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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Owned for Christmas by Willa Edwards

Fighting Boredom with Romance
I’ve always been someone who likes to try different things. To explore and challenge myself. I’ve never stayed in a job for more than a year unless I absolutely had to because I wanted to try something new. In college, once I completed the prerequisites for one major, I was ready to start another one.  Some might say I get bored easily, but I don’t think of it that way. I think I just have curiosity. A curiosity to see new things, to do new things, to stretch my view of the world, to explore more than just my little corner of the universe.

This search for new experiences fits perfectly with my career writing romance writing. Each story is a new opportunity to explore something different. Some new profession, some new place or new experience.  It’s one of the reasons I like to play with different genres from BDSM to ménage, cowboy to historical and more.

Owned for Christmas was just another opportunity to try something new. There was quite a lot I got to explore with this tale that I’d never experiment with before. A country setting, a cowboy mentality (including horses and a barn) and a ménage featuring one woman scared of her true nature torn between two brothers who have more to fight about than just her affections. All of these are new experiences I’ve never explored in another story, or my own life.

Each exciting new opportunity helped me keep my boredom at bay, and I loved every minute of it. These characters spoke to me from the very beginning, pulling at my heart strings and forcing me to explore their world, to tell their story. Keeping me interested and exploring these new areas is always secondary to the needs of my characters.

I’ve always written the stories that I loved, the ones that spoke to me. It just happens that the dreams and passions I always had worked well with my desire to explore.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, from the age I was old enough to understand that people actually wrote books. And while at that age I didn’t realize writing would be a perfect way to stem my constant need for new experiences, it certainly seems to have that effect for me. 

Which only makes me love this career even more. Not only do I get to spend my days writing stories that bring hope and happiness to my characters, and hopefully my readers lives—not without a little strife too, to make it all worthwhile. But I also get to satisfy my need for adventure without even having to leave my house. And that’s my own version of a happily ever after.

I hope you’ll take a look at my new release, Owned for Christmas, and see how my characters Kate, Grant and Daniel find their happily ever after. I promise, you won’t be bored by their tale. I certainly never was.


Christmas with her boyfriend’s family seems like a lovely idea—until she finds her previous Dom staying for the holidays too.

Kate Baker is nervous about meeting her boyfriend Daniel’s family. When she walks into the family home to find Grant, her former Dom, spending the holidays with them too, her world turns upside down. How can she spend Christmas with the man who shattered her heart and broke her trust in the whole BDSM scene?

Although she had no idea Grant and Daniel were brothers, Grant revives all those needs that Daniel can’t fulfill. But she won’t give up the man who helped mend her broken heart after Grant shattered it—even if she has to bury the submissive part of herself to do it.

A year ago, Grant Farrell left the woman he loved—and the best sub he’s ever controlled—to tend the family ranch after his father’s death. It almost tore his heart out to leave Kate but he had no other choice. He didn’t realize how much it had hurt them both until she shows up at his family’s home on his brother’s arm.

Now more than ever he’s determined to keep her in his life, even if he has to share her to do it. But half measures won’t be enough anymore. He needs either to own her completely, or give her up to Daniel for good.

Can he convince Kate to forgive him for the pain he caused her and the secrets he kept? Or will he lose her to his brother for his past mistakes?


Like the sound of Owned for Christmas? Buy it here.





Willa Edwards has dreamed about being a writer since she was four years old. When she picked up her first romance novel at fifteen she knew she'd found her place and she's never looked back.

She now lives in New York, where she works with numbers at her Evil Day Job and spends her nights writing red-hot tales of erotic romance. When she's not at her computer, you can usually find her curled up in bed with her two furry babies, her nose pressed to her e-reader.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Always the Quiet Ones by Amy Valenti


Dommes – Are They All Bitches?

How many romance stories with a sexual BDSM relationship between two women have you read?

For probably about ninety percent of the people reading this, the answer will be ‘none’. That’s fair enough – it’s a pretty niche interest that people don’t really seek out unless they’re into BDSM and women. Since most of the people reading romances are straight women, it makes sense that there are way more straight couple or gay male stories out there.

I like to try to read and write a little bit of everything, and two of the characters in
Always the Quiet Ones, my M/F/F short story, are women. One’s a Domme, the other a submissive, and although there is a male Dom in the story as well, this particular blog is about the F/F dynamic.

I’ve heard a few people say that Dommes come across as bitchy, and that they don’t like to read about characters like that. Male Doms, on the other hand, are seen as stern, which is a lot more desirable.

It seems to me that bitchy Dommes are more of a submissive male fantasy than a female one, and that sneering, derogatory element ties into male subs’ wishes to be humiliated and for their power in patriarchal society to be stripped away. I’m sure this is far from the case for every submissive man, and that some submissive women love to be bitched at and made to lick their Mistress’ boots, but that’s never done it for me personally.

I’m not particularly fond of bitchy characters in general, and I don’t find them at all attractive. When writing Dana, my Domme character, I tried not to let her become the standard Dominatrix archetype, hoping to make her a little warmer without losing her business-like, authoritative edge – the kind of Domme I’ve found most compelling in real life. I guess you’ll have to judge for yourself whether I succeeded!

Female subs are a lot more common in romance than female dominants, from the bratty ones who are disrespectful in hopes of ‘punishment’ – that’s fun punishment, in case that’s a new term for you! – to the obedient ones who take their submission extremely seriously at all times. The submissive character in Always the Quiet Ones, Nicola, is very well behaved in this story, but she’s also pretty overwhelmed by what’s happening. After all, it’s not every day you agree to a casual scene with a female friend, then find out she’s brought along the guy you’re not-so-secretly in love with to enhance the bondage and whippy fun!

I get the feeling Nic would be a little less obedient as time went on, but for the duration of this story, she’s happy to go along for the ride and enjoy what her dominants have planned for her. That makes Dana’s job as Domme a lot easier, which probably helped me cut out the bitchiness. As a result, the emotional dynamic between them is probably more of an owner-and-pet one, with genuine friendship and attraction between them when they’re not in play.

So if the bitchiness of movie and TV Dommes has been putting you off reading any female dominance stories, try some F/F (or M/F/F if you really need some male Dom in your reads too). You might find it’s less jarring than you expect!


One man—two women. Two Dominants—one submissive. Three hearts about to collide…

Lee rubs me up the wrong way, but he’s sexier than sin. He and our mutual friend Nicola have been pretending they don’t want each other the entire time I’ve known them, but every time I drool over Nicola, Lee gets all territorial. I’m guessing he’s just as much of a Dom as she is a submissive.

As far as I can see, there’s only one solution to this problem—we share Nic. Just for one night of amazing BDSM bliss, to make them realise they belong together. Then I can back off and leave them to their happily-ever-after before Lee tries to make me kneel before him too. I don’t submit to anybody.

Okay, so I don’t get much out of this deal in the long run, but that’s okay. I’m not looking for a permanent relationship anyway, especially not with two people. Even if one of them is the sweetest bisexual sub I’ve ever met and the other makes me want to fight him for the top spot and then ride him all night long…

Like the sound of Always the Quiet Ones? Buy it here.

Amy Valenti attained ‘crazy cat lady’ status at four years old, but took a little longer to get to the ‘published author’ stage, which was her other goal in life. Now in her late twenties, she tries to minimise the number of cats she puts into her erotic romance stories, but more than one has slipped into a character’s home while her back’s been turned. After all, the ultimate test of a man’s worth is what his new partner’s pets think of him…

Cats aside, Amy enjoys writing about intelligent female characters who know themselves and their desires. She’s been fascinated by sex, relationship and power-play dynamics for many years, and experiments with different sub-genres under the overarching category of BDSM, concentrating on Domination and submission romance in particular.

You can check out more from Amy Valenti at http://amyvalenti.com,
sign up to her mailing list or find her on Facebook or Twitter.




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

McFarland's Farm by: Cardeno C.


McFarland's Farm: Hope, Book 1

Written by: Cardeno C.
Narrated by: Paul Morey
Length: 2 hrs and 34 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date: 11-11-14











Wealthy, attractive Lucas Reika treats life like a party, moving from bar to bar and man to man. Thumbing his nose at his restaurateur father's demand that he earn his keep, Lucas instead seduces a valued employee in the kitchen of their flagship restaurant, earning himself an ultimatum: lose access to his father's money or stay in the middle of nowhere with a man he has secretly lusted over from afar.

  Chapter 1

"Jared, it's me."

Jared McFarland sighed and moved his gaze away from the jumbled numbers on the screen to the answering machine on the other side of his desk.

"I know you're there. Pick up the phone."

Susan couldn't know he was there. She lived in Phoenix, and he lived a hundred twenty-five miles west in Hope, Arizona.

"The reason I know you're there is you never leave your property and it's nine o'clock at night, which means there's not enough light for you to be working outside."

Susan's ability to read his mind terrified him.

"Plus, I know you're on your computer."

Lucky guess.

"And the reason I know you're on your computer is last time I visited, I uploaded a program that tracks everything you do on there."

Jared froze, thinking through the ramifications of that claim.
After a pause, Susan continued. "Do we need to have a conversation about the porn addiction?"

Grappling for the phone, Jared lost his balance on the rolling office chair and almost fell.

"I do not have a porn addiction!" he shouted into the phone. When he heard no response, he realized he hadn't answered it. After pressing the green button, he tried again. "I'm not addicted to porn!"

Pulling up a website a couple of times a month when the loneliness got to be too overwhelming didn't constitute an addiction. Besides, he didn't enjoy it very much. The men on the screen weren't real. He couldn't smell them, couldn't touch them, couldn't taste them.

"Of course you don't have a porn addiction," Susan said incredulously. "I've known you your entire life. I'd know if you had a porn addiction."

He pulled the phone away from his ear, stared at it, and then put it back. "But you just said—"
"I said what I needed to say to get you to answer your phone."

"So you don't have a program on my computer tracking everything I do?"

"I might, but that's not the point," she said dismissively. In his head, he could see her waving her hand and flipping her long brown hair over her right shoulder. "It's called manipulation. 

It's the same way I got you to do everything I wanted when we were married."

Susan had been his high school sweetheart. They'd gotten engaged right after graduation, married six months later, and then divorced two years after that. Susan had moved to Phoenix with Phillip Padrez, her new boyfriend—now husband. And Jared still loved her just as much as he did on the day they got married. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough now, and it hadn't been enough then.

"Jared, stop feeling guilty. It took two people to get married and two people to get divorced."
Thankfully the end of their marriage hadn't meant the end of their friendship. Susan still called Jared a few times a week and came to see him when she visited her mother in Hope, which made computer spying a viable possibility. And though Jared was much more comfortable with that type of relationship, he sometimes still regretted that he hadn't been able to give Susan more.

"But if I wasn't… If I could have…"

"If you weren't gay, I still would have been miserable living on that farm, and we both know it," Susan said. "Just like we both knew you were gay, even if we were too young to admit it or realize you didn't need to change."

For many years Jared had wished for that very thing. But at age thirty-two, he had long since stopped wishing he could change himself and fall in love with a woman. Instead, he longed to meet a man he could love who would love him back.

"I know," he said quietly.

Susan sighed. "I hope that's true because I worry about you being out there on that farm all alone."

"I'm not alone," he denied. "There are people around all the time, working, and I go into town to buy supplies and—"

"Are those men working on your farm also working it in your bed?"

He started coughing. "That's none of your business."

"Uh-huh, that's about what I thought. Jared, isn't it time you made an effort to meet someone?"

"I know you and Phillip are happy, but that doesn't mean everyone wants to be in a relationship."

"I'm not talking about everyone. I'm talking about you. Don't bother arguing with me about it, because I know it's true. You live out on that farm, away from the world, and you're dying to have someone waiting for you in the house every day."

Denying it was pointless. Susan had firsthand knowledge of just how much Jared longed for what she described. After all, he had married her, hoping for that very thing even though the love they'd shared had been one of friendship and not what anyone, them included, would have described as romantic or passionate.

"Wanting something and being able to have it aren't the same things," he said.

"That's because you don't try! If you ever leave your farm, it's to go into Hope, which has a population of nothing, and even then you don't talk to anyone."

"Hope isn't that small, and you don't understand."

She couldn't understand noticing a man across a dark room and gathering the courage to approach him only to see the light of interest in his eyes dim once he got a close look at a scarred face. The beard could only hide so much. Plus, Jared had a hard enough time making conversation; it was impossible when a guy couldn't look at him without flinching or kept darting his gaze around to make sure none of his friends saw him talking to the poorly dressed weirdo from the sticks. The only thing men in bars wanted from a six foot five, beefy guy with shaggy red hair and an imperfect face was a hard fuck in a dark corner with their backs to him. Finding release with the porn on his computer demoralized him less.

"Yes, I do," Susan argued. "I know how amazing you are. Any man would be lucky to have you. All you have to do is flash those green eyes, smile, and make a little conversation."

If only it were that easy. He swallowed down his emotions and said, "Let it go, Susan."

He didn't expect a simple request to work, especially not the first time he said it, but amazingly, it did.

"Fine," she said. "That's not why I called anyway."

Distracted by the miracle of avoiding more nagging about his non-existent dating life, Jared was oblivious to the punch slated to take its place until it landed its mark.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" Susan asked.

"Doing?"

"Uh-huh."

"Um. It's Tuesday. I'm working."

"I'm sending something your way. Do you have time to run into town to pick it up?"

Each day's schedule mimicked the one before—wake up at sunrise, work with the organic produce he grew in greenhouses throughout his property, warm up dinner, eat alone, and go to bed, also alone. About once a week, he headed into town to pick up supplies and treat himself to a decent meal at Jesse's Diner. Nothing prevented him from making the next day supply day. Maybe he'd get lucky and meatloaf would be the day's special.

"Sure. Is it at your mom's house or at The Mailstop?"

"Neither actually. He'll be at the bus stop at a quarter after six."

"Wait. What?"

"A quarter after six at the bus stop," she said.

"I heard that part. Did you say ‘he'?"

"Yes. I'm sending Lucas to you for a couple of months. Well, technically my dad's sending him."

Already reeling from the unexpected turn of events, Jared got dizzy from the mention of Susan's half-brother. With chestnut hair, sky blue eyes, tan skin, and a sleek, compact body, Lucas Reika was the single most gorgeous person Jared had ever seen. Susan was young when her parents divorced. Her mother had moved to Hope, seeking a simple life. 

Her father had remained in Los Angeles, running an increasingly more successful chain of restaurants. He had remarried and had a son, who he had raised alone after his second wife passed away.

"Why is Lucas Reika coming to Hope?"

Being around Lucas aggravated Jared's already debilitating fear of social situations and turned him into a stammering fool. Thankfully, Lucas never gave him the time of day long enough to notice. He was always too busy flirting with whatever man he had on his arm, and often with many others. Lucas was the center of attention wherever he went, and Jared was a guy who he was "pleased to meet" when they were introduced even though they had already met more than once—at Susan and Phillip's anniversary dinner, christenings for their children, and a few events thrown by Susan's father, whose restaurants were Jared's biggest customers.

"Because spending time away from his friends and the whole LA scene is the best chance Lucas has of getting his head on straight."

"I don't understand." Jared shook his head and furrowed his brow. "Lucas is in some kind of trouble?"

"Oh please. Lucas is trouble. You've seen it for yourself."

Lucas was loud, he drank too much, and he thought a lot of himself.

"What happened?"

Susan sighed. "He finally finished school in June, barely. Took him five years, but he finished. Then he spent two months partying and didn't make a single move to find a job. My father finally got fed up and told him if he wanted to keep getting money, he had to start earning it. He even offered to teach Lucas the business, which basically meant having him rotate through the restaurants and learn from his executives. But you know how my brother is."

"Lucas didn't do the work?" Jared asked.

"That too. But the bigger issue is he had sex in the kitchen at Northstar before they opened for the Saturday dinner service. With the head chef. The head hostess, who's also the chef's girlfriend, walked in on them. She started screaming. Half the waitstaff came running in. At some point the chef or the hostess—I can't remember which one—stormed off and the other one followed, which meant no head chef and no head hostess on a Saturday night at my father's flagship restaurant. It was mass chaos. People were seated late, food came out late, and don't even get me started on my father's meltdown over what they were doing on a prep table. Totally unsanitary."

Groaning, Jared shook his head in dismay. Paul Reika took his restaurants very seriously. The papers joked that everything he touched turned to gold, but in truth, Paul worked day and night to make his restaurants a success. The fact that he trusted Jared—and nobody but Jared—to supply his produce was a huge honor, and very lucrative.

"I can't believe he did that."

"Oh, I can believe it. Lucas is an entitled, self-absorbed, lazy, snobby prick. I'm guessing he's done a lot worse but my dad kept turning a blind eye."

"But this was in his restaurant," Jared said, understanding how angry that would make Paul.
"Exactly. Ignoring his kids is one thing, but you know how my father feels about those restaurants."

Jared knew she didn't aim the comment to get pity. Susan was well aware of who her father was and who he wasn't, and she had accepted it long ago. Having an incredibly caring mother and stepfather probably helped, but mostly Susan was a strong as nails, ‘glass is half-full' type.

"So Lucas feels embarrassed about what happened, and he wants to hide out from the world for a while?" Jared said, still trying to wrap his head around why Lucas Reika was coming to stay with him and how he'd get through it without stuttering, staring, and being socially awkward. Or at least without stuttering and staring.

"Embarrassed?" she scoffed. "Please. I have no doubt he did it on purpose, and I've seen absolutely no indication that he's embarrassed."

"Then why does he want to get away? And why here? Susan, I don't think he'll like being here. It's boring." The farm, the life, Jared. All of it would be boring to a guy who grew up in Beverly Hills, surrounded by a gaggle of beautiful friends, and spent his nights at the trendiest clubs.

"Boring is just what Lucas needs. And it's not a matter of what he wants. He doesn't have a choice. My father is making him go."

Furrowing his brow, Jared said, "What do you mean he doesn't have a choice? The guy's what? Twenty-three, twenty-four?"

"He's twenty-four. And you're right, technically he has a choice. He can stay here and get cut off, or he can go stay with you, get his head on straight, and keep his credit cards."

"Your father wouldn't do that to Lucas." Paul was a ruthless shark in business, but he wouldn't cut off his only son.

"Lucas splattered semen all over the prep table in my father's flagship restaurant before the Saturday night dinner rush. My father had to find a new chef and a new head hostess. He not only would do that to Lucas, he did do it. I had to beg him to give Lucas another chance." She paused. "Beg. And the little shit didn't even bother to thank me."

"And sending your brother to stay with me was the only way you could think of to torture him?"

"It wasn't my idea," Susan said. "I begged my dad to give Lucas another chance, and he said he'd do it under one condition."

He waited for Susan to continue, and when she didn't, he said, "What's the condition?"

"You."

"Me?"

"Yes. Lucas has to go stay with you. That's the deal."

"That makes no sense," Jared said.

"Actually, I think it's brilliant. So brilliant I wish I could take credit for having thought of it."

"What's brilliant about it?" Jared asked. "Does he have any farming experience? Irrigation experience? Horticulture experience?"

"Nope."

"Is he a hard worker? A fast learner? Eager to try new things?"

"Nuh-uh."

"Then I don't think it's a brilliant idea, and I don't want him here."

"You're going to say no to my father?" she asked in amusement.

Jared genuinely liked Paul. He wouldn't deny that the man was sometimes cold, often grumbly, and a workaholic, but Jared got along better with him than he did with most people. And Paul had taken a chance on him when he was starting out. Jared's customers came to him because of the reputation he'd earned for growing quality produce; and he'd earned that reputation in Paul's restaurants. He couldn't turn down a favor for a man responsible for most of his income and who he considered a friend.

"Damn it," Jared said.

Chuckling, Susan said, "That's what I thought. Lucas will be at the bus stop tomorrow at a quarter after six."

"Fine." Jared sighed resignedly. "I'll pick him up and try to find something for him to do around here." He looked around at his messy desk and dragged his fingers through his hair.

 "Maybe he can do the paperwork."

"Uh-huh. Sure. He'll love that."

"That kind of tone is not instilling confidence in me, Susan!"

"Sorry." She laughed. "Thanks for doing this, Jared. Seriously."

He didn't have a choice. And not just because Paul was his biggest client and a friend. Susan was family, the only family he had left. "You're welcome. Say hi to Phillip and the kiddos. I'll talk to you later."

"I will. And Jared?"

"Uh-huh?"

"Good luck."

He hung up the phone, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. "I'm going to need more than luck to survive having Lucas Reika under my roof for two months."

About The Author:

Cardeno C. is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few "awwws" into a reader's day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno's stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever-after sunset.

Contact & Social Media Links
Cardeno C. Website
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Twitter: @cardenoc
cardenoc@cardenoc.com
Cafe Risqué ~ Shared Blog
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea



Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea
Genre: { M/M} Mystery/Suspense
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press













Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press


Cary Talbot has found the perfect mark. Marigold Shelley is filthy rich, and her newly found grandson, Isaac Shelley, is poised to inherit her huge estate, complete with a priceless wine collection. Cary concocts a plan to con both of them into selling the crown jewel of that collection to him at a bargain price. Since Isaac is young, single, and gay, part of Cary’s scheme to get close to the Shelleys includes seduction.

But Isaac isn’t the sheep he appears to be. He isn't even the grandson he appears to be. Isaac is, in fact, running quite the con of his own.

These two masters of the confidence game are pitted against each other, and both are after the ultimate prize—a chunk of the huge Shelley fortune. It’s only when a third cunning player comes in and is ready to outwit them both that they must band together and beat their opponent or see all they’ve worked for slip from their grasp one ruby-red drop at a time.

Excerpt

SONOMA COUNTY was pretty, in a bucolic, hazy sort of way, rolling green hills covered with neat rows of grape vines and grass so gold and waving, Van Gogh would’ve been envious of its color. Yeah, the place was beautiful. If you liked that kind of thing. Cary Talbot didn’t. He figured if he were anyone else, he’d find himself charmed by the roll of the hills and the dusty golden glow. But he wasn’t charmed. He was lost. Totally, completely, fuck-if-he-had-a-clue lost. He’d been winding around picturesque country roads for hours, his GPS was having some sort of meltdown, and he was on the verge of pulling to the side of the road and throwing the damn thing as far as he could. Because, you know. That would help.
He took another turn that the angry lady in the computer told him to take, which landed him in some sort of roundabout that led absofuckinglutely nowhere.

“Recalculating... recalculating.”

“Screw you!” He slammed his hand on the steering wheel. “Ow, fuck.” He was lost, and his hand hurt like hell.

“Turn left in thirty feet. Turn left.... Turn left.” The voice got more insistent, but it didn’t change the facts.

“There is no damn left turn here!”

“Recalculating....” Of course that’s when the car’s Bluetooth picked up his phone. He should’ve turned the damn thing off. Cary glanced at the readout on the rental car’s screen. 

Jules. Who else would it be? Fuck.

“What?” he barked.

“Jesus, boss. Have a Xanax or ten. Just letting you know the room’s all rented out and taken care of. I’m getting my equipment set up now. You should be good to go in a day or two.”

“Can you tell me how the fuck to get out of here while you’re at it?” Corkscrewed 5

He was met with silence. Cary wasn’t surprised. He didn’t do yelling. Not at Jules, not at anyone. He did charm. Charisma. Confidence enough to sell the hardest mark whatever lies and half-truths he happened to be peddling. Pissiness wasn’t on Cary Talbot’s résumé. He pulled over and took a deep breath. Then he took great pleasure in yanking his damn GPS cord out of the dash. He hated that thing.

“Powering off in ten seconds,” the voice intoned.

Cary wanted to growl. Instead he took another long, slow, calming goddammit breath. “Sorry, J. Long day. I hate California,” he grumbled.

“It’s okay, boss. You hate everything. How on earth are you lost? The town is right off of highway twelve.”

“I have no idea. I think this damn machine decided I was in Australia or something. Can you please just run a search on my tracker and tell me where the hell I am and how to get out?”

“Good thing we’re paranoid.” Jules laughed softly. “Give me a few minutes to get up and running, and I’ll be able to tell exactly where you are. Get out of the car and do a sun salutation or something. You need to chill before you have a stroke.”

Cary chuckled. “I’m not doing yoga on the side of the road under a bunch of goddamn grape leaves.”

Jules made a derisive noise but didn’t reply. Cary did prop the door of his rental car open, but all that got him was an overwhelming wave of dusty, late-summer heat that nearly made him choke. He took a long drink from his water bottle and chucked a few pistachios into his mouth. Chewing helped him calm down when he let himself get way too wound up. Some days he wished he’d never quit smoking.

“Where are we at with those directions, Jules?”

“Just... a... minute. There you are. Okay. So I’m going to need you to make a left.”

“Jesus Christ, there is no fucking left.”

Cary could tell Jules was holding back a laugh. “Okay, okay. Why don’t we turn around? I’m going to try another way to get you back to highway twelve. I don’t want you to end up crashed into the bottom of some wine vat.”

Cary rolled his eyes and stuck his key into the ignition. “I don’t even like wine but that’s sounding better and better by the minute.”

“I have no idea how you managed before you met me.” 

“Managed what?” 

Jules’s laugh came loud and clear through the car’s speaker. “Anything.”

By the time Cary reached their hotel—modest, nondescript and right off of the highway—he was hot and tired and beyond ready to have a big drink of anything strong, and pass out. That probably wasn’t going to be his luck. Jules usually had about seven million details to work out with him when he least felt like talking. Plus he was hungry, and he wouldn’t say no to some snacks.

Cary started to mentally prepare himself. He had a lot of work ahead of him, hopefully easy work, but work all the same. If he managed to pull it off, the payoff would be fantastic.
“What room are we in?” he asked Jules quietly.

“Eleven fifteen. I’ll prop the door open for you with the bolt.” 

“Thanks. I’m on my way up.”

Cary bypassed the front desk. He wasn’t in the mood to put on a show, to charm the hotel staff into liking him but forgetting him the minute he was gone. He’d rather be completely invisible. Luckily he didn’t need a card to make the elevator rise to his floor. There were ways around that. He knew ways around pretty much everything, but after the day he’d had, he really didn’t feel like fucking around with gadgets.

True to form, Jules looked like she was about to stage a military coup right from the comfort of their hotel suite. Cary bitched and teased her about all her techy crap, but he didn’t know how the hell he’d operated without her for as long as he had. She’d set up her computers and her phone station in the corner of the room, and had gotten comfortable in a pair of sweats, flip-flops, and a T-shirt. She’d tied her riot of inky black curls into a knot on the top of her head and was busily painting her toenails a bright pink. She glanced up when the door clicked shut.

“Hey, boss. You look like hell.” Tactful as usual. Jules was brilliant at what she did, but smooth-talking was never going to be her strong suit. Good thing they had him for that.

“Thanks a million, Delgadillo. How are we looking?”

“I just got the system all set up. Give me a minute to breathe. You need a drink.”

“And a nap. I think I have sun poisoning.”

Jules chuckled at him. Typical. She smirked. “Hopefully it’ll be raining when we get home.”
Cary thought of his big, drafty loft in Portland, and smiled. He wasn’t sure if you could call a place home if you were gone more than you were there, but there was something about the old building’s weathered bricks, soaring metal-beamed ceilings, and scarred wood floors that felt like a refuge.

Jules went to the counter and opened a new bottle of scotch and pulled a fresh liter of soda out of the mini-fridge. She mixed Cary a drink without comment and handed it to him. He took a swallow and sank down onto the room’s armchair gratefully.

“Thank you so much. This is literally going to save my life.”

“That’s why you pay me the big bucks.” Jules rolled her eyes a little and gave Cary a fond smile. “You know. Bring you drinks and stuff. Answer the phone.”

It was a running joke between them. That had nothing to do with why Cary had hired her. Jules was special. She’d been a sophomore at OSU and had a very promising future at some prestigious grad schools when she’d been caught doing a few very naughty things with her computer in the dorms. Like looking-for-backdoors-into-the-NSA’s-internal-system kind of naughty. Cary would’ve thought that was impossible to do from a remote location. 

Apparently Jules had found a way to make it possible enough that some friendly government agents paid a visit to her dorm room the next day. Luckily she’d been out and saw them from down the hall. Jules had taken off, and Cary found her shivering and scared in a coffee shop, no family, no more scholarship, and newly homeless. He’d offered her a job, and she’d been with him ever since. She was like a kid sister, if by kid sister he meant an outrageous brat with an IQ of 180, limited social skills, and technology chops that made his head spin.

“So are we going to talk about the job?”

Cary sighed. “Now? Does it have to be now?” What was that he’d been thinking about her being a brat?

“Now would be good. Unless you’d like a nice stay off highway twelve for nothing. We need to get this job set up or we’re wasting our time.”

“Someday you’re gonna kill me.” Jules snorted. No respect.

“So the plan is twofold, correct? Well, three actually. Get the mark to believe you work for the insurance company, but you’re a little dirty. Introduce the idea that the Nine Sisters is just a myth. Falsify the tests to prove they’re fakes. Oh, and then of course get them to sell the bottles to you at a low price to get them off their hands so they don’t get charged with insurance fraud.”

“That sounds about right.”

It was a complicated game, and it relied on Jules’s technical skills as much as his talking, but Cary thought they might be able to pull it off. He could barely fathom the payoff if they were successful. The Nine Sisters. Even one would be an incredible get. Nine of the world’s most sought- after bottles of wine all in the same collection? Nearly priceless. Marigold Shelley was supposed to have them. Cary was banking on the fact that the rumors and Jules’s techno sleuthing were, in fact, correct.

The story of the Nine Sisters was legend. It started back when George Washington had first taken office. He’d been a well-known fan of Portuguese Madeira wines. So much so that Pedro and Maria, king and queen of Portugal, had sent him a case of ten bottles of their private reserve Madeira. One had disappeared into time. Maybe it had been drunk by Washington himself, maybe broken or sold—that part of the story was never told. But the others had formed a collection. Priceless. Famed. Nearly mythical.

The bottles still had their royal seal from the Portuguese court on them, and the stamp showing they’d belonged to Washington’s private collection. How a single vineyard owner got their hands on all nine of them was beyond Cary’s imagination. Their worth was staggering. He had his work cut out for him if he wanted them to be his.

“I still don’t like this, boss.” Jules had never been one to hold back her opinion. She’d been making her opinion on the sisters known ever since Cary decided to go for it. “It’s not fair.”

“Jules. Marigold Shelley is reported to have one of the best private collections in the entire country. The Nine Sisters is the crown of that collection, but she has others. You know how I operate.”

Cary might have been a con artist, but he had morals. He never took from people who couldn’t afford to lose, and he never took everything. Not even close.

“But you’re using the fact that she’s distracted by her grandson to get to her.”

“Of course I am. It’s the perfect time. She’s in love with the romance of getting her family back. She’s not going to want to take time out of whatever years she has left to deal with me.”

“And the kid? Hasn’t he gone through enough after all these years?”

Cary shrugged. “He’s twenty-four. That’s not a kid. Plus, this isn’t gonna hurt him. He doesn’t even have to get involved.”

He knew Jules had her reasons for wanting to protect Isaac, and they had a lot to do with her past. Cary didn’t feel like playing cheap hotel room shrink.

“I’ve made you a cheat sheet.” Jules handed it to him reluctantly. “I still don’t like this, though.”

“No kidding.” She’d made her stance on the newest mark quite clear before she’d left Oregon a day and a half before Cary. “Do you want to go back to Portland and leave this to me?”
“No. You’ll get arrested, and then what would I do? I’d be bored.”

Cary sighed. “Contrary to your very strong beliefs, I did survive for thirty years before I found you at that coffee shop. Successfully.”

Jules rolled her eyes.” How you managed that is a mystery I’m still trying to solve.”


Author Bio:
I’m Mj O’Shea:) I grew up, and still live, in sunny Washington state in a little old house. While I love to visit other places, I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home.
I spent my childhood writing stories. Sometime in my early teens, the stories turned to romance. Most of those were about me, my friends, and our favorite movie and pop stars. Hopefully, I’ve come a long way since then!!

When I’m not writing, I love to go to concerts, hang out with my friends, play the  piano (and my other instruments), dance, cook, paint pictures, and of course read! I really, really like coffee and tea, nail polish and glittery sparkly things, headbands, hats, scarves and sunglasses!

I have two little dogs who sit with me when I write. Sometimes they come up with ideas for me too…when they’re not busy napping of course.



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