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Touched to the soul (Etopia Press)

Contemporary romance, mostly PG but scenes with a 4 heat-level.
Novella of about 45 000 words


A passion that runs soul deep...

Zoe Sutherland can't stand the pushy, arrogant architect David Cavallo. He was just too damn sure of himself, too handsome, too…everything. Maneuvered into working as the interior decorator on his latest project, a glamorous new hotel, Zoe can't keep her mind on the job. And worse, the strange man won't give her access to the hotel's floor plans. How is she supposed to finish the design when she doesn't have the plans? And when the obnoxious man distracts her with every smoldering look, every touch...

David has one goal: get rid of the pesky interior designer. Since he's been forced into close proximity with the beautiful Zoe, everything's gone downhill. And to make matters worse, she's only out to further her own career—and he's not about to give her the hotel's plans so she can steal his ideas. He needs to get her out of his system, and sleeping with her seems like the best way to do that. When it comes to women, he's found the best way to handle them is to love 'em and leave 'em. But something strange is happening...because after a night of loving Zoe, he's finding it harder than ever to leave…

Buy links:
All Romance:

Short excerpt:

And then she swallowed. He bit the insides of his cheeks to prevent him from smiling. So, the lady wasn’t as cool as she pretended to be.

“I tried to contact you after Don and Caitlin’s wedding but you never answered any of my messages.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You know perfectly well why I ignored those messages,” she said primly.

He leaned forward, enjoying her obvious discomfort. “You see, that’s just it. I don’t know. You kissed me, stormed away, and ignored all the messages I sent you.”

Her lips trembled slightly. “You were the one who kissed me,” she said, her eyes stormy.

“You didn’t kiss me back?” he asked, not quite understanding why he couldn’t stop baiting her.

She inhaled audibly, bent her head for a few seconds before she opened the file. “We can go ahead with the contract. That is, if you still want me to.”

“Oh, I still want you…” he said solemnly, waiting a millisecond before he added “…to.”

Her flared nostrils were the only indication that she’d caught his meaning.

“Good.” She got up. “I’ll ask Susan to contact you for the next meeting. Please make sure whoever you send has all the information available—budget, timeline and of course if…”

He also got up slowly. “Seeing that my brother suggested we make use of your firm, I will be working with you. Directly.” He emphasized the last word. “I don’t mind doing favors, but when money is involved, I have to protect the investment we’ll be making. I have to make sure you are not just a pretty face but can actually do the job. You obviously don’t really want to work for me, but you’ve realized it’s good for business. Therefore, I have to make sure our business doesn’t suffer because of yours.”

About the Author:

I have been reading love stories for as long as I can remember and when I ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during my studies, I was hooked for life.

I married my college boyfriend and soul mate and after 39 years, 3 beautiful children and 3 grandchildren, he still makes me weak in the knees. We are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty's Bay, South Africa with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind us. And although life so far has not always been an easy ride, it has always been an exiting and interesting one!

I like the heroines in my stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong.  And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous!  My stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.

Social Media Links:

Personal Facebook page:
Author Facebook page:
Twitter: @elsawinckler

Good Morning, Booklovers! Yes, it's Wednesday, but we're doing something a little different today. Instead of our normal coffee chat, I'm posting a guest article discussing what it's like to be a male author in the female-dominated romance genre. I think you'll find it interesting to read his perspective. With that brief intro, I'll turn it over to Serge de Moliere...

Romancing the Reader   by Serge de Moliere

Are women writers better at “romancing” the reader than men? I don’t think so. Perhaps the greatest romance ever written was Romeo and Juliet, the passionate, tragic story of two ill fated lovers from warring families. As everyone knows, that tragedy was popularized as a play penned by the great William Shakespeare. Whatever the true identity of the Bard, which remains rather clouded, one thing is certain: Shakespeare was a guy. And like many men, Shakespeare was a romantic. Yet in the contemporary world, women often seem to scoff at male romance writers, even though the single most popular romance writer of modern times is also a male: namely Nicholas Sparks (author of the tremendously popular tear jerker, “The Notebook” and many other titles).

I recently read an online interview with a senior editor at one of the major romance publishing companies. This was a woman who by all accounts is highly talented, established and well respected in the field of romance. Yet, during the interview, when asked her opinion of romance writers, she noted that “the ladies are great” (emphasis added). With that single off hand phrase, she unconsciously demoted the ranks of male romance writers to also-rans, assuming they were even included in her lexicon of romance writers.

Why is it the prevailing opinion still seems to be that only women can write compelling romance novels? Whatever the reason, it impelled many popular male romance authors of the last quarter century to write under female aliases. For example, Leigh Greenwood’s writing career spanned more than twenty-five years and a multitude of romance novels. And yet he hid his gender for most of that time, preferring to have fans believe that he was a woman. Asked why he chose to do this, he explained he believed that “cultural obstacles” prevented most people from considering men as “romantic”.

Another highly successful male romance writer was Thomas Elmer Huff, who also veiled his male identity under pen names such as Jennifer Wild or Beatrice Parker. But his masculine gender did not prevent him from creating admittedly strong, memorable romantic heroines. Bill Spence, another highly successful but disguised male author, wrote under the pen name “Jessica Blair”.  He did not reveal his true identity until he was 89 years old (which fact, by the way, also busts the myth that only young people can write romantic novels). Bill said that it was his publisher who insisted that he write under a female pseudonym to help ensure his popularity with women readers.

Incidentally, women occasionally object to such subterfuge by male writers, even though this practice was followed by women authors for many years and still continues (e.g. Louisa May Alcott published as A.M. Barnard; also, J.K. Rowling recently wrote outside the Harry Potter genre, authoring The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel published under the pen name Robert Galbraith. That is, until she was unmasked by journalists using forensic linguistics software.). Some claim that the “power disparity” between men and women makes such practice acceptable for women but prohibited for men.  Personally, I prefer to write under my actual gender, although I would not criticize men who do not in order to gain an “edge”. Men who write successfully under female nom de plumes, however, do perpetuate the stereotype.

Recently, in one internet discussion of the subject, a woman tweeted that it made her “uncomfortable” if men wrote and/or read romance novels. I’m not sure why this is. Both men and women have romantic and erotic urges and impulses that may be directed towards either the same or the opposite sex. A male who writes romance, whether erotic or not, is no more or less “normal” than a woman who does so. Women who generically dismiss male romance authors appear as sexist as those males who disparage women who are surgeons or soldiers. The great mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey seriously debunked the idea that only men can be great fighters. She did this by her continued success and obvious skill in the hexagon, which rivals that of the great male fighters of our time. Sadly, despite his parallel success in the romance genre, Nicholas Sparks has failed to carry the banner for male writers; and so many readers retain outmoded ideas about the male romance writer.

After I identified myself as a male romance writer, a woman tweeted me, asking if I thought that my writing career was “hindered” because I don/t write under a female alias. I replied that, while I hoped this was not the case, I’m not really sure.  Probably 95 percent of the authors carried by my current publisher are women. Further, most editors in the romance genre are female (just take a look at the staff listing of such behemoths as Harlequin, Loveswept or Forever Yours and you can confirm this for yourself). Consciously or unconsciously, some female editors may view a manuscript differently when they know that the author is male. If this is true, it is unfortunate.

Bruce Jenner and others have demonstrated that a person born biologically male may have a feminine persona and may successful convert to that gender, if they feel the urge. Likewise, authors, whether male or female, may have the sensitivity and skill to write from either a feminine or masculine perspective. In fact, many great authors write from both perspectives. Harry Potter, while not a macho protagonist, still represents a fully formed and highly popular male character who was created by a woman (J.K. Rowling). Contrarily,  the great filmmaker James Cameron wrote Titanic”, the celebrated tragic romantic film, which boasts the memorable female character “Rose”.

There are many other examples of compelling females penned by males. Arya Stark is a fictional character created by American author George R. R. Martin. She is a prominent figure in Martin's award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire series, and also a main character in HBO's adaptation of the series, Game of Thrones. The romantic film, Silver Linings Playbook features Jennifer Lawrence as the female protagonist, Tiffany, a strong woman not to be trifled with, as the male protagonist/lover (played by Bradley Cooper) finds out. Tiffany is assertive and more than a match for the domineering father (played by the very macho Robert DeNiro). Notably, Jennifer was nominated for an academy award for that stirring role. 

One of the strongest and most memorable female characters in Science Fiction is “Ripley” from Alien, who single handedly battles the horrific, acid spewing space monsters of that film. Daniel O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusett wrote the original story upon which the screenplay for “Alien” is based, and Shusett wrote the film script. The film, for those of you who may not recall this film classic, starred Sigourney Weaver as the outspoken and indomitable “Ripley”.  We may also mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV character who engaged in romantic flings while battling vampires and demons. And her character was written by Joss Whedon.

My own writing is based on people- both males and females- that I have known or been acquainted with. While protagonists in my stories are blends of more than a single person, they are based on reality. And so are the romantic story lines. If anyone out there still thinks men cannot write stirring, romantic female characters, I urge you to try reading a few male authors, including yours truly. One proviso: my romances tend to be a bit spicy, so they may not be for everyone’s taste.

My ebooks may be found on Amazon (18+ adult content):

NOTE from Ally: Watch for Serge's new romance novella coming soon, "The Abduction," about a young woman who is taken hostage by space aliens and falls in love with one of her captors.


Serge de Moliere lives and writes in New York City, where he draws on the astonishing diversity of this great metropolis to create compelling and often racy characters and stories. Many of his titles are published by Etopia Press and are available on Amazon.

Contact the Author:

Twitter @Serge_deMoliere
Etopia Press:

I recently sat down with the lively Esty Ryndel to talk about her big sister Kam, the main character in the Elvenrude series. (I asked about her own part in the coming series finale, Cross Keys: Unity, but without much success). Anyway, let me introduce her.

Estelle Ryndel is the twenty-three year old sister of Kameo and the younger by five years. She presents herself as a more traditional elven woman. Since elves have a longer life span (up to two hundred years), they mature later than humans.
Female fertility peaks from thirty to eighty, and Esty would be considered just emerging from her adolescent years.
She is an Elite elf, a member of Elvenrude's aristocracy, with the black hair and blue eyes that identifies her Ryndel clan. Her fine features are the mirror image of her sister's, except Esty has a dimple.
Esty lives with her parents, Meotta and Sawyer Ryndel, and occupies much of her time with lady-like pursuits: trips to The Bookstore and needlework, but she's developing a more independent streak and very much admires the adventurous life Kam lives as a member of the King's Guard.
Esty has occasionally dated Rhyden Lormarc, the cousin of Kam's boyfriend, Seth, but she's had several bfs in the last year.

Ally: Thanks for sitting down with me, Esty. Aren't you afraid Kam will get you for doing this?

Esty (gives me a mischievous look): She's out of town, and I'm betting she doesn't read your blog.

Ally (sighs): You're probably right about that. So let's see, where to begin... What's the worst thing Kam ever did to you growing up?

Esty: Oh, gee. It's hard to choose. Maybe when I was seven and she tied my pigtails around a branch up in a tree.

Ally: And left you there? What had you done to deserve that?

Esty: I told Mother that Titus Baeker had kissed her.

Ally: Was that her first boyfriend?

Esty (giggles): Nope. She didn't like it. She screeched and kicked him. It was pretty funny!

Ally: What's one favorite memory of the two of you?

Esty: I cut up one of Mother's favorite quilts as bedding for a pet rabbit. Kam took the blame and didn't get scones for a week. I wanted to tell the truth, but Kam said there was no sense in us both getting punished.

Ally: That's a nice sisterly memory.

Esty: Yeah, but maybe not as nice as the nights we talked late into the night when we were supposed to be sleeping. And she included me a lot in trips to the market and The Bookstore. We were always close. (she grins) Except when we were fighting.

Ally: Why do you think she joined the Guard? It isn't what most elven women do.

Esty: It didn't surprise me. She was always into something different and never worried about whether it was proper or not. She's not big on rules—at least not for herself. She expects me to follow them all.

Ally: Is it hard to live up to her expectations?

Esty: Sometimes, but there's a lot Kam doesn't know.

Ally: Oh, really? Care to share?

Esty: Not on your life. This interview's about her, not me.

Ally:  What do you think of her boyfriend, Seth?

Esty: A great guy and perfect for her. I liked Caleb too but he never understood her like Seth does. I'm glad Caleb found someone else.

Ally: Sometimes Kam pulls back from her relationship with Seth. Do you think they'll end up together?

Esty: Are you kidding? Seth's got her number. I'm betting on him.

Ally:  Speaking of the Lormarcs, what's going to happen between you and Rhyden?

Esty: (smiles sweetly so that her dimple shows) If anyone really wants to know, they'll have to read the next book.

Ally (laughs): I guess now you've gotten the plug in, we should wind this up so I can finish writing that final book. I hope we can chat again sometime.

Esty: You bet. Next time I'll talk about the really juicy stuff. (She gives me a saucy grin, flips her hair over her shoulder, and bounces out the door.)

The Elvenrude Trilogy

Cross Keys (published 2014)
Cross Keys: Revelation (published 2015)
Cross Keys: Unity (coming soon)

Available at most online bookstores, including Amazon


Good Wednesday, booklovers!

It's time for coffee or tea (substitute your beverage of choice) and book talk. This week we're joined by romantic suspense author Liah Penn.

What may I get you to drink, Liah?

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I love tea and drink it with milk and sugar.

Ally: I'll pour while you introduce yourself...


Winner of the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense (2015) for her debut novel "Pure Death", author Liah Penn is an attorney who resides outside of New Orleans with her husband and two sons. A former prosecutor, she has worked in a major metropolis, on the Mexican border and on an Indian reservation before relocating to Louisiana with her family. She is also an accomplished artist and sells her work locally. The last few chapters of Pure Death were written on a laptop while on a driving trip across Texas.

Something unique/unusual that isn't in your regular bioI taught art at a local middle school for two years while I practiced law part time.  It was great fun, and I still run into my students from time to time.  Of course, they are much older now and almost unrecognizable.

Contact the Author:

Twitter:  @liahpenn;  Website:; Facebook:

Ally:  Pure Justice was just released in September. What did you do on release day to promote your new book?

LIAH:  I didn't get my cover art until the day before the release so I wasn't able to do much more than promote on Facebook and Twitter.  I'm now working on a blog tour that starts in November.

Ally:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of Pure Justice? Were the edits longer or shorter than the first draft? What surprised you about the editing process?

Pure Justice took a bit longer to write than I expected.  I started it in January and finished it in July.  So about 6 months.  The edits were heavier because I did less self-editing and relied more on my editor to help with the plot issues that I had struggled with.  She was wonderful and helped me pull the whole thing together.

Ally:  What is the setting for your novel and how did you choose it? Could it have been set anywhere else and still be the same novel? 

Pure Justice takes place in the future.  The genetically defective are relegated to "Impure Territory" where they have the worst jobs, have to live on rations, and are not allowed to breed.  The genetically "pure" live across the lake in "Pure Territory".  In this novel, Sam is kidnapped.  Part of the novel takes place in the salt domes off the coast of IP Territory.  The setting and world building are an intimate part of the novel.  

Ally:  What are you working on next?

I am revising an older manuscript which is contemporary romantic suspense.

Quick answer questions:
  • a. last placed you shopped:  Aeropostale -- bought a shirt for my son
  • b. your best spot to read a book:  lying in bed or on the sofa in front of the fire
  • c. Do sexy book boyfriends have long or short hair? Always a little too long, falling onto their foreheads
  • d. favorite season of the year/why:  I love fall with the cooler weather and smell of woodsmoke
  • e. a song on your current playlist:  Take me to Church - Hosier (And have you seen that video?  Yikes!)

Ally: Thanks for visiting with us today. Before you go, please tell us more about your new release, a cross-genre novel of romantic suspense and futuristic fantasy...


Pure Justice, book 2 in the Ina Stone and Sam Fujimoto Mysteries

Human trafficking. A kidnapped partner. Ina's case just got a whole lot darker.

In an uncertain future where the Impures—genetic defectives—are banished to a ghetto territory, Detective Ina Stone and her rookie partner, Sam Fujimoto, constantly fight for survival. But when a murdered Impure is discovered in the projects with only a business card in his pocket, the clues lead them into the shadowy underworld of black market trade and human trafficking. After Sam is kidnapped by the Yakuza crime syndicate, Ina must hide her own defect to go undercover as a human trafficking victim. Accompanied by a Tebori master and a new detective with her own secrets, Ina must find a way to free Sam without exposing his role in the investigation, or getting herself killed in the process.

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What would October be without a Halloween treat or two? Here are two, tried and true, really easy recipes. And, they are sooo good!The first recipe is especially fun, as it allows you to get your hands all gooey!

Never Fail Popcorn Balls

1 c sugar
1/3 c white syrup
1/3 c water
1/4 c butter or margarine

Boil the above until a soft ball forms if you drop a tiny amount in cold water. About 270 on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp vanilla. Pour mixture over 2 quarts of freshly popped corn. Butter hands and shape into balls. Makes about 12 medium-sized balls. (Now lick your fingers. Yum, good!)

If you want (or need) something even easier, this one is a definite crowd pleaser. What's that? You say you're a minimalist? No problem. You can limit you Halloween mix to the first two ingredients. Perfecto!

Halloween Trail Mix

Mix the following in any proportions you like, although the candy corn and peanuts should be the basis of this sweet treat.

Candy corn - regular and chocolate
Dry-roasted peanuts
White yogurt covered raisins
Sunflower seed hearts

Mix and enjoy! 

Anyone else have special treats you're willing to share?  AShields

Lost Princess

Kingdom of Cymmera Book Two

By Dani-Lyn Alexander



Ryleigh Donnovan’s life changed forever the day she met Jackson Maynard, a Death Dealer, and followed him home to the kingdom of Cymmera. Now she is trying to care for her sister while saving a realm she knows nothing about…
Jackson has reluctantly accepted the throne of Cymmera, in place of his father. But his world is in turmoil, the kingdom under constant threat of attack. Worse still, Jackson suspects there is a traitor among his court. A powerful prophet has suggested a way to protect the realm, but that solution may drive Jackson and Ryleigh apart forever…
When a magic relic goes missing, Ryleigh has no choice but to journey in search of it. When Jackson discovers Ryleigh is missing, he must make a choice that will either claim their destiny, or bring an end to the only home he’s ever known.

Buy Links:

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Trailer Link: 


The soft brush of something against the carpet outside Ryleigh’s bedroom door intruded on her restless sleep. Her eyes shot open. Her heart drummed wildly in her chest. Blood rushing in her ears drowned out whatever sound had woken her. With the Kingdom of Cymmera at war, even though she was in her own realm, human traitors or monsters could attack from anywhere at any moment. Goose bumps rushed across her skin, prickling her nerves. The memory of savages invading her home taunted her.

Wait. There it was again. The slightest whisper of something brushing against…something. She slid quietly from the bed, got caught up in the blankets, and almost lost her footing. She bit back a curse, untangled her foot, and grabbed the baseball bat from beneath the bed. Although she had her choice of weapons now—sword, bow and arrow, flail, axe— the bat still felt the most comfortable in her hand, the most familiar. She switched off the small bedside lamp. No sense backlighting herself when she opened the door. She’d be an easy enough target if something waited out there.

She tiptoed across the bedroom, pressed her ear against the door, and held her breath. The rhythmic pounding of her heart slamming against her ribs masked any sound that might come from the hallway. She blew her breath out slowly, careful not to make any noise, and gripped the doorknob.

No good. Her hand was too slippery. She wiped her sweaty palm on her pajama pants and tried again. Turning the knob as soundlessly as possible, bat held at the ready, she eased the door open, just a crack at first, and peered into the dark hallway.

About the Author:

Dani-Lyn Alexander lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping—especially in book stores. Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She’s an incurable insomniac and has an addiction to chocolate.

Social Media:



                          Welcome to this week's coffee chat!

Scifi author Paul Alan is visiting us today with his Rings of Polaris series.

Hi, Paul. What can I get you to drink?

Carmel Macchiato. My CAFFEINE ADDICTION is Time Warp Level.

Ally: No problem! We'll keep those macchiatos coming!

Tell us a little about yourself.

About the Author:

BORN: 1970’S
RACE: Human with Possible Genetic Alien Hybridization in DNA
RESIDENCE: Chicago, the USA’s Middle Coast


TWITTER: @1paulalan

VERTERAN: YES MILITARY OCCUPATIONS: Psychological Operations/Infantry/Medic

Ally:  Describe your route to publication?

PAUL: I am a self published author, currently working on a saga called Rings of Polaris.  Set thousand of years in the future, our world has become a desolate wasteland but all is not lost, for Humanity has spread throughout the Galaxy, and still thrives.

Ally: Many of the readers who follow this blog enjoy romance. Is there romance in your novels?

PAUL:  I would say there’s love, and passion between the two main characters. Although most memorable, the steamy romance scenes are less than 1% of each novella but it’s the love they share that defines their relationship; the relation floats all the way through this Science Fiction-Dystopian-Action/Adventure.

Ally:  What is your writing schedule? Full Time? When? Where?

PAUL:  The second book, Giants of Mars was written under a veil of sleep deprivation and insomnia.  I wrote at all kinds of crazy hours, and still don’t even know what I wrote. But seriously, I try to write when ideas just pop up in my head.

Ally:  Since you're writing scifi, tell us a little about your world building. Where do you get your ideas?

PAUL: When it comes to world building, I tend to overlap my life’s experience with my love for science.  My wife say’s I kind of nerd out in my writing; so I recommend you have an open mind to science if you read my books, and for the inquisitive person out there, be Google ready for some terminology. That being said, I try to make my words flow so one can easily understand the content being read.

Ally: Let's wind this up with a few quick answer questions:
a. pantser or plotter:  PLOTTER
b. favorite food or drink while writing: H2O
c.  a book you wish you had written:  MOBY DICK
d.  last movie that made you laugh:  EURO TRIP
e.  an item on your bucket list: TRAVEL TO OUTER SPACE

Ally: Thanks for coming today and bringing your books. I hope you'll visit us again. In the meantime, tell us about your series...

Jason Bjorn just wants to do his job and captain his ship, but when his employer—The Polaris Corporation—sends him on a trek across the wastelands of Earth, he encounters treachery, an ancient cult, and secrets that strike at the heart of Polaris’ control over the planet.

Soon, fighting to stay alive is the least of his worries as he finds himself at the center of a conflict that could change everything with nobody on his side but SOFIA, the seductively independent operating system that runs his ship.

**Due to adult sexual content, this book carries an 18+ warning on this blog.


Right about the time Lesley Robinson’s father’s stroke left her in charge of his Fortune 500 company, she adopted her housekeeper’s sick baby and divorced her philandering husband.

She’s survived the past six years by building an impenetrable wall around her emotions. But when a hunk of a sheriff’s deputy turns up at her office to apply for a grant from the company’s foundation, her distrust of men and relationships takes a direct hit.

Niko Morales clawed his way out of gang life to build a new one grounded in law enforcement and a passion to help disadvantaged youth. So, Lesley needs a companion for an upcoming social occasion? He’s no gigolo, but for his community center, and maybe for her, he’ll wear the monkey suit.

Without any apparent effort at all, Niko sneaks under Lesley’s cool façade, shaking up everything she believed about herself. But when their relationship is threatened by the sins of others, they’ll both have to step up—and out of their comfort zones. Or they’ll lose the one thing they want most: each other.

Buy Links:

Barnes & Noble:
All Romance eBooks:


“May I help you, sir?”

The guy had to be at least forty. His gold-plated name tag read Marcus Turner. Maybe he was the dining room manager or something. Niko had no idea. But the man’s tone suggested there was absolutely nothing he’d be able to do for Niko and that most likely Niko had lost his way and mistakenly wandered in off the street.

Niko grinned. He couldn’t help picturing Marcus having a stroke when he told him he was there to meet Lesley Robinson.

“I’m joining Lesley Robinson for lunch.”

“Ahhh.” Marcus gave Niko another appraising once-over. “Your name?”

“Morales.” Niko purposely rolled the R just to mess with him.

The host glanced at his reservation book, running his finger down the entries. “Ah, yes. Here we are. Please follow me, Mr. Morales.”

The dining room wasn’t crowded. Niko supposed most clubs of this caliber were probably standing room only between January and April, but they didn’t do much business during the summer and fall.

Marcus paused at a window table for four in the far corner. He pulled a chair back for Niko and whisked away two of the place settings before promising a server would be right over.

Niko made himself comfortable. The window overlooked a vast swimming pool surrounded by white lounge chairs and umbrella tables for four. Beyond the pool was a stretch of private beach. Both were deserted. A female server appeared and Niko ordered iced tea. It was his day off, and he vaguely wished Lesley had suggested meeting at Señor Tequilas, in which case he’d have ordered a beer. But he wasn’t calling the shots at the moment. Lesley was. He knew iced tea was the safest beverage choice for a business meeting.

It came served in a frosted glass with a sprig of mint. What the hell was he supposed to do with that mint leaf? Leave it in the glass? Fish it out and set it on his bread plate? No matter how many etiquette books he read, there always seemed to be some small detail of proper behavior that escaped him. He decided to leave the leaf in the glass and turned it so he could drink from the other side.

Lesley appeared and Niko watched her greet the snotty host, who seemed absolutely delighted to see her. She was wearing another of those slim skirts, this one in a narrow black pinstripe paired with a white blouse and peep-toe black pumps. Her hair was upswept and clipped tight. Her only jewelry was a tank watch with a black band and gold hoop earrings. Niko’d heard the term understated elegance and that’s what Lesley made him think of now. Classy. Rich. She didn’t flaunt her wealth. Her outfit and her demeanor said it all.

She briefly greeted some of the diners at the other tables, mostly older men and a few couples, before making her way to her own table. Niko knew enough to push his chair out and stand to greet her. He caught the flare of surprise when he did so. But she smiled and touched his arm, briefly pressing her cheek against his. “Niko. I’m so glad you could make it.”

He didn’t have time to contemplate his reaction to the whiff of her subtle perfume. He held the chair adjacent to his out for her.

The server appeared in seconds. Lesley glanced at his beverage choice. “I’ll have an iced tea as well. Hold the mint.” She smiled at the server and then at him. “I don’t know why they put a sprig of mint in the iced tea. I’m never quite sure what to do with it.”

Niko smiled back at her and made a note to himself to order his tea plain the next time. If there was a next time.

Lesley folded her hands under her chin and regarded him. He held her gaze. He liked looking at her. He liked trying to figure her out. For example, what was going on in her head right now?

“I like you. I didn’t expect to, but I do,” she said

“Thank you, I think. I like you too. I don’t recall having any expectations one way or the other about whether I would, though.”

Her tea arrived. “Give us a few minutes, would you, Wendy?” she said to the server.

“Thank you.” She turned back to Niko. “My reputation as an ice-cold bitch didn’t precede me, then?”

Niko frowned. He worked at keeping profanity out of his everyday language. Though the term bitch was only mildly profane, he found he didn’t care to hear Lesley use it, especially not in reference to herself. “That’s an unflattering and probably inaccurate description of you.”

“Probably?” She gave a girlish giggle.

“I don’t know you well enough to say whether it’s accurate or not.”

“But based on your limited knowledge of me, your impression is that it’s inaccurate. I appreciate that. More than you know.”

Usually Niko found small talk difficult and pointless, but with Lesley it was a bit like sparring. She wasn’t exactly his opponent, but he looked for ways to pierce her armor just the same. Perhaps she was doing the same with him.

She reached for her menu, so he did too. After they ordered, Lesley said, “I suppose you’re wondering why I asked you here today?”

“Was it so Mr. Gracious there at the host stand could decide if my sports coat would offend any of the other patrons?”

Her eyes widened. “Of course not! Was Marcus rude to you?”

“No. Come on, Lesley. Most of the Latinos allowed on the property are washing dishes or pruning the bougainvillea. They aren’t the guests of Lesley Robinson.”

“Sorry. I didn’t think about that. The club is just the easiest place for me to do lunch meetings. Are you uncomfortable here?”

“It’s fine. I was just yanking your chain.”

Lesley glanced around the dining room. “Frankly, I think the club could do with a bit more diversity.”

“I’m on the waiting list.”

Lesley laughed out loud. It sounded real and genuine to Niko’s ears, and it made him smile. He’d like to hear her laugh more often.

She settled back in her chair. Niko again wondered if she ever completely relaxed. She fiddled with her silverware for a moment before she looked at him. “I have a proposition for you.”

He kept his gaze on her, wondering where this was going.

“I’ve been thinking about your community center quite a lot recently. The Robinson Foundation funds will help, of course, but frankly, I know everyone who’s anyone in this town. I believe, if you were introduced to people with money and influence in the proper circumstances, by someone they know, you’ll soon have more than enough funding to get the center opened.”

“That someone would be you.”


Niko sensed a trap of some sort. “And the ‘proper circumstances’?”

Lesley licked her lips. That quick dart of the tip of her tongue mesmerized Niko. Was she trying to seduce him? He almost laughed out loud at the very idea.

“I don’t know how much you know about how things are done here in Willow Bay. There’s a rather small, tightly knit group of individuals who basically scratch each other’s backs. They all sit on each other’s boards, attend each other’s golf tournaments and charitable balls. Write checks to each other’s causes. Most of the big events occur during the height of the season. Things like the Heart Ball, the Emerald Ball—”

“The Annual Garden Party, the Sunshine Festival.”


Niko didn’t bother to tell Lesley he’d worked both traffic and crowd control at some of those events.

Their meals arrived. Niko looked at his steak sandwich. It looked decidedly unmanageable with grilled onions, peppers and melted cheese spilling out from beneath the bun. He wondered if he was supposed to pick it up and eat it or leave it on the plate and use a knife and fork. Why was nothing simple here in the land of the rich and influential? He didn’t have money to blow on dry-cleaning his sports coat. He picked up his utensils and leaned toward Lesley. “You’re setting me up for something. Why don’t you cut to the chase?”

He sliced into the sandwich before realizing he didn’t need the knife. The steak was that tender.

“You’re very sharp, Mr. Morales. I need to remember that.” Lesley speared a bit of salad on the end of her fork.

Niko finished his first bite. “Isn’t that how business works? I wanted something from you. Now you want something from me. I’m not as sharp as you think, though, because I haven’t figured out what it is you want.”

“I’d like you to be my escort.”

Niko almost choked on his second bite. He managed to swallow it and drink some tea.
“Did you say escort? As in service? Sorry, Miss Robinson. I’m not for sale. If you’ll excuse me.”

About the Author:

When not writing fiction, Dr. Seuss-like poetry or song lyrics, I disguise myself behind a green apron and supply caffeine-laced substances to addicted consumers for a world-wide coffee company. I enjoy (in no particular order) premium coffee, inexpensive white zinfandel, reading, bicycling, and playing tennis badly. I'm still married to my first husband, I have two fantastic children, and one almost perfect dog. Originally from Southwest Missouri, I currently reside in Central Florida.

Author Contacts:

Facebook Author Page:
Web Site: 
Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @barbmeyers and @ajtillock  

It's Coffee Chat Wednesday!

Grab your coffee mug and pull up a chair. We're getting ready to put  paranormal writer, Tessa McFionn, through the paces. :)

Morning, Tessa. How do you take your coffee?

Love espresso. My two favorite drinks are a triple shot caramel macchiato and this amazing creation called a marocchino from an adorable Italian coffeehouse.

Ally:  Since my magic pot can produce anything, one marocchino coming right up. While I'll do that, please introduce yourself.


Tessa McFionn is a very native Californian and has called Southern California home for most of her life, growing up in San Diego and attending college in Northern California and Orange County, only to return to San Diego to work as a teacher. Insatiably curious and imaginative, she loves to learn and discover, making her wicked knowledge of trivial facts an unwelcomed guest at many Trivial Pursuit boards. She also finds her artistic soul fed through her passions for theatre, dance and music, as well as the regular trip to The Happiest Place on Earth with friends and family.

Something unique about you:   Wow. That could be a lot of things. Well, my first heroine is a dancer and I did pull a little from my own life. I’m more of a tapper than a ballerina and I even performed in a tap show Off-Broadway about 10 years ago.

Contact links:

Amazon Author Central:
Facebook Profile:
Facebook Author Page:

Ally:  Since you write paranormal, I know you had to do world building, but did your book also require research? If so, what was the most unusual research you did?

TESSA:  I did tons of research. I try to be a stickler for details and I do love muscle cars, so I had to be sure that the beast Kai drives had the perfect specs. But for unusual? Well, constantly having to look up Romanian translations for romantic phrases and swear words would rank in the top spot.

Ally:  How do you keep character information consistent? Do you use character sheets? Why or why not? How well do you know your characters and their background?

TESSA:  I have my bizarro version of character sheets on Scrivener, but I found that grabbing pictures that reminded me of my characters was a great start. I had to start organizing all the details somehow without having to continually go back and find out what exactly what shade of blue Eamon’s eyes are. How much do I know about my characters? Wow. Some of them love to tell me everything while others make me drag each bit of info out of them. Malakai tends to keep things close to the chest, while Voni is a bit more open. Also, with Kai being a 14th century Romanian warlord, his education is much different than Voni’s.

Ally:   Where and when do you do most of your writing?

TESSA:  Ugh. I wish I could say my where is a luxurious office with a giant computer. Sadly, my current work space is the left corner of the couch in the middle of the living room. I’m hoping that, with a little bit of reorganization, I can transform one of our spare rooms into a viable office. As to the when, I write whenever I can. I do work a rather demanding day job (I’m a school teacher) so my best writing time is between 5pm and whenever I finally drag myself to bed, which is usually around 11pm. And before you ask, it does make for long work days, but it’s all worth it.

Ally:  What is your work in progress? Is it a sequel, a standalone, a short story?

TESSA:  Right now, I just sent back my edits on my second book in the Guardians series and am about 2/3 through the third installment. Also, since some characters just refuse to wait their turn, I also just finished the first part of a sci-fi trilogy and I’m really excited about this one.

Ally: Try a few quick answer questions:
  • a. favorite flower – Calla lilies
  • b. 3 states you haven't visited – Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Florida
  • c. favorite movie – oh jeez! Just one? For this week, Guardians of the Galaxy
  • d. favorite kind of ice cream – Mint chocolate chip
  • e. an item on your bucket list – To go to all the Disney parks.

Ally:  Since we can't have you playing hooky from school, I'll let you go with a big thanks for spending time with us. Before you run out the door, please show us your book...


After a year-long depression following the murder of her fiancé, Siobhan Whelan stands on a bridge, tormented by unending nightmares, one step away from jumping. Only the kindness of a seductive stranger brings her back down to earth. But the handsome stranger is more than meets the eye, and soon Voni finds herself thrust into a strange new world.

For seven hundred years, Malakai Vadim has shouldered the mantle of Guardian Warrior. But a chance encounter with the tormented beauty brings him face to face with his destiny. His nemesis, Dmitrius Konstantin, has been feeding Voni’s grief through nightmares, wanting her and her untapped powers for his own. As Kai learns of his foe’s deadly interest, he must solve the riddle of Voni’s tortured dreams while holding his growing desire for her at bay.

Too bad the enemy Rogue Warriors have other plans. Now, along with fellow Guardian Eamon McClearon, Kai must venture into the In-Between, the enemy’s powerbase, to save her soul as well as his own. But can his love be strong enough to save them both?

Purchase link: (*under 18 warning: Tessa describes some of her romantic scenes as "steamy")

Thx for sharing coffee with us! Stop back soon.