Sunday, October 09, 2011

Everybody needs a little romance

I've written three romances--a YA romance, a sweet contemporary romance, and an erotic romance. Because everybody needs a little romance in their lives, following are the opening pages of each of the three.



Mrs. Webster called out our names. Finally, she came to mine.

"Justin Tyme."

A tough-looking, broad-shouldered guy snickered. "Just in time for what?"

I slumped in my seat. At every school I attended, somebody made a wisecrack about my name.

Mrs. Webster waited for the laughter to subside. Then she said, "That's enough, Mark," and finished calling the roll.

The first class of the new school year passed quickly.

When I got lost on my way to second period, I wasn't surprised. I'd attended the orientation session during the summer, but I'd forgotten most of what I'd been shown. I stopped at the intersection of two halls. I looked down one, then down another. Then I looked back where I'd come from. All the halls looked the same.

A teacher in gym shorts tapped me on the shoulder. "May I help you?"

I uncrumpled my class schedule and read him my room number.

"Down that hall to the end. Turn left. Second door on the left." He pointed.

I hurried through the slow-moving crowd of high school students. A moment later I squeezed into my next class. I'd just dropped my notebook on the first empty desk when the bell rang.

A girl's voice from behind me said, "You're just in time, aren't you?"

I flushed, then turned to see who had spoken, expecting to find someone from first period. I swallowed a smart remark when it wasn't.

I found myself staring into the prettiest pair of pale blue eyes I'd ever seen. "Yes," I said, trying to get the lump out of my throat. "I got lost."

"Me, too," she said. "I was ten minutes late for homeroom. When we came in from the stable, my mother dropped me off at the wrong door and ittook forever to figure out where I was." Her blonde hair hung in loose curls to her softly rounded shoulders and she twirled one curl around her slender fingers as she spoke. Her fingernail polish was chipped.

"I don't remember you from last year," she said. "What's your name?"

"Jay," I told her. I always told people my name was Jay. "What's yours?"

Just in Time for Love is available in print, and in various electronic forms



If I had it to do all over again, I would do many things differently and hope that the end result remained the same. I was young when I first met Hans Edelmann and had never truly been in love. I barely understood my own emotional turmoil, and I can only blame the stupidity of my youth for nearly driving him away.

The afternoon we first met, I sat astride Hershey, my chocolate-brown mare, and stared in bewilderment at the new riding instructor.

He stood in the center of the dusty arena, a well-used riding crop jutting from the top of his black knee-high right boot. “I have never, ever, seen such sloppy horsemanship,” he shouted at us. The louder he spoke, the thicker his German accent became. “I can see that we have a lot of work to do if any of you expect to compete at Stallion Stables in August.”

He paused, glared at each student individually, then said, “Class dismissed.”

I glanced at the other women in my riding class and noticed that many of my classmates were fighting back tears. No previous instructor at Rocking Horse Stables had ever been so harsh in his assessment of our riding abilities. My own chin had trembled a bit when Hans started his tirade, but I had forced myself not to succumb to his ranting. At twenty-five, I was the oldest student in the class and I felt as if I had to be the group’s pillar of strength.

Swinging my right leg over the horse’s broad back, I dropped to the arena’s dirt floor. I took the mare’s reins in my hand and led her around the arena. After Hershey cooled off, I led her out of the arena, across the dusty gravel parking lot, and into the massive white barn. Once I had Hershey in her stall, I stripped off her tack.

I heard two of my classmates talking in the next stall.

“Mr. Edelmann is an ogre,” the first said.

“He isn’t anything like the instructor I used to have,” came the response.

“Did you see what he did to Bertha when she missed the second jump?”

“He even criticized Melissa, and she’s the best rider we have!”

I nodded in agreement with the young woman’s assessment of Hans Edelmann as I brushed Hershey’s coat. He had criticized me, but his comments were nothing compared to the things he told other riders. The two girls hadn’t been exaggerating when they classified Hans as an ogre. Based on his performance during class, I thought he was that or worse. I shook my head, almost ashamed of myself for the tingle of excitement I’d felt when I’d first met him the day Mr. Harriman gave him the two-minute tour of Rocking Horse Stables.

Hershey stood sixteen hands tall, each hand equaling four inches, and I could just see over her withers when I stretched up to brush her mane. As I did, I could see down the long corridor between the stalls and out through the open barn doors. Hans strode across the parking lot past the open doors, his riding crop tucked under his muscular triceps, his bearing military in its precision.

Watching Hans march past brought my blood to a boil. Who did he think he was to be yelling at us the way he had? He’d only been at the stable a week and already he’d brought tears to the eyes of most of the younger girls. I didn’t think anyone deserved the kind of treatment Hans had been dishing out.

After I finished grooming Hershey, I cleaned the horse’s tack, including the saddle, bridle, reins, and other accessories. Finally, I hoisted the heavy leather saddle over my shoulder, gathered the rest of my tack in my arms, and carried the entire bundle to the tack room where most of the private owners had specially-built cubbyholes.

I stored everything, then wiped the sweat off my forehead. The barn had become uncomfortably warm.

By then, I had worked myself into an emotional lather. I was determined to speak to the new instructor about his teaching methods. Cleaning my tack had kept my hands busy, but my mind had been free to continuously relive the worst moment of my class.

I searched the stalls in the barn, scanned the two practice fields and the pasture as I crossed the parking lot, then walked to the arena. Hans’ apartment was at the far end, above the glass-enclosed observation room. When I didn’t see him in the arena, I hurried toward his apartment. I strode across the room, then took the stairs two at a time, my boot heels clicking against the worn wood of the stairs.

I rapped on the door once, then shoved it open without thinking. “Mr. Edelmann,” I said as I stepped through the open doorway. I stopped when I caught sight of him standing in the middle of his small living room, stripped to the waist.

He turned to stare at me. “Yes?”

Unbridled Love: A Romance With Horse Sense is available in various electronic formats



“Another livestock magazine?” Christiana Kern slumped in her chair. She was the best and most overworked customer service representative at Wett, Inc., the country’s largest printer of special interest magazines. “Special interest,” as far as Christiana was concerned, meant magazines that nobody she knew personally was interested in reading. “If I have to handle another magazine about pigs or turkeys or chickens, I’ll go crazy!”

Erma Harrison attempted to calm her. “Horses,” the account supervisor drawled, “Great big fancy thoroughbreds.”

It was meant to tempt. Christiana was not swayed. “Why me? What happened to Carlisle? I thought this was his account.”

“Carlisle jumped ship this morning and the client’s due here within the hour.”

The news about Carlisle Morris surprised her, and Christiana knew she’d want more details later, but right then she was more concerned about her new title.

“I don’t suppose I have time to run home and change out of this eyesore.” Christiana pulled at the fresh coffee stain on her blouse and took in the sour expression on Erma’s face. “No? Well, where’s the file? Who’s the sales rep?”

“You’re going to love this. Handley out of Nashville met this guy—name’s Bobby Ray Cartwright—at the racetrack and they became buddies. Anyway, this Bobby Ray’s got a passel of male horses he’s been itching to hire out for stud. Problem was he didn’t know how to get his message out, so Handley tells him to print up a bunch of ads and send them out to people who might be interested. Well, now he’s got so many people interested that he can’t keep up with the fliers so he’s decided to make a magazine out of the ads. Makes you wonder how the horses are keeping up.”

“A rookie?” Christiana groaned, pulled the file to her chest, and headed out the door. “He doesn’t know anything about magazine production? I knew I should have stayed in bed this morning.”

The first thing to do was to get organized. Christiana always felt she could fumble her way through just about any customer’s visit as long as she was organized. The customer’s name and company name had to be posted at the plant entrance, and the customer room had to be cleaned and filled with fresh coffee, snacks and sodas. Other plant supervisors had to be notified that a customer was coming to visit.

Accomplishing everything in record time, Christiana let voice mail catch her calls while she pored over the scant little file that that ingrate Erma had dumped on her. The new magazine had already received credit approval—an amazing accomplishment considering the glacial speed at which corporate handled these things—and Handley had already faxed a signed copy of the contract.

Christiana’s phone rang once, signaling an inside call, and she lifted the receiver to her ear. Erma said, “Our client’s here. He’s in the customer room.”

After dropping the phone receiver back in its cradle, Christiana stood, smoothed her skirt into place, and took a deep breath. She’d met with many clients over the years, but the first time was always a little scary. She never knew quite what to expect—especially after the time she met the gnome from New York who talked a mile a minute and then keeled over from a heart attack—so she always took a moment to prepare herself before walking down the hall and entering the customer room. This time she needed more than one deep breath because she’d worked late the night before. After she’d finally gotten home and in bed, the bindery had woken her four times, asking questions they could have answered themselves if they’d just bothered to look at the instructions she’d left them. First impressions counted a lot, and she always wanted to make a good one. With one last rueful glance at the coffee stain on her blouse, Christiana tucked some stray strands of ebony hair back into place at her nape and headed down the hall.

When she first caught sight of Bobby Ray Cartwright, Christiana stopped dead in her tracks. He was leaning over the conference table with his back to her, rummaging through a briefcase, and she saw the best set of buns that ever graced denim. Then she noticed his mud-caked cowboy boots, and the smile that had started to cross her face disappeared completely. Christiana had a very deep sense of cleanliness and Bobby Ray was anything but clean.

“Here’s the magazine,” Bobby Ray said to Handley as he handed the sales rep a disorganized stack of papers and photographs. He had a nice drawling baritone, Christiana mused before snapping herself back to business when he saw her.

He smiled and his deep blue eyes twinkled. “And who’s this little filly?”

Stud is currently only available for Kindle

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