at me, her expression both blank and full of dread. I could see something was very wrong.

Another flash, her eyes rolled back, showing white.

And then she fell.

I raced to her, checking for breathing and a pulse. I’d been trained in CPR when I worked at the pool as a teenager, and then again in nursing school. Half of me screamed in panic, but that half was inside. On the outside, I went into action with chest compressions and breaths.

An ambulance came with squad cars and the fire truck, a normal response I guess.

Belina’s heart stopped three times that we know of. The doctor at the hospital said I’d saved her life but it wasn’t over. I just helped her fight for another day. We didn’t know that at the time, of course. But now I had a real chance to do something that would matter, that would make a real difference.

I shook myself from the memory, and shook off the acidic fear it always brought. When it happened, I took action. But when the memory comes, it stops me cold.  

My hand hovered over the keyboard. Then, I closed my eyes and tapped a fingernail on the enter key. Message Sent.

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Announcing My Fake Billionaire Boyfriend Trilogy

Soooo…. The Billionaire Who Bought Me is complete on Vella! It feels great to have a new story to share since it’s been a while. It was exciting and fun to write, and super addicting, which helped me write it FAST. (If you read on Vella, here’s the link. You can preview the opening there and then order the ebook on your favorite ebook site.)

It’s a little crazy that I wrote the story so quickly during the holiday season . . . while buying a food truck and getting ready to launch that business . . . so I did have to focus on one Vella story, leaving Sarah’s Song for a little later.

I also realized there’s so much more to tell, way too much for one book so this novel will launch “My Fake Billionaire Boyfriend” Trilogy. So now I’m happily planning the next two books. The big picture is already in my head so it’s all the little plot points that need to crystallize.

I actually have a list of titles I want to work on, but I’m not letting myself get too carried away. One future novel might include a food truck, because driving several states in the snow to get it inspired a few story ideas.

I’m happy I’m starting 2022 with a new release and more to come, and it looks like the year is gearing up to be a big one for my husband and I business-wise. I hope your year is off to a great start too!

The Billionaire Who Bought Me is on Pre-order!

I’m excited to announce The Billionaire Who Bought Me is on pre-order (Kindle, iBooks, B&N, Nook, Smashwords) with a release date of Valentine’s Day! You can still read it on Kindle Vella with tokens, or you can pre-order the Kindle ebook by clicking the cover to visit Amazon.

“Looking for a female companion; not what you think but it pays very well.”

Could I do it? I needed A LOT of money to help my sister stay alive until she could get a heart transplant. Maybe this was the answer.

Zoe Montgomery is intrigued by the ad that promises a lot of money for a few weeks of her time–if she makes it to the end. She’s desperate, but the ad is vague. What will he want from her? His ad mentions travel and “no touching” so what else does he want? She finds the billionaire behind the words just as mysterious and confusing, breaking all her conceived ideas and toying with her emotions. She also discovers the rules in their ruse are made to be broken. Will she make it the full two weeks and get her big payday? And will it be enough money to save her little sister?

*The pre-order page doesn’t have a preview, but you can read the first three chapters for free on Vella here. I’m not sharing story previews here to follow Vella guidelines.

Another new Vella story, The Billionaire Who Bought Me

So I just couldn’t do it…

I couldn’t hold off on sharing this story with you until after finishing Sarah’s Song.

So I want to make both available!

This is my new Billionaire romance on Vella with 4 episodes currently live.

The Billionaire Who Bought Me

“Looking for female companion; not what you think but it pays very well.”

Zoe Montgomery is intrigued by the ad that promises a lot of money for a few weeks of her time. She’s desperate, but the ad is vague. What will he want from her? She finds the billionaire behind the words just as mysterious and confusing, breaking all her conceived ideas and toying with her emotions. Will she make it the full two weeks? And will it be enough money to save her little sister?  

~~~

I’m totally loving the Vella platform for writing! I hope you’ll check it out and read some stories – there’s a ton to choose from!

I’ll keep you posted on the new episodes coming out for my novels. And both these stories will become ebooks next year. Take care!

Cover Reveal for Sarah’s Song

Meet Sarah and Michael!

The story is moving along at a fast clip now with Episode 13 going live soon. I’m having fun with one aspect of Vella and that’s naming my chapters, something I have done before.

~~~

Sarah Austin never had a musical bone to her body…until suddenly she does. When her life is turned upside down, she finds herself turning to music, playing the guitar and writing songs. Half a world away, Michael Singer, lead guitarist and singer of Mystic Mist, can’t believe he’s hearing his band’s unfinished song from someone else. How did this American girl steal it? They both want answers for very different reasons.

~~~

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said, not wanting to stand there gazing up into his eyes under the porch light. The electric energy from singing and playing together lingered, and I needed to move.

Then, I hesitated on the bottom step. He had not been a happy camper when he first saw me, and I still didn’t know what I was getting into here.

He noticed and said, “I promise not to bite your head off.”

Somehow that had come off as flirty, naughty even, but maybe it was just that accent of his. He ducked his head, hiding a small but genuine smile playing on his lips. He knew what he was doing. Something told me I’d just bitten off more than I could chew.

A new story in the works… Similar to Talk to Me

Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of years, in hard ways and a few good ways too. It seems like yesterday that I was thinking about 2021 starting and now 2022 is on the horizon. I began a novel in the beginning of the year but didn’t get to work on it much through spring and summer. I’m happy to say I finally carved out the time and made progress, and the beginning of the story is actually out on Vella, a newish Kindle platform where you can read episodes of stories as they come out.

If you haven’t tried Vella, it sounds like a fun way to read. Authors get to publish episodes (like chapters) and include a note at the end of each. I wish readers could also comment for even more interaction, but maybe that’s coming. (And you can always email me with comments.) Anyhoo, I decided to give it a go for at least this novel. The good news is, a month after the last episodes posts, the entire story can also become a Kindle ebook. So this novel will hit Kindle next year.

The story revolves around music… and loss, healing, friendship, connections, and yes: romance. It’s most similar to my novel Talk to Me if you enjoyed that one, although I’d say this one is more serious. It’s called Sarah’s Song.

Sarah Austin never had a musical bone to her body…until suddenly she does. In the aftermath of tragedy, she finds herself turning to music, playing the guitar and writing songs. Half a world away, Michael Singer, lead guitarist and singer of Mystic Mist, can’t believe he’s hearing Lauren’s song from someone else. Lauren didn’t get to finish her song, so how did this American girl steal it from his band? Two hurting hearts. One unexplainable connection.

Check it out on Vella here. The first 3 episodes are free to read. Right now there’s 5 total episodes and I’m adding more every few days. Thanks for stopping by my blog!