“Gallant Rogue, Reluctant Heroes Book 3” by Lily Silver #Spotlight

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This week, the work of Lily Silver is in the spotlight here on Nesie’s Place! Get ready for adventure, intrigue, and of course, romance! Lily is also sponsoring an awesome Rafflecopter with a Kindle Fire as the grand prize! ($50 gift card for an international winner!)  Check out the excerpt, then scroll down for the Rafflecopter and a FREE gift from Lily!

Gallant Rogue cover

“Gallant Rogue, Reluctant Heroes Book 3”

Author: Lily Silver

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Release Date: October 15, 2014

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Gallant Rogue Excerpt, Day 4

Gallant Rogue is Book Three in the Reluctant Heroes Series. It features the story of Jack and Chloe. Captain Jack Rawlings was a support character in Dark Hero. He is Donovan Beaumont’s closest friend and ally. Together, Donovan and Jack were pirates in the East Indies, years before the events of Dark Hero take place.

Jack has had a tragic history. He was engaged to a woman and she died horribly. He blames himself for her death, for not being there to save her. He has a strong, driving need within demanding he save the girl because of that tragedy of his youth. This is a strength but also a flaw. In Dark Hero, Jack misunderstood the marital conflict between the main characters Donovan and Elizabeth, and felt it his duty to take Elizabeth away from Donovan to ‘save her’. His need to redeem himself in his own eyes for failing to save his beloved is at times overwhelming, In Gallant Rogue, he gets that chance at redemption.

His friend asks him to escort a family member to Spain and to deliver her safely to her relations. Donovan (Dark Hero) knows Jack would protect Chloe as fiercely as he would himself if he accompanied her to Spain. Jack has had secret feelings for Chloe for many years. He almost proposed, but Chloe married someone else before he could do so. Now he’s being asked to spend several weeks with her as they sail across the sea to Spain, and those close quarters and intimate exchanges are killing him. He cannot act on his desire for her as Chloe is a recent widow. He believes it would be dishonorable to take advantage of her at a vulnerable time. He also believes it would interferewith his duty to protect her if he allows himself to become distracted by a blooming romance. Jack’s greatest flaw is that he’s gallantto a fault.

Chloe is also a support character from Dark Hero. She is the love child of a Spanish estate steward and an African slave. Her adoring father died suddenly when she was a girl. She was sent to live in the slave quarters with her maternal grandmother by the cruel plantation owner. She has endured scorn all her life because of her origins. When Elizabeth came to the island as a new bride Chloe found acceptance and friendship. She became Elizabeth’s personal maid, and then her companion. She married a relative of the family and became part of it. Chloe’s happily ever after ended abruptly when her beloved Gareth was killed in an accident. Now she is determined to escape the lingering prejudice and scorn that have shadowed her since birth in the West Indies. She decides to sail to Spain to find her father’s family, and reinvent herself there as a Spanish Lady. Her paternal uncle is a Marquess, after all.

Spain is on the brink of war. It’s 1808 and news from Europe is slow coming to the West Indies. Spain has been under the thumb of France and Napoleon for years, but is just starting to revolt. Chloe and Jack are confronted by the presence of soldiers from France, England, and Spanish Guerilla warriors hiding in the woods. Jack will have quite a task keeping up with Chloe because she is determined to find her Uncle Miquel at all costs. As they traverse the Spanish countryside in search of the missing Marquess, they encounter outward danger and inner simmering passions.

This book is unique in the series as it does not have the strong Gothic tone of the previous books. The characters determine a book’s tone in my work, and both Jack and Chloe did not have any deep magical or supernatural leanings. This book is an adventure romance set on the high seas and in Spain. Jack and Chloe’s story is one of redemption, re-invention, and re-kindled passions of a lost love.

Chloe is a wonderful character who embodies much of the modern woman of this age. She doesn’t want to be defined by the labels society has placed on her. She wants to break out of the exterior definition of her ‘place’ that society has forced upon her. She will not turn back from her quest to find her father’s family. Her singular determination brings surprising results that have a greater impact on the situation in Spain than she could have ever dreamed. Jack is one of my favorite heroes. His gallantry and his sense of honor is the kind that makes me swoon, and isn’t that what we read romances for! I hope he’ll charm your heart as well in Gallant Rogue.

Excerpt from Gallant Rogue, Copyright Lily Silver 2014

The screams coming from the cabin next door brought Jack up from his bunk at a rush.

Jack  grabbed the pistols he kept at the ready, a habit from his pirating days, shoved them into the waist of his trousers and reached for his sword. He was out the door and across the hall in a trice.

Three other officers joined him there, all in similar states of undress. Jinks, Lt. Morgan, and Mr. Harris. They looked to him to take the lead and breach the portal.

He hesitated. The shrieking had stopped.

Did she have a bad dream? He really didn’t want to go plowing in there and startle the poor woman with his sword raised and his men following; not in the middle of the night.

“Go on then,” Jinx prompted behind him. “You are the captain, after all.”

Jack grimaced and bit his tongue to contain a raw retort. When had the proper and respectful Mr. Jinx acquired such cheek? Jack raised his fist to the door, determined to at least announce his presence to the poor woman before leading the charge of men into her private suite.

But that nerve-shredding shrieking started again, combined with a steady thumping sound as if someone were being chased and beaten with a stick.

Jack burst through the door, expecting darkness and a sizable intruder to greet him. Instead, he was met with bright lights as all the lanterns in the cabin seemed to have been set ablaze. Chloe was in the corner with her back to the door. She didn’t seem to notice the men filing in. Her arm was raised. She appeared to be in the midst of bludgeoning something.

“Mrs. O’Donovan,” he said in a light tone, trying to get her attention. Her hair was flowing in a gleaming, obsidian waterfall down her back, reaching nearly to her round bottom. Jack cleared his throat and tried again when she didn’t respond to his gentle speech. “Mrs. O’Donovan,” he repeated in his strict captain’s tone. “Is there a problem with your lodgings?”

She turned, and seemed startled to see him standing in the portal with his men. Her lovely ebony arches fell as she frowned. “Yes, there is.” She pointed to the large windows to her left. “It’s that silly girl, shrieking as if to raise the dead over a rodent.”

All attention moved from the delectable and vivacious Spanish beauty clad in a light muslin gown to the thin, pinch–faced adolescent girl, who was standing on the window seat clutching a blanket about her chest and looking as if she were being set upon by an entire crew of pirates.

The maid blinked. Her lower lip quivered slightly. She looked at the men with terror. “There was a large rat in here.”

“Marta, get down and help me,” Chloe scolded. “Your ridiculous shrieking has awakened the crew. The least you can do is help me catch the little blighter.”

“A rat?” Jinx dropped his pistol arm so that the business end was pointing at the floor. “All right, mates, let’s not tarry. Let’s get the dreadful beastie out of here for the lady.” He gestured with his free hand for the men behind him to find the creature for Mrs. O’Donovan.

“Oh, I have him,” Chloe replied without emotion. “At least, I think it is a he.” She set her weapon, a parasol she’d been holding by the pointed end so she could use the wooden handle as a cudgel, on the trunk beside her. Without flinching, the woman picked up the dead rat and held it by the tail for all to see, letting it dangle beneath her fingers as her face registered triumph. The rat’s head was split open. Dark ruby blood oozed from its nose and brow. The left eye appeared to be displaced, crushed by the blow of Chloe’s parasol handle. “If one of you wouldn’t mind burying him at sea, I’d be most grateful.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Jinx, Lt. Morgan, and Harris all pushed forward to assist her. The trio tripped over each other in their rush to aid the fair lady. It was Harris in the end that took the bloody little creature from her.

Muted crying could be heard from the window.

The maid. Jack felt little sympathy for the girl. He hoped this was not going to set a precedent. “Stop whining,” he admonished. “Get your mistress some water so she may wash the blood from her hands. And shame on you, for letting her do all the work.”

“I can’t stand rats, sir.” The girl blathered through fractured sobs. “Disgusting creatures.  I’ve never had to catch one before…”  Sniff. “My father always does it, or one of my brothers.”

“Water, Marta. Now,” Mrs. O’Donovan commanded. “And my shawl, thank you. I shouldn’t wish to put you out too much in your duties.”

Jack couldn’t contain a chuckle. Chloe was well and truly angry. And she should be. Why didn’t the maid just knock on one of the cabin doors and ask an officer to help them capture the beastie if she was that upset? Instead, she climbed on the furniture, took to shrieking like a banshee while leaving her mistress to attend to the problem.

The girl hopped down from her perch. She hurried to the washstand and fetched the bowl and a towel and brought them to her mistress. Mrs. O’Donovan pushed up the sleeves of her elegant nightgown and began washing her hands while the maid stood holding the bowl for her. Mrs. O’Donovan carefully dried her dainty hands, and shooed Marta away with a silent mouthed word.

“I wonder how the beastie came to be in here in the first place,” Lt. Morgan said to the room at large. “They don’t usually appear  this far above deck. They stick to the cargo hold, and the darkness.”

Jack and Jinx exchanged a hard look.

“Oh, I have an inkling of how it might have occurred.” Jack thought of a particular cabin boy who was wont to play such pranks to liven up the tedium of a voyage.

“Do you want the pleasure of kicking his bum, or shall I do it?” Jinx murmured, smashing his lips together with contempt. “Boy needs a lesson in manners, frightening a poor helpless female in the night, and a passenger, to boot.”

“Helpless?” Jack nodded toward Chloe. “I believe you are mistaken, Mr. Jinx.”

Jinx shot him a bold grin. “’Twas speaking theoretically, Cap’n. Shall I rouse the boy for you, then?”

“No. Let him sleep. In the morning, you may discipline him as you see fit. Make certain he understands that passengers are strictly off limits for his mischief.”

“Aye, Cap’n. Good night, ma’am, and… er…pleasant dreams?” Jinx made a polite bow to Chloe.

“Thank you for coming so quickly to our aid, Mr. Jinx.” Chloe gave the man a charming  smile. “It is a comfort to know if we were under attack we would be well protected, sir.”

“My pleasure, ma’am.” Jinx was grinning like a fox.

“Get back to your bunk,” Jack grumbled, adding a deep, warning growl to his words. “Out, now.” He pointed to the door with the tip of his sword, knowing his reaction to the exchange between Chloe and his first mate was irrational, but he was unable to contain his fury.

Jinx slunk away, as did the other men. Jack stood in the doorway, his sword in hand, disappointed that he, too, must leave. Chloe was stunning in her plain white nightdress that offered no embellishment save the lace at her wrists and throat. Her lovely features were framed by waves of sleek ebony. Did he imagine the sultry smile curving her lush red lips?

The maid hurried to her mistress’s side and made a great show of placing a silk paisley shawl about her shoulders, lifting her heavy locks and then resettling the jet waves once the shawl was arranged to modestly conceal Chloe’s bosom and shoulders. The spell was not broken by the maid’s intrusion. Jack lingered, wanting to just drink in the sight of this lovely, exotic creature sleeping just down the hall from his cabin.

“Is there anything more I can do for you, Mrs. O’Donovan?” He sounded hoarse. His throat had gone bone dry as he stood rooted to the deck staring at her like a starving man might stare wistfully at a feast he was denied access to.

“Yes, Captain. I could use a strong drink,” Chloe replied, smiling at him.

God, she was breath-taking.  She belonged in a fancy painting. The Goddess Awakened.

“A drink?” He felt like a clumsy lad. “I’ve some claret in my cabin. Shall I bring you a glass?”

* * * *

Chloe was anxious for this humiliating episode to disappear. Her behavior was not delicate or lady like. It was practical. More importantly, it revealed her true nature. If she were to convince her father’s family that she was a proper lady she must behave accordingly. Ladies did not kill rats in their rooms. They had servants to do it for them.

“No, Captain. I need some fresh air. And you,” she turned to the little brat who was the cause of this embarrassment, “you will be finding employment elsewhere if you disturb the captain and his officers again. Do you understand me, Marta?”

Marta nodded and bowed her head. Her childish brown braids fell forward, making her seem even younger than her seventeen years. “Yes, ma’am.”

Chloe paced across the cabin to the door, determined to put some distance between herself and the girl until her fury waned. It was bad enough Marta had awakened her with frantic shrieks.  Awakening the crew was intolerable.

Rodents, spiders, insects and reptiles were abundant in the West Indies. One learned to deal with them out of necessity. Rats were not her idea of a beloved pet either, but Chloe was not squeamish about dealing with them.

She pulled her silk shawl tighter about her shoulders and moved into the hallway. As she passed the blond warrior clutching a sword at her open door, she secretly grinned up at him. She would laugh later, not in front of Marta. The girl deserved to be shamed for disturbing the crew.

Captain Rawlings was gazing at her with an expression of astonishment.

“Captain, I realize my suggestion may seem odd. My apologies, but given the situation, I need to leave my cabin for a little while.” Before I slap that girl silly, she thought but did not say. “Perhaps you could escort me on a walk about the deck, if that wouldn’t inconvenience you or the crew, sir?”

“No, not on deck, not at this hour of the night.” He gestured with his sword for her to proceed down the narrow hall. “Come to my cabin. I’ll pour you a drink to sooth your nerves.” He spoke the last with sarcasm, bringing a reluctant smile to her lips.

His door was ajar. The captain followed her inside his cabin and placed his sword on the table in the center of the room. Chloe was fascinated by the gleaming steel. She approached the table to admire the fine piece.

Captain Rawlings turned away from the table to open a small cabinet on the wall. “What is my lady’s pleasure?” he asked in a low, rough growl that resonated within her like thunder on the horizon. “Claret or do you prefer something stronger?”

“Stronger. A woman always prefers strength when asked,” Chloe confessed. She had already given the man ample reason to question her behavior in sullying her hands with a dead rat and then asking to share a drink in his cabin. What did she have to lose? “Do you have brandy? Elizabeth and I indulge in an occasional glass. The count’s mother joins us when she visits, of course.” She added the last as a means of softening her request.

Jack chuckled. “The notorious Alicia St. Vincent is never without her brandy and her cheroots.”

Chloe gazed up from her admiration of his fine sword to regard the man himself. The captain was a mystery to her. He was congenial and friendly when he dined at Ravencrest. On his ship, his natural habitat, she was finding him gruffer and sharper around the edges than when he visited her former home.

She studied his back as the sound of liquid splashing into goblets echoed in the room. Captain Rawlings was a veritable rock. The outline of his shoulders arched and bunched, seeming to wish to push through the confines of his cotton shirt. His hair was free from the restraining queue he wore out on deck. She wished she could touch it, run her fingers through the pale golden abundance. It fanned out like a regal lion’s mane, flowing past his shoulders.

Gold. Sunshine; warmth and hugs. And love.

Wasn’t that what Angelica Rose had prophesied would be her portion in Spain?

Yes, in Spain.

Presently, they were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so she’d best restrain her errant fantasies about embracing this fierce lion of a man and stroking his golden mane.

Author’s note: What follows is a bit of swordplay in the middle of the night, as Jack teaches Chloe how to use a sword, some serious flirting on Chloe’s part, and a few stolen kisses before Jack comes to his senses and returns Chloe to her cabin unscathed.

~~~~~

As a special gift for visitors to Nesie’s Place, the awesome Lily Silvers is giving away Book 1 in the Reluctant Heroes series, Dark Hero – a $5.99 value! Use the Smashwords coupon to claim your copy. Giveaway ends June 1st!

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Dark Hero Book 1

“Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance: Reluctant Heroes #1” on Smashwords

 

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“Twenty-Two (Assassins #11.5)” by Toni Aleo #ChapterReveal

 

 

 

Pre-order exclusively via
iBooks HERE

 

 

 

When Lucas Brooks was traded to the Nashville Assassins over a decade ago, he was a brash, brawling hothead without an anchor.

Well, four kids and a smokin’ hot wife will weigh you down real fast, but Lucas wouldn’t change a minute of his happily ever after.

During an epic, end-of-season quest for the Cup, changes appear on the horizon, and suddenly, there’s a plot twist in Lucas’s fairy tale.

 

 

The Brooks Family
“I want to watch SpongeBob!”
“No! Ariel!”
“Yeah! Mermaid! I wanna watch Ariel!”
Lucas Brooks covered his face with his hands before he yelled from his bedroom, “There are nine TVs in this house! Separate!”
“But she has the popcorn!”
“And he has the milk!”
“Daddy, I want to be with Asher!”
“Why are they eating popcorn at seven a.m.?”
Groaning, he looked over at his wife, who was cuddled deep into the bed, her dark brown hair covering her face as her thick, plump lips pursed out toward him. He almost leaned over and kissed her, but he was exhausted. “I don’t know. Where is Aiden?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the point of having an older kid if he isn’t going to care for the crazy little ones?”
“I don’t think that’s why we had them so far apart.”
Lucas scoffed. “Says you.”
Fallon giggled as she scooted over toward him, cuddling into his shoulder. Both of them knew the real reason for the big age gap between their children, though they never talked about it anymore. In their eyes, they did this on purpose and, really, it didn’t matter because they were happy.
“Mom! Asher won’t give me some milk!”
“Stella backwashes!”
“Mommy! I’m thirsty! Can I have some sweet tea?”
“Daddy, I want tea!”
“What in the hell?” Lucas muttered, staring at the ceiling as Fallon continued to giggle.
“Why are they up so early? The game was late.”
“Who knows? I’m exhausted.”
“So am I,” Lucas groaned, and he was. He felt the pain all over his body from the big win over St. Louis that advanced the Assassins to the second round. His whole body was aching. He wasn’t like his young self that bounced back after a hard-fought game. No, Lucas Brooks needed a good week after a game like the one the night before. It had gone into overtime, and the Blues had been playing desperate hockey. But by the grace of God, Jensen Monroe didn’t let any in, and Vaughn Johansson scored the winning goal. Vaughn had wanted to make his night even better since he had just proposed to his girlfriend and found out she was pregnant. So last night’s win was a biggie for everyone. Though, Lucas wished he had a solid month to recuperate before the next one. But he didn’t. He only had a few days of rest before the second round started.
“But, really, where is Aiden?”
“I have no clue.”
“Text him.”
“That means I have to move,” he complained, and she rolled her eyes before throwing her arm behind her to find her phone. Bringing it to her face, she dialed their son’s number, putting the call on speaker.
“Hello?”

 

Lucas closed his eyes. Aiden’s manly voice still was like a punch to the gut. His baby was growing, fast, and it was killing him slowly. “Baby, where are you?”
Aiden let out an exasperated breath. “Out front, where I always am. Where are you?”
Fallon looked to Lucas as he looked back at her. “Excuse me?”
“Oh my God, Mom, did you forget I had training for summer league this morning?”
Throwing the blankets off, she sat up. “Not at all. I’m running late.”
“You forgot!”
Lucas laughed as Fallon shot daggers from her eyes. “I did not! I’m coming.”
“If you would let me drive, this wouldn’t be a problem,” Aiden reminded her.
“If you cut your hair, maybe we’d buy you a car,” Lucas called out, and Aiden laughed.
“You’re just jealous I have hair!”
“Hush it, both of you. I’m coming,” she said, hanging up the phone and throwing on some sweat pants. “I can’t believe I forgot.”
“I can’t believe he went after not getting home until midnight last night.” She shot Lucas a deadpan expression. “Okay, I can. I would have.”
“Exactly. He’s his daddy’s son.”
Lucas grinned. “He is.” Then he glared, running his hands along his thinning hair. “I have good hair, right?”
She laughed. “Yes, baby, lots of great hair.”
“He has more.”
“He’s going through puberty.”
He raised a brow. “I think he’s past that.”

 

She shook her head. “I don’t know if we can wait till his birthday to give him a car, Lucas,” she said, pulling her hair up as she glanced back at him.
“That’s all you, babe. I told you to give him mine, and I’ll go get a new truck.”
“He wants a sports car.”
“And I don’t give two fucks. That kid isn’t going to be driving a better car than what I had. He can have a nice Ford and be happy, or he can walk—if his momma would let him.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’re overprotective as hell.”
“I am not.”
“You are.”
She glared. “But he is a good kid, Lucas.”
“The best, and he’ll be happy with my Ford.”
“Ugh, okay,” she groaned before leaning down and kissing his lips. He savored her for a moment, grabbing her butt.
“Can we make him wait a bit longer to be picked up?”
She chuckled, desire flashing in her eyes. “I doubt you can move.”
He looked sad. “I can’t.”
She laughed as she kissed him again. “Can we give the car to him today?”
“Tomorrow.”
Her brows rose. “Why tomorrow?”
“Because I can’t move, and I have to go buy a new car for me.”
She laughed, smacking his chest, which made him wince. “I’ll be back.”

 

“Be careful,” he called as she headed out of the room just as Emery ran right into her.
Picking up their youngest, Fallon kissed her loudly on the lips.
“Be good.”
“Me?” Emery asked.
“You.”
“Why?”
“Because you want cake at sissy’s birthday, don’t you?”
“Oh! I’ll be good!”
Fallon rolled her eyes, placing their daughter on her feet before waving back at Lucas.
Emery ran to him, jumping on the bed and breaking his bones further. He groaned out as Emery cuddled into him, and he closed his eyes. “Daddy.”
“Yes, love?”
“I love you.”
He smiled into her hair, kissing her temple as his arms came around her, holding her tight. He’d never known he could love any child as much as he loved Aiden. Lucas could still recall the first moment he saw his son. Outside of Fallon’s house, begging her for a chance to reconnect after seven years of separation, but then Aiden walked out, and Lucas knew. Aiden was his son, and boy, did he fall in love. Head over heels for the kid. Lucas never thought any kid could come close to his love for Aiden, but then Asher came.
His spunky, dry-humored little geek. The kid was always on his computer, always busy making something, and damn smart. Asher was great on the ice, though Lucas didn’t think he’d go far with it. He was too obsessed with computers and rebuilding them. His first love wasn’t the ice; it was making things tick. But Lucas was proud nonetheless, especially considering the fact that Aiden’s drive to make it to the NHL was enough for the whole family.
In all reality, Lucas had been set with two great boys. But then, by the grace of God, came Stella. His little diva. She looked just like Fallon, breathtakingly stunning with big brown eyes and thick brown hair. She had her momma’s looks, and God help him, her mouth too. Those two went at it daily, mostly about clothes and hair, but his little girl had his heart, and of course, he was wrapped around her finger.
That was it…until Emery came. She was a complete surprise, but in a way, she was the missing piece in their lives. Their family had been off-balance and needed her quirky little brand of badass. While Emery favored both Fallon and him physically, she had his demeanor with Fallon’s mouth. It was a bad combination because while she was ruining your life, she was making you feel right about it. Unlike her sister, Emery didn’t care about hair or clothes. She cared about being a fairy princess, which, for an almost four-year-old, he figured was logical.
But she was daddy’s princess.
Holding his sweet baby, he couldn’t help the grin on his lips, though he was aching in spots he hadn’t even thought he could ache. He had taken a hard hit into the boards, coming down and slamming his head on the ice. Thank God for a helmet because his brain would have been scrambled eggs if not. But he was feeling every bit of it now. Though, he couldn’t think of that. All he could think about was how much his life had changed. He used to be a lonely bachelor, living life in the fast lane and enjoying the NHL. But when he moved to Nashville, everything changed. Fallon happened. And now, Lucas couldn’t imagine his life without her and their kids. Between playing and being his kids’ biggest fan, he didn’t see any other point to life.
Oh, yeah, and loving Fallon.

 

But that came naturally.
That woman was his world.
Everything was great in the Brooks household. Now, if only his body could stop hurting and aching, things would be grand. Oh, and if his kids could stop growing. And he needed the Assassins to bring home the Cup.
Yup, then Lucas Brooks would be a happy man.
“I love you too, love bug.”
“Can I still have cake if I’m bad?”
“What did Momma say?”
She pouted. “Do you love cake, Daddy?”
“I do.”
“Me too.”
He smiled, kissing her head. “I know, love bug.”
“Can we watch Ariel?” She sat up, her eyes wide and gray like his. She had Fallon’s lips, though, and the shape of her face. Her hair was in pigtails with big pink bows in them that he was sure Stella had put in. “Please. You’re my favorite daddy.”
“I’m your only daddy.”
She nodded. “And my favorite.”
He smiled. “Do I have to move?”
She thought that over. “No.”
“Then, yes.”
***

 

Pulling up in front of Aiden’s private school, Fallon hit the brakes, slamming forward as she looked over to where Aiden was standing, shaking his head. Gone was her baby, replaced by a hormone-driven monster with long hair. Actually, he was the greatest kid in the world and she loved him more than anything, but God, she hated his hair. He looked like a damn fool, especially with that stupid man bun. But boy was he handsome. Just like his daddy, he had a strong bone structure, thick, dark brows, and dark gray eyes. He was beautiful, and if she didn’t know he was a good kid, she’d lock him up.
Opening the back, he threw in his bag. “Hey, Mom.”
“Hey, honey.”
“Hey, Aiden.”
Fallon about broke her neck trying to see who was calling her son’s name. She saw a pair of girls standing beside the stairs in what she felt were too short skirts. Sure, they were cheerleading skirts, but still. Fallon glared as Aiden turned, tipping his chin at them. “Hey.”
“Are you going to the dance on Friday?”
“Probably not, I’ve got a game.”
One of them puckered her lips. “Can’t you come after?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know. Have a good practice.”
“Okay, I’ll save you a dance.”
When he flashed her a grin, his dimples shining in all their precious glory, Fallon shook her head.
There was Lucas Brooks reincarnated.
“Cool. See ya.”

 

Closing the back, Aiden walked around, and she swore he had grown another inch or so.
Opening the door, he climbed in and looked over at her. “You know, being the oldest, I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be forgotten. Emery is.”
Fallon glared. “Shut up. I’m exhausted. It was a late night. How did you even get here?”
“Brayden’s mom drove me, like you asked her to at practice.”
Fallon paused as she moved the shifter of her van into Drive. “I did, didn’t I?”
“You did,” he said dryly, throwing his legs up on the dash as he started to play on his phone.
“Hmm. Hey, at least I got that far,” she decided, hitting the gas.
“Thank God.”
“Practice was good?”
“Great. Coach is happy with me.”
“Good.”
“Heard Bellevue is looking at me.”
Fallon glanced over at him. “From whom?”
“Coach.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah, he said I should talk to my counselor.”
“For what?”
“I have enough credits to graduate this summer and start over there if I wanted.”
Fallon’s heart stopped. “You just turned seventeen.”
“Yeah?”
“Do you want that?”

 

“Yeah,” he laughed, looking over at her. “Mom, I want to go to college so I can go into the draft. The Sinclair brothers all went to Bellevue. I need that exposure before I enter the draft.”
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Too much. This was her baby. Her firstborn and he was ready to go.
He was itching for the NHL. He wanted to play like his father. He wanted to live his hockey dreams, and all she wanted was for him to go back to fighting hippogriffs. “Talk to your father about this. You’re making my head hurt.”
Aiden laughed. “Mom, I’m getting older. I’m practically a m—”
“Shut your dirty mouth, Aiden James Brooks.”
He laughed harder as she turned down the main road. “Where we going?”
“Audrey’s.”
“Why?”
“I gotta get some donuts she made for your father for winning last night, and then I gotta approve the cake she’s making for Stella’s birthday next weekend.”
“Do I have to go to that?”
She flashed him a dirty look. “You mean your sister’s birthday?”
“Yeah.”
“Of course you do. You’re the damn crab, Sebastian.”
“You’re kidding.”
“No,” she said simply. “I hope the costume fits.”
“Oh my God.”
“I even hired a photographer. So when you’re in the NHL and they need those pictures of you growing up, I’ll have that one.”

 

“You’re horrible.”
“I try.”
He scoffed, and she grinned over at him before pulling onto the road that held Audrey Jane’s. “So, who were those girls?”
“Addy and Melissa.”
“Your fans?”
“Everyone is my fan,” he said, waggling his eyebrows, and she laughed. “I’m practically a hockey-playing god, Mom.”
“All right, pump the brakes there, mister. You’re no Vaughn Johansson.”
Aiden laughed. “JoJo is amazing.”
“He is, but he’s cocky as all hell,” she said simply, pulling into Audrey Jane’s and
parking beside her baby sister’s car. Getting out, they went inside just as Fallon’s niece, Penelope, hollered out, “Welcome to Audrey Jane’s!”
Fallon beamed as Aiden ran after Penny, gobbling her up and tickling her before Audrey came out of the back, a grin on her face. “Hey.”
“Hey, you,” Fallon said, kissing the back of Penny’s head.
“You’re here early.”
“Yeah, I forgot to pick my kid up after practice, so here I am. Where is Philippe?”
“With Tate. He didn’t want to come in.”
Fallon nodded. “How’s Tate feeling?”
Audrey exhaled loudly since the subject of her husband, the Assassins’ starting goalie, Tate Odder, was a touchy one. He had a serious groin injury and had had surgery about two months ago, but he still wasn’t recuperating from it well. An infection had spread and knocked him down some more, long after the doctors had assumed he would be back on the ice. So it was easy to say the Odder family was very tense. “Lots of pain, but I guess he’s getting better. He doesn’t talk about it. He mainly asks me to make cupcakes. He’s pissed he missed last night.
Thank God Jensen did great.”
“Right?” Fallon agreed with a nod. “Well, hopefully, he’ll be up and at it soon.”
“I don’t know, Fal, I just don’t know.”
“What does that mean?” Aiden asked. “Uncle Tate’s okay, isn’t he?”
Audrey faked a grin. “Of course. Come here. You want a cupcake?”
Aiden laughed. “You know, I’m seventeen, you can’t distract me— Whoa, are those cookie dough?”
Audrey smiled happily at Fallon as she shook her head, and Aiden took the cupcake.
“Come on, I’ll show you the cake for Stella, and your donuts are right there.”
Aiden looked at the donuts. “Can I have one?”
“Save one for your dad.”
“Okay,” he said with a mouthful as she followed Audrey to the back.
“Kid has a tapeworm, I swear. He’s always eating.”
Audrey laughed. “He’s always been an eater. It’s not fair.”
“Agreed.”
As Fallon followed her into the kitchen, Audrey looked back at her sister. “I think he might have to retire.”
“Who? What? Tate?” Fallon’s eyes widened. “Never.”
“Yeah, he is grief-stricken about it and things are bad, but he can’t seem to get better. I don’t know. I told him he needs to decide.”

 

“Wow.”
“Yeah, it’s not good. We’re fighting a lot, and he’s withdrawn because he feels like a failure. Shit’s so bad, he started to go see Wren Lemiere, the team’s therapist.”
“Good for him,” Fallon said, exhaling hard. “I hate that for him, though.”
Audrey nodded as she turned on her computer. “Me too. At least you don’t have to worry about that. Lucas’s got at least nine more years in him.”
Fallon shot her sister a wry smile. “He creaks when he walks. I’m waiting for him to tell me he’s done.”
“He won’t.”
“I know, which makes me nervous.”
“Yeah, but you know, Lucas would be okay. Tate…he’s not, and I just want my happy husband back. I’m worried he won’t be happy without hockey.”
“No, he has you guys. He loves you three. So much.”
“I know he does, and he is the best father ever. Sucky in the husband department right now, but I get it. We’ll be okay.”
“You will,” she said, wrapping her arms around her sister. “Don’t worry.”
“Thanks.” Audrey hugged Fallon back as the computer came on. “Okay, so here it is. The best Ariel cake for my niece.”
Fallon grinned as she took in the perfect seven tiers of Ariel-themed cake. “She’ll flip her shit.”
“That’s my goal.”
“It’s perfect.”

 

“Awesome,” she said, shutting her computer lid. “I’ll be over next Saturday morning to set everything up.”
“Cool.” Fallon leaned her hip to the counter as she met her sister’s gaze. Audrey had changed so much over the years. She used to be obsessed with her weight. Now, she stayed healthy, even if she was rounder than she used to be. Kids would do that, though. One thing was for sure. Even with all the shit going on, Audrey had a grin on her face that Tate and the kids had put there. Her sister was complete, and like she’d said, she would be okay. Fallon just knew it.
But Fallon was pretty sure she was going to have her own mini heart attack. “Aiden told me his coach said he could probably graduate early and that Bellevue might want him.”
Audrey’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Yeah.”
“What did you say?”
“For him to talk to his father!”
Audrey laughed. “Fallon.”
“What?”
“It would be great.”
“He’s a baby.”
“He’s seventeen. He’s a great kid. Smart and talented as hell.”
“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think I want him to do it.”
“If it’s going to be what’s best for his career, then he has to, you know?”
Biting her lip, Fallon nodded. “We’ll see what my husband says. If he can even move.”
Audrey smiled. “He’s sore today?”
“Yes, bless him. I don’t know if he’ll make through the whole series in one piece.”

 

“He is old now.”
“He isn’t a spring chicken, for sure.” Fallon grinned. “Except in the bedroom.”
“Ew!”
Fallow snorted as Audrey shook her head and then smiled. “I think they’re going to go the whole way. I feel it.”
Fallon nodded. “I do too. Rumor is, Elli was in the locker room crying last night. She’s so emotional.”
“Think she’s pregnant again?”
Fallon laughed. “Lord, I hope not!”
“Right? She’s already so damn busy.”
“I know.” Fallon shook her head. “Are you going to Lucy’s baby shower next Sunday?”
“Did you not check the group?”
Fallon just looked at her. “Obviously not, Audrey.”
“It’s been postponed until further notice.”
“Why?”
“Because of the play-offs.”
“That’s dumb. Why plan it around the play-offs, then?”
“I don’t have an answer for that, but they called me asking to hold off on the cake.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah. Which is good ’cause I can focus on Stella’s cake.”
“This is true. Ariel needs all your attention anyway.”
Audrey grinned as she leaned into her sister. “You know, you can come by more.”
“Same for you. Or come to the winery, and I’ll get you drunk.”

 

Audrey beamed. “That’s a plan.”
“Mom! Let’s go! Penny is going to make me fat.”
Penny’s giggles met them in the kitchen, and Fallon laughed. “Kid couldn’t get fat if he tried.”
“Right?” Audrey asked, shaking her head. “And what’s up with his hair?”
“I don’t know. I want to cut it, but he won’t let me.”
Audrey laughed as they went out of the kitchen to find Penny feeding Aiden cookie after cookie. “Mom,” he whined, and Fallon laughed.
“Hey, boogey butt—”
“Audrey!” Aiden complained, and they all laughed since he hated his nickname. “I told you about calling me that.”
She feigned hurt. “You are my baby, and I will call you that if I want. Even when you’re a big, hotshot hockey player, I’ll be in the stands hollering, ‘That’s my boogey butt!’”
“Mom,” he groaned, and Fallon just kept laughing.
“Anyway, if I throw gum in your hair, will you let me cut it?”
He glared. “Stay away from me.”
“It’s so long. And dirty,” Audrey said, coming toward him, and when Fallon saw the scissors in her hand, she tried to stifle her laughter.
“I washed it like ten minutes ago!” he said, slowly stepping back from his aunt.
“It’s ugly. Let me cut it.” She went for the bun, but he deked around her, running to Fallon and hiding behind her. Which was pointless since he was practically seven times her size.
“Leave me alone! Mom! Tell her to leave me alone.”

 

“We’re leaving.” Picking up the donuts…well, the three that were left, Fallon shook her head. “Bye, Penny loaf,” she called to Penelope.
“Bye, Auntie!”
“Bye,” Audrey sang. “I’ll get you later, Aiden James.”
Going outside, Aiden looked over at Fallon. “You won’t let her cut my hair, right?”
“I mean, if she gets to you before I do, I’m sorry for ya.”
“I look amazing!”
“You look like a damn fool,” she said, opening the door. “But I love you.”
He shot her an exasperated look. “Do I really have to be Sebastian next weekend?”
“No,” she laughed, shaking her head. “Asher is Sebastian. You’re Flounder.”
“Mom!”
With a grin on her lips, she got in the car.
But she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t worried about Aiden.
Or Tate.
Or even her dinosaur of a husband at home, who might or might not make it through the play-offs.

 

 

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
Author Links

 

 

“Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie” by Kimberly and James Dean

Pete the CatPut on your dancing shoes—Pete is ready to boogie!

Join Pete the Cat in a brand-new story from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team James and Kimberly Dean! Pete is learning a new dance—the Cool Cat Boogie! When he hears a groovy beat, he’s full of happy in his feet. But when Grumpy Toad tells him, “Pete, you dance all wrong!” Pete is determined to become a better dancer. With the help of his friends and some wise words from Owl, Pete learns that he’s his grooviest when he’s being himself. Includes step-by-step dance moves so readers can dance along with Pete!

Don’t miss Pete’s other adventures, including Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues and Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes.

“Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie”

Author: James Dean

Genre: Children’s Books

Release Date: May 9, 2017

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Personality Types and Writers

You HAVE to take this quiz! Very interesting and surprisingly accurate! Please share your results! Now I have to go find my new BFF – Colin Powell! 😄

Story Empire

Are writers introverts? So many of us say we are, but personality tests show that how we view ourselves is not always how others view us. I’ve been subjected to a number of personality and team-building profiles in the business world and I always find them interesting.

Many years ago I took a detailed Myers-Brigg test conducted by my local college. If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Brigg, it’s based on the foundation that there are sixteen personality types which are factored from four key elements:

Favorite World
Do you focus on the outer world (Extraversion • E) or the inner world (Introversion • I)

Information
Do you focus on the basic information you take in (Sensing • S) or do you interpret and add meaning (Intuition • N)

Decisions
Do you look at logic and consistency first (Thinking • T) or people and special circumstances (Feeling • F)

Structure
When…

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Announcing the Return of the SUNDAY SCRIBBLE CHALLENGE!!

Are you ready? 😉

J. A. Allen


It’s been nearly a year since Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins hosted a Sunday Scribble Challenge. That, friends, is far too long. So, for a limited run of six weeks only, the challenge is back.

What is a Sunday Scribble Challenge?

fIt starts with a writing prompt issued every Sunday. The responses need only be short and sweet. Or short and scary. Or, short and funny. The point is, the challenge will always require short replies on purpose . . . so YOU have no excuses. Many of the challenges will limit submissions to a simple paragraph. Some, to ONE SENTENCE. The challenge is meant for writers at every stage–newbies and old hats alike.

It’s something fun to encourage creative juices to flow. But, more than that, it gives participants a chance to reach out to the writing community and interact with peers. Writing can be a solitary endeavor. This challenge is specifically designed to lure writers out of their…

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