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Book 1: Diving Into Him

Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Book 2: Savannah’s Song

Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Book 3: What Happens on Tour

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Just One More Minute: Chapter 5

Just One More Minute, by Elizabeth Barone

The house fell silent all around Rowan. She stood in the entrance, eyes adjusting to the darkness. She鈥檇 forgotten to leave a lamp on. Groping for the light switch, she took several deep breaths in through her nose. It was bad enough, sleeping in Katherine鈥檚 house, knowing her aunt was dead. Leaving the lights off was like asking for her imagination to run rampant.

She swallowed hard. She knew she was being ridiculous. She didn鈥檛 believe in ghosts. Even if she did, Katherine wouldn鈥檛 haunt her. Finding the switch, she flipped the light on, bathing the entryway with light. Sighing, she moved toward the stairs.

After leaving Elli鈥檚, she鈥檇 driven around aimlessly. The thought of going back to Katherine鈥檚 empty house weighed her down. In New Jersey, in her apartment building, there was always someone around. She could count on the squeak of the floorboards above her head or the soft sigh through a wall to placate her loneliness. Katherine鈥檚 closest neighbors were visible from any of the windows, but far enough away that Rowan might as well be on a deserted island.

If she kept the house, she was going to have to find a roommate.

Trudging up the stairs, she replayed her conversation with Matt. No matter how hard she tried, he kept slipping into her thoughts. The last thing she wanted to do was analyze everything he’d said to death. Yet his words鈥Give me two weeks鈥攍ooped through her mind. It was almost as if he was trying to woo her. Those bright green eyes had burned into hers, charming her, willing her to give in.

Reaching the landing, she went straight into the bathroom, ignoring the bedroom on the left. Katherine鈥檚 room. Eventually she鈥檇 have to go in there. Once again she found herself thankful that her aunt hadn鈥檛 passed away in the house. There was no way she鈥檇 be able to even hang out there, never mind sleep.

She still couldn鈥檛 believe the house was hers. She turned on the shower and grabbed her caddy from one of the cabinets under the sink. It felt wrong to take her aunt鈥檚 shampoo bottle out of the shower and replace it with her own. At some point, she was going to have to get over that, too. Katherine didn鈥檛 need to shower anymore.

She burst into tears. Stripping off her clothes, she stepped into the stream. The hot mist sprayed her face, washing her grief and makeup away. Still, she scrubbed at her face for several long minutes, shoulders absorbing the impact of the water. The heat pounded away at the knots in her muscles, loosening her up. When she was clean and all cried out, she shut off the water and stepped out, wrapping a giant fluffy towel around herself.

Her aunt had always had the best towels.

She dried off quickly, then retreated to the guest bedroom. Her long hair sent droplets sluicing down her belly. Shivering in the central air, she dove under the covers. Before she drifted off, she set her alarm for the morning.

* * *

Dawn came too soon鈥攊f she could call it that. The sky outside the house was still dark. Rowan groaned as the alarm on her phone pierced the thin veil of sleep. Swearing, she crawled out of bed and turned it off. For a moment, she considered just going back to sleep. Matt couldn鈥檛 exactly force her to meet him. She did need to figure out what to do with Elli鈥檚, though. The sooner she wrapped things up in Connecticut, the sooner she could get back to her life.

She sat up. Her hair cascaded down her back as she moved. A frown tugged at her lips. Her life. She barely had friends. Most of them were people she鈥檇 met and hung out with in college. Sure, she had Sean. He was more like her boss, though, no matter how much he looked out for her. And just before she got the news about Katherine, she was trying to figure out what to do with her life. It was true that she didn鈥檛 want to work at the diner for the rest of her days. Technically, her blogging could support her鈥攁nd she could take that with her back to Connecticut.

Nothing actually held her down to New Jersey.

There wasn鈥檛 much for her in Connecticut either, though.

Give me two weeks, Matt鈥檚 voice sauntered through her thoughts. A tingle ran down her spine. If he meant more than training, he could be her reason for moving back home. She squeezed her eyes shut. He鈥檇 already hurt her, though. Letting him back in would be reckless. Then again, it wasn鈥檛 as if she鈥檇 ever really let go. Those green eyes were still haunting her.

Throwing the blankets off, she climbed out of bed. She was being ridiculous, but she owed it to herself to check out all angles of the situation. And she wouldn鈥檛 let him get too close, she vowed. If anything, he could be a fun distraction while she figured things out. Maybe she would even find some closure and finally stop thinking about him.

There. Her logic was totally sound.

Traipsing through the guest room to the bathroom, she grabbed clothing. Then she started the shower and got ready for her day. Her makeup became her war paint. She drew her hair into a messy bun and surveyed herself in the mirror. Her tank top, capri leggings, and sneakers were okay for a morning in the bakery, but something was missing. She took a deep breath.

Then, she made herself walk into Katherine鈥檚 room.

Ignoring everything else, she marched straight to the closet. She tugged open the double accordion doors. Amidst her aunt鈥檚 blouses and dresses, Rowan spotted what she needed. She clutched the pastry chef鈥檚 jacket to her chest and fled the room.

Properly outfitted, she left the house.

On her way to Elli鈥檚, she stopped for a hot latte and a bagel. After a moment鈥檚 hesitation, she doubled her order. It would be rude to walk in with nothing for Matt, she told herself.

Despite her pit stop, she arrived before him. She didn鈥檛 have keys to Elli鈥檚, so she perched on a chair at one of the outdoor tables. Sipping her coffee, she checked the time on her phone. It was 4:55am.

She didn鈥檛 wait long. A pickup swung into the parking lot, pulling abruptly into a slot. Matt jumped out, two coffees and his keys balanced in one hand. He strode toward her and her heart skipped a beat. As he neared, he hesitated, glancing from the coffees in his hand and the goodies on the table in front of her.

He laughed nervously. At least, he sounded nervous. Maybe she was projecting. Joining her, he set his coffees down and unlocked the door. “I guess we won鈥檛 be short on caffeine.” He pushed the door open, plucked the two styrofoam Dunkin Donuts coffees from the table, and nodded for her to go in.

Gathering her own things, she stood. She moved past him, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she dredged up an equally light response. “If you鈥檙e trying to sway me,” she said, “you should鈥檝e stopped at Starbucks.”

“I鈥檒l remember that.” He set his things down on the checkout counter and flipped on some lights. Leaning against the counter, he surveyed her pastry jacket. “I didn鈥檛 think you were coming.”

“Well, I鈥檓 here.” She opened the paper bag and handed him a bagel. “Cheers.” She tapped her bagel against his, then took a big bite. “So,” she said between swallows, “do you guys still make the ciabatta first?”

Elli鈥檚 had the best sandwiches鈥攎ainly because of their bread. Some of her best memories were lunch breaks during that first summer working with her aunt.

Matt nodded. Grasping the bagel with his thumb and forefinger, he turned his hands so his palms faced the ceiling. “These hands have rolled out some serious ciabatta.”

Her eyes fell on his hands, square and broad. They were perfect for kneading dough. And other things. Heat flushed her cheeks. She knelt, pretending to search for a fallen crumb. Her bowed head hid her face, thankfully shielding her from his view. Around him, she could barely control herself. She needed to get it together.

Straightening, she took a deep breath. His eyes met hers and she came undone all over again. Those green eyes were bright despite the early hour, studying her. His full lips twitched. Pressing her thighs together, she looked away and focused on finishing her bagel.

“Rowan,” he said, breathing her name.

She dropped the bagel. Annoyed with herself, she glared down at it.

“I鈥檒l get it.” He closed the space between them and bent to retrieve the bagel. Brown curls caressed his forehead. The muscles in his arm rippled as he dropped the bagel into the paper bag. Then, slowly, he stood. Barely twelve inches separated them. He tilted his head down and peered at her through his lashes. With his eyelids drooping, he looked like a sex god.

Her throat made a strangled sound and she pushed past him, breaking the spell. He was messing with her, she realized as she burst into the kitchen. Even worse, she was going to lose this game.

She bent over the stainless steel counter in the middle of the room, gripping its edge. Part of her wished he would come up behind her, arms encircling her waist. She could practically feel the heat of his body. Her breath came out in ragged gasps. She needed to remember that he鈥檇 broken her heart. Not to mention the job he鈥檇 stolen. Her eyes narrowed as her thoughts cleared. Yes. She needed to harness that anger and wear it like a shield. Otherwise, she was done for.

At least he had the decency to give her time to collect herself. By the time he strolled in, she had already pulled out ingredients for the ciabatta and was sifting flour into the giant industrial mixer. She patted the machine appreciatively. She鈥檇 missed having such an appliance.

“I鈥檒l just start on the cannoli, then.” His fingers brushed her arm as he passed. Heat seared through her nerves. She glared daggers at his back.

Forcing herself to focus, she got back to work.

“Did you give any thought to my proposal?” he asked as he added flour, cinnamon, and sugar into the smaller mixer.

Rowan had to admit, she鈥檇 missed this world of sweets. Though she loved serving guests at Sean鈥檚, there was something special about working in the kitchen, getting her hands plastered in dough.

“I barely slept,” she confessed, going for honesty. “I just don鈥檛 know what to do. This used to be my dream.” Lifting a hand, she gestured to the gleaming kitchen.

“It can be your reality,” Matt said in a low voice. Their eyes met across the kitchen.

She slanted a delicate eyebrow at him. “You have no idea what you鈥檙e asking.”

“Then make your case.” He smirked. “What鈥檚 so great about New Jersey?”

“My apartment is closer to New York City than Katherine鈥檚 house is,” she said, turning the mixer on. “And that means more Junior鈥檚 cheesecake.”

He lifted a shoulder. “I should care because . . . ?”

She gaped at him. “You鈥檝e never had Junior鈥檚 cheesecake?” Jabbing a bench scraper toward him, she shook her head in dismay. “I thought Katherine took you under her wing.”

He shrugged. “What鈥檚 the big deal?”

“Nailing their recipe has been her life鈥檚 work,” Rowan chided. “At least, it was when I worked with her.” She frowned. So much had changed.

“I鈥檓 sure it was still important to her,” he said gently. A heartbeat passed. She heard him draw in a breath. “What happened between you two, anyway?”

She dropped the bench scrape. It clanged off the table and onto the floor. Stooping to pick it up, she tried to calm down. He had a lot of nerve asking that. She couldn鈥檛 figure out what game he was playing. Maybe he enjoyed torturing her鈥攐n more than one level. “I thought we came here to discuss Elli鈥檚.” She tossed the bench scrape into the pot sink.

“Fair enough.” He finished mixing the dough for the cannoli shells. With a practiced hand, he divided the dough, flattening each into a disk. He swaddled them in plastic wrap and carried them to the walk-in cooler. When he returned, he joined her at the large mixer.

“So let鈥檚 talk. What did you decide?” He crossed his arms.

“You act like it鈥檚 so easy.” She dumped the ciabatta dough into a bowl coated with olive oil, covered it, and set it aside to rise.

“Isn鈥檛 it?” His eyes bore into hers.

“Are you trying to intimidate me?” She scowled at him.

Matt鈥檚 eyes widened and he took a step back. “No.” He held up both hands, palms facing her. “Well, okay. I鈥檒l lay out my cards.” His arms dropped to his sides. “For me, it is simple. I need this job.”

She crossed her arms. “I鈥檓 sorry, but this is the last thing I need right now.”

“So what do you need? Maybe I can give it to you.” His eyes were steady. He meant what he said, she realized.

Throwing up her hands, she whirled around. She leaned on the counter. “I need time,” she muttered. “Everything is happening so fast. I can barely keep up. Last week, I had the whole summer to figure this out, maybe even longer.” More importantly, she鈥檇 had a lifetime to make up with Katherine. She鈥檇 taken her aunt for granted. Dipping her chin, she closed her eyes.

“You said this used to be your dream.” He indicated the bakery they stood in. “What鈥檚 stopping you?”

“My family, for one.” She snorted. “I left to get away from them. Coming back . . . it feels like giving up, you know?” She shook her head. He didn鈥檛 know. She鈥檇 seen him with his mother at the wake. Without having to hear their conversation, she could tell they were close. At the very least, his mother wasn鈥檛 grilling him about his life choices or pressuring him to give a new and especially potent strain of weed a chance. Her entire childhood had been a precarious balancing act of proving to her parents she was a good hippie child and secretly planning her escape as soon as she turned eighteen. Her parents weren鈥檛 bad people. They just weren鈥檛 her people.

All throughout high school, especially, she鈥檇 felt like a weirdo. She wasn鈥檛 a prude or goody two shoes. If she hadn鈥檛 been constantly bullied into trying different drugs, she might enjoy a joint now and then. In her adult life, she enjoyed a nice full glass of wine every once in a while. She wasn鈥檛 twenty-one yet but it wasn鈥檛 too hard to buy a bottle. It just depended on which package store she went to.

But no. Her first鈥攁nd only鈥攈igh had been a nightmare. She鈥檇 had a panic attack and her entire family had just laughed at her, told her to suck it up, and tried to force her to take another hit. She would feel better, they insisted.

She shuddered at the memory.

So no, Matt couldn鈥檛 possibly understand. She knew next to nothing about him, but she鈥檇 never read any of his family members鈥 names in the police blotter.

He touched her arm gently, but she jerked away. She鈥檇 had enough. She couldn鈥檛 run Elli鈥檚 with him. It had been stupid of her to even entertain the idea. Her place was in New Jersey, away from the rest of the Ellis family. Maybe she didn鈥檛 know what she wanted to do with her life yet, but she knew she didn鈥檛 want to waste any more time in Connecticut.

Without a word, she shrugged out of the pastry jacket and dropped it into the laundry bin. Her sneakers squeaked on the floor as she strode across the tiled kitchen. She could hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears. The front end鈥攁nd the door鈥攆elt so far away. Suddenly she thought she would just leave Connecticut that day. No need to wait any longer.

“Where are you going?” Matt called after her.

Ignoring him, she sprinted through the front end, weaving around tables. She burst into the hot summer morning. Despite the muggy air, she felt better at once. She slowed as she neared her car, pulse thrumming in her throat. A quick glance over her shoulder told her that Matt hadn鈥檛 bothered to follow her.

Good. She鈥檇 had enough of him.

She slipped into the car. Though the vents almost immediately pushed cold air into her face, she shut the air conditioning off and rolled down the windows. She needed real air. Guiding the car out of the parking lot, she relished the feeling of the breeze on her skin.

She may have botched her weekend home, but from this moment on, she was going to do better. She owed it to herself.

A plan formulated in her mind. She鈥檇 stop at Katherine鈥檚, pack her things, and lock up. There wasn鈥檛 any real tidying that she needed to do. The place had been spotless when she arrived. Her aunt had never let the house get even slightly dirty.

Then she鈥檇 make for New Jersey, stopping for nothing. As soon as she got back to her apartment, she鈥檇 call Sean and find out when she could pick up her next shift. She鈥檇 get in touch with her aunt鈥檚 lawyer later in the week and find out what she needed to do to sell the house and Elli鈥檚.

She nodded to herself.

As she stopped at the first red light on the way to Katherine鈥檚, though, she wondered when she would stop running.


JUST ONE MORE MINUTE
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A down-on-her-luck waitress inherits a bakery with the man who stole her dream job鈥攁nd broke her heart.

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Just One More Minute: Chapter 4

Just One More Minute, by Elizabeth Barone

Matt pushed open the door to Elli鈥檚 and slipped inside. Usually, on a Monday morning, they opened much earlier. That morning, though, he鈥檇 attended Katherine鈥檚 funeral, and now he had only a few minutes to himself before the post-burial reception.

He was still trying to sift through his feelings. He鈥檇 spent the night before and part of that morning before the funeral prepping for the gathering. Mostly, though, he鈥檇 tried to figure out how he felt about Katherine leaving Elli鈥檚 to him.

He had no idea how to run a business. Since hiring him, Katherine spent less and less time in the kitchen, and more time on the administrative end. She鈥檇 taught him how to make mini cheesecakes and perfect bread for sandwiches, but she鈥檇 never showed him how to order ingredients or balance Elli鈥檚 bank account. After all, he was only a baker鈥攁nd not even a trained or safety-certified one, at that. He鈥檇 been lucky to get the job at all.

Walking through the dining area, he straightened tablecloths and double checked that every setting had flatware. Realistically, there was nothing else for him to do, but standing around and waiting would only put him more on edge. He leaned against a wall and loosened his tie. The suit he鈥檇 worn to Katherine鈥檚 funeral had been his father鈥檚. It felt more than weird to wear his dad鈥檚 clothing, but his own suit hadn鈥檛 fit in years. Daniel Sr.鈥檚 suit fit him like a glove鈥攎ore testament to just how much had changed.

It made sense that he was thinking so much about his dad, he mused as he gave the room a final once over. What wasn鈥檛 fair was that he鈥檇 lost two people in almost exactly the same way. The familiar burning sensation ripped through him, his chest growing tight. Clenching his fists, he turned toward the wall, meaning to hammer one against the cool, smooth surface.

The bells on the door jingled. He turned, eyes widening in surprise as Rowan stepped inside. He should鈥檝e had a few more minutes to himself before everyone arrived.

“I ditched the procession,” she explained. “Took a shortcut.”

A smile tugged at his lips. He would鈥檝e done the same, in her shoes. He started to say so, then stopped. After their last conversation, he should probably say something to smooth things over. There wasn鈥檛 anything he could say, though. She was right. He shouldn鈥檛 have kept Katherine鈥檚 secret. Though it seemed not to bother the rest of Katherine鈥檚 family, it had definitely hurt Rowan. If they were going to work together, they were going to have to find a way to put it behind them.

“So what did you make?” she asked, crossing the front end and glancing around.

Or maybe he didn鈥檛 need to say anything. Maybe they just needed to keep moving forward. “A bunch of sandwich platters.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “No cheesecake?”

Matt smiled. “Do I look like I want Katherine to come haunt my dreams?” He motioned for her to follow him, and led her to the walk-in cooler. Opening the door, he pointed to a cart stocked full of Katherine鈥檚 favorite recipe, Elli鈥檚 famous mini cheesecakes. He gestured to another cart. “And some of the staples.” He mentally ran through his checklist: cannoli, cupcakes, and cookies. Combined, they made up Elli鈥檚 top-selling items鈥攚hat Katherine referred to as the Super Cs.

Rowan stepped past him into the cooler. She lifted the lid of a tray of cookies and stole a peanut butter blossom. Taking a bite, she gave him an approving nod. “She鈥檇 be proud.”

“Thanks,” he said softly. Taking a deep breath, he surged forward. He wasn鈥檛 going to get another chance. “Look, about last night鈥”

She held up her hands. “I was totally out of line.”

“No,” he said firmly. “You were right. It wasn鈥檛 fair of us to keep you out.”

Hugging herself, she looked away. “I probably deserved it.”

Matt frowned. “You? No way. Katherine loved you.” He drew her out of the walk-in and shut the door behind him. “Why would you say that?”

Her lips parted, and the front door opened.

His shoulders slumped. It was show time. Giving her shoulder a squeeze, he moved past her into the front end. He recognized all of the faces from the funeral, except for his mother鈥檚. She鈥檇 probably decided that she鈥檇 had enough. Still, he wished she鈥檇 come to Elli鈥檚. It would ease his nerves to have an ally. Then again, his mother hadn鈥檛 been anyone he could rely on in years. His job was to take care of her, not the other way around.

Steeling himself, he let habit take over. He guided people into seats and rolled out the carts. He spent an hour alone hopping from table to table, serving coffee and replacing finished goodies. It wasn鈥檛 until he stopped to brew more coffee that he realized he was exhausted. He wished Katherine had hired some more help before she died.

Tears pricked his eyes. He blinked them away angrily. He shouldn鈥檛 feel guilty for thinking that. It was the truth. He needed help. If he and Rowan actually took over Elli鈥檚 together, the first thing he was going to suggest would be to hire a couple of high school kids for the afternoons and weekends.

Rowan.

He glanced around, but didn鈥檛 see her anywhere. Moving toward the front, he peered through the double windows. Her car was still parked outside. He rubbed at his cheeks, freshly shaved that morning but rapidly becoming more stubbly as the day dragged on.

He made his rounds again, refilling cups of coffee. Then he filled two mugs and slipped into the hall.

First he checked the office. It sat dark and empty. His shoulders relaxed. Maybe she鈥檇 just gone to the bathroom. But no, he hadn鈥檛 seen her since she first came in. Something told him that she was hiding. Suddenly he realized that Noah Ellis and the rest of Rowan鈥檚 family hadn鈥檛 come. He shook his head. They were strange people, he mused. Just like he wished his mother had come, he was sure Rowan could use her family鈥檚 support.

After determining that she definitely wasn鈥檛 in the walk-in cooler or freezer, he found her in the much warmer store room. She sat on an upside down milk crate in a corner, her elbows resting on her knees. Tears streamed down her cheeks. When she saw him, she buried her face in her hands.

“Go away.”

Matt hesitated. He was by no means an expert on women, but he didn鈥檛 think she actually wanted to be alone. Maybe she just didn鈥檛 want to be around him, he mused. If he left her, though, there was no one else. He pulled up another milk crate and squatted in front of her. “Thought you could use this.” He held out a mug of coffee.

Lifting her hands, she peeked out at him. The redness in her eyes made them startlingly blue. It was probably totally wrong for him to think so, but she was so pretty when she cried.

“Wanna talk about it?” he asked in a low voice.

She accepted the coffee and sipped slowly. After a few moments, she shrugged. “What鈥檚 there to talk about?” Her eyes remained on the floor, though.

Taking a sip of his own coffee, Matt watched her. Maybe it was because he鈥檇 already let her down, but he felt compelled to cheer her up. He supposed it was the “fix it” male genes in his DNA at work. Stretching out a hand, he lifted her chin until their eyes met. “Your parents didn鈥檛 come.”

She snorted. “Of course they didn鈥檛. They鈥檝e made their appearances. It was time for them to go back into their dark living room and spark up, maybe snort up a couple of Percs while they鈥檙e at it.”

His eyebrows lifted. Stifling the urge to comment, he took her hand in his. “I鈥檓 sorry.”

“It鈥檚 not your fault,” she said, but she squeezed his hand back. “It was dumb of me to hope they鈥檇 changed.” Sighing, she glanced away, withdrawing her hand.

“So they鈥檝e always been like that?” He was starting to understand exactly why Katherine didn鈥檛 get along with her brother.

“Aunt Katherine told me it鈥檚 family tradition. Their parents were the same way. She used to say she and I were the ones who broke the cycle.” Rowan鈥檚 lips twisted wryly. “Not really, though.”

He tilted his head. “Why do you say that?”

“She didn鈥檛 have kids, and I won鈥檛, either.” She set the coffee mug down and started dabbing at her face with a tissue.

Unable to help himself, he blurted, “Why not?”

“Because it would be totally unfair to subject them to this.” Rowan pulled her hair up into a messy bun at the top of her head.

He watched her, mesmerized. The scent of her hair floated to him, a subtle hint of coconut. “This?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “My family.”

“You could always cut off all ties with them.” He thought of his own mother and little brother. He couldn鈥檛 imagine never speaking to them again. Then again, his and Rowan鈥檚 families were very different.

“They would love that. I鈥檝e always been such a disappointment.” She reached for her coffee.

“You鈥檙e not a disappointment to me,” he said before he could stop himself. Immediately he wished he hadn鈥檛 said anything. The tops of his ears burned. It was such a cheesy, rom com thing to say. Her face darkened and she looked away. He bit his lip, perplexed. He felt embarrassed, but she seemed almost angry. Running a hand through his curls, he tried to figure out how to save the conversation. If it could be saved. He cleared his throat. “So, Elli鈥檚. What are we gonna do?”

Exhaling through her nose, she continued avoiding looking at him. “Good question.”

“You live in New Jersey, right?” He took a sip of coffee.

“That鈥檚 half the problem right there. I have a job. I have friends, sort of.” She muttered that last comment under her breath. His heart twisted in his chest. She really had no one left in the world.

He needed to convince her to run Elli鈥檚 with him. It was the only way he could keep a roof over Danny鈥檚 and their mother鈥檚 heads. By doing so, though, he would be tearing Rowan from the only thing she really had. It was selfish, but he didn鈥檛 have much of a choice. He doubted she would be moved by his situation. Still, he hated the thought of suggesting she leave her life behind and move back into close proximity with her family.

He ran his fingers back and forth over the stubble on his chin. Anything he said to convince her would be manipulative, and he didn鈥檛 want to be that guy. With barely a high school education, though, he鈥檇 never be able to find such a good job. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to look her straight in the eye. “Katherine trusted us to take care of this place.”

Rowan nodded. “I know. I can鈥檛 bear the thought of letting her down, but I don鈥檛 think I can do this.” Dropping her gaze, she drained the remains of her coffee. “I guess we could sell it, split the profit.”

His gut clenched. The money might take care of his family for a little while, but eventually he鈥檇 need to find something. “She鈥檇 hate that,” he said, struggling to keep his voice even.

“She would,” Rowan agreed. She sighed. “Maybe I could run the place remotely, like a long distance relationship.” Her cheeks reddened and she stared at a spot on the floor far away from him.

His eyebrows furrowed. Something teased at the back of his mind, then slipped away the second he tried to chase it.

“But I鈥檇 burn out really quickly. I鈥檓 a waitress and a blogger,” she explained.

“Oh, the dessert blog?” He grinned. “Katherine said you鈥檇 invented some of the recipes we use.”

She nodded. Tapping her chin, she finally looked at him. “Maybe you could run most of it and I鈥檇 just take less profit?”

Matt felt the corner of his mouth twitch. “I have no idea what I鈥檓 doing. I鈥檇 run the place into the ground.” The only solution was for her to stay. She had to see it. He gritted his teeth together, silently imploring her to figure it out.

“What if I teach you? I鈥檓 here for another day. It can鈥檛 be that hard.” She frowned, glancing toward the hall and Katherine鈥檚 office. “She taught me a lot of what she does. I鈥檓 sure her lawyer could fill in the blanks after I鈥檓 gone. He鈥檚 a business lawyer.” She shrugged.

Absorbing her words, he stared into his empty mug. He didn鈥檛 think he could just wing it. Make the recipes, sure. He鈥檇 been baking for Katherine for two years. Keeping the lights on and making sure they had enough on hand was a totally different story.

He needed Rowan. She鈥檇 gone to business school and she was a baker. She鈥檇 worked with Katherine for four years. No one in the world was more qualified. Actually, he surmised, he was lucky she wasn鈥檛 fighting him for the place.

“I don鈥檛 know,” he said slowly. His mind whirled. He needed to come up with a much better argument than that. She knew all of this, though. He needed to give her a reason to stay.

If things were different and she didn鈥檛 hate him for whatever reason, he could probably seduce her into staying. He smirked. He鈥檇 never had any trouble snagging girlfriends in school. His mother still chided him all the time for the phone calls she鈥檇 gotten, when he was in kindergarten, about him trying to kiss girls on the playground. And in high school he鈥檇 been somewhat of a player. He鈥檇 never taken any of it seriously, but he still occasionally got emails from his exes, offering to “Netflix and chill” next time they were home from college.

He wondered if he could actively seduce a woman who hated him.

Then again, she didn鈥檛 hate him entirely, he realized. That magnetic attraction he鈥檇 felt鈥攕he had to have felt it too. It would explain her rapidly alternating warm and cool attitudes toward him.

“Give me two weeks,” he blurted.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I鈥檓 leaving after tomorrow. I only asked for a couple days off鈥”

“I鈥檓 sure your boss will understand. Tell him you鈥檝e got family business to take care of.” He stood and, taking her hands, pulled her to her feet. Though he had to duck his head a bit, he leveled his gaze with hers. He willed his eyes to smolder, to do whatever sexy trick they鈥檇 been doing his whole life. He wasn鈥檛 completely sure he could do it on command.

She yanked her hands away. “Excuse me?” Putting her hands on her hips, she cocked her head at him. Her eyes glinted, burning into his.

He fought the urge to kiss her.

“Spend two weeks with me. You鈥檙e going to love working with me. I can juggle balls of dough and I make a mean cupcake.” He brushed a stray curl off his forehead. “So? What do you say? Do you accept my challenge?”

Rowan stared at him. Several heartbeats passed before she answered. Tilting her head back, she lifted her chin. “Cocky, aren鈥檛 we?” she asked quietly. Pain flickered in her eyes. His hands twitched. He wanted to take her face in his hands and kiss the hurt away.

His pulse quickened in his throat. “More like confidence,” he whispered, not breaking eye contact. For a moment, he had a vision of hoisting her up onto the stainless steel table and kissing her until the moon rose in the sky. Screw the crowd of people in the front end. Forget the fact that he needed to convince her to stay. He wanted her to stay.

From the way she looked back at him, she might not even resist.

She looked away abruptly. Turning her back, she picked up her mug. “I don鈥檛 know about you, but I鈥檓 beat. How about we revisit this tomorrow?”

His shoulders slumped. Maybe he should have just kissed her. So far he was doing an awful job of convincing her. Then again, she hadn鈥檛 said no. “Sure,” he said with a sigh. “What time?”

Rowan crossed the room, pausing in the doorway. “You guys still come in early to start baking for the day, right?” He nodded. “I鈥檒l see you at five, then.” She turned to go.

“Wait.” He had no idea how long they鈥檇 been in the store room and whether anyone had noticed their absence. “If we walk out of here together, people will probably think . . .” His ears and the nape of his neck burned. He cleared his throat. “I鈥檓 sure you don鈥檛 need your name in any more people鈥檚 mouths. Wait. I just realized how that sounded.” He held a hand up. “I鈥檓 sorry. That鈥檚 not what I meant.”

She stared at him, an amused expression crossing her features. He noticed that the slight dimple in her chin deepened when she smiled. If he remembered correctly, she hated her chin. The cleft was subtle, though, and he thought it was more endearing than anything else.

She laughed softly. “What makes you think we鈥檙e walking out together?” With those parting words, she turned on her heel and left him in the store room, gaping after her.


JUST ONE MORE MINUTE
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Just One More Minute: Chapter 3

Just One More Minute, by Elizabeth Barone

Rowan only had a millisecond to recover before the next guest took her hand and murmured an “I鈥檓 sorry for your loss.” Blinking, she gave the woman a nod. Presumably she was a friend of Katherine鈥檚, maybe from high school. She glanced over the woman鈥檚 shoulder, looking for any sign of him.

There.

He disappeared through the entrance. She pressed a hand to her chest, heart pounding against her breastbone. Pain twisted her soul. She hadn鈥檛 seen him in over six years, but she was sure he was the same guy. Tears filled her eyes. The entire evening had officially gone to hell.

Breaking formation, she darted toward the nearest bathroom. No one would follow her. Her family was too stoned to notice, and all of the guests would chalk it up to grief. They had no idea.

She barred herself inside a stall just as the tears broke loose, spilling down her cheeks. Knees buckling, she sank onto the toilet seat. Years had passed, yet he could still evoke the same feelings in her. She curled her hands into fists. She鈥檇 thought she was over him. The revelation that he was also the same person who鈥檇 stolen her job鈥攚ell, it was all too much.

Closing her eyes, an involuntary memory took hold. His warm lips on hers, the tall shelves curtaining them from view. Her hushed giggle. The susurrus of voices on the other side of the library. Her heart beating wildly in her chest as the cutest boy in school kissed her鈥攈er very first kiss.

Rowan鈥檚 eyes opened. She pressed shaking fingers to her lips. She could still taste him, even after all those years. It was ridiculous. She knew. They鈥檇 been kids in middle school, barely teenagers. Clearly it鈥檇 meant nothing to him, because he鈥檇 disappeared soon after鈥攏ot even a text or Facebook message. In fact, he鈥檇 deleted himself off the internet entirely. Not a trace of that boy had remained. Until now.

A bitter laugh escaped her lips. If she鈥檇 taken the time to visit the bakery in the last couple of years, she would have known sooner.

That kiss had meant everything to her. It was a culmination of years of shy glances, months of quick smiles, weeks of flirting in class. She鈥檇 been convinced that, after the kiss, he would ask her to be his girlfriend or at least invite her to the dance. But he鈥檇 turned away, almost coldly, and left the library. And then she鈥檇 never seen him again.

She鈥檇 had a few boyfriends in high school, but none of them even compared to what she鈥檇 felt for Matthew Hayes.

It was stupid. She鈥檇 been twelve years old. It was time to move on. But the pounding in her chest and the tears burning her eyes said differently. The heart was an entirely different organ than the brain.

She shook her head at herself. Seven years later, and her body still reacted to him. It was a deep, ingrained magnetism. Every cell of her longed to be wrapped in his arms, connected to him. She yanked a length of toilet paper from the dispenser and dabbed at her eyes.

He鈥檇 disappeared without a trace and stolen her job. Her heart was a traitor.

Rowan eased out of the stall and went to the mirror to assess the damage. Her eyes were red and swollen. That was to be expected. Her mascara, however, was a complete mess. It ran in tracks down her cheeks and left dark smudges. She鈥檇 have to fix it.

She winced. She鈥檇 have to go outside, and he was out there.

For the first time in her life, she wished she carried a purse just like every other normal woman.

Mopping up the mess as quickly as she could, she kept an eye on the door for intruders. The babble of voices outside was a steady stream. She had no idea how long she鈥檇 been standing in that line before Matthew Hayes showed his face, but the wake had to be at least halfway over.

His face.

Her heartbeat stuttered. Those brown curls still fell into his green eyes. Her traitorous fingers had wanted to brush them back. Though they鈥檇 been kids the last time she saw him, she would recognize those eyes anywhere.

His face had matured, growing only more handsome with age. She had detected a hint of cheekbones that her fingertips desperately wanted to trace. And he鈥檇 grown into his nose. It was narrow and straight, Grecian. It suited him. Then there was the light beard that swept across his jaw and upper lip. He was tan and muscular, his arms strong enough to hold her up while their mouths crashed together, tongues intertwining鈥

Rowan clamped her thighs together, her cheeks red.

She needed to stop.

She needed to go fix her damn mascara.

Shaking the thoughts away, she lifted her chin and marched out of the bathroom. No one even noticed her. Katherine鈥檚 mourners stood in clusters or occupied the seats, speaking in hushed tones. Probably they had moved past reminiscing and were now catching up.

Her own family still stood at the front of the room, receiving a thinning stream of guests. None of them appeared to miss her.

It was just as well.

She sifted through the crowd with relative ease. An usher with kind eyes held the door open for her and she emerged into the summer evening.

Glancing around, she breathed a sigh of relief. He鈥檇 left. Or at least, she didn鈥檛 see him anywhere.

She walked straight to her car, keeping her eye on the prize. She鈥檇 left the door unlocked and her keyring hidden in the console. Slipping inside, she shut the door behind her and cranked the AC on. Then she retrieved her makeup bag from the same console and got to work.

As she touched up her mascara in her handheld mirror, movement behind her car caught her eye. She glanced up into the rearview mirror. Two figures moved in a grassy area directly behind where she鈥檇 parked. She didn鈥檛 recognize the smaller one, but she would recognize Matt鈥檚 build anywhere. She sighed.

So he hadn鈥檛 left.

Glancing at the digital display on the dashboard, she breathed a sigh of relief. The wake was almost over. Avoiding him for the next forty-five minutes shouldn鈥檛 be too hard.

Replacing her makeup bag, she shut off the car. She hid the keys again and climbed out. She paused just to adjust her dress. It kept riding up along her thighs. She hadn鈥檛 owned anything funeral appropriate until that morning. After talking with her aunt鈥檚 lawyer, she鈥檇 called Sean at the diner, and explained the situation. Then she鈥檇 gone home, packed a bag for a few days, and immediately left for Connecticut.

She鈥檇 met the lawyer at her aunt鈥檚 house. He gave her the keys, patted her arm, and left her to privacy. She respected that he hadn鈥檛 hovered around trying to comfort her. The only thing he鈥檇 said about her aunt was that she鈥檇 passed away peacefully in the hospital. Katherine hadn鈥檛 died at home. Still, it鈥檇 been weird to be in her house without her. And Rowan would have to return shortly. She had no desire to spend any more time with her parents and siblings.

“Ms. Ellis,” a rich, smooth voice said, interrupting her thoughts.

She jumped, but recovered when she realized the lawyer Damien Ward stood a few feet from her. “Hi,” she said, voice cracking. She bit her lip, wishing she鈥檇 grabbed a cup of water before rushing outside.

“I was hoping I could speak to you privately,” the attorney said.

Right to business. She sighed. She supposed she鈥檇 have to deal with it sooner or later. She鈥檇 mentioned to him that while she appreciated the house, she had responsibilities in New Jersey. Sort of. He鈥檇 told her they would discuss it later. With a wry smile, she guessed “later” had come.

She followed him back inside and into a private room several doors down from the viewing room her aunt currently rested in. The lighting was dim and the shades were drawn. Cool air swirled about her arms and bare legs. Rowan tucked herself into a seat and the attorney sat down behind a desk.

“It鈥檚 not my office,” he said, almost apologetically. “The Albini family was close with my parents, so they let me have the run of the place.” He winked.

Rowan smiled politely.

“Well, I鈥檝e got to admit, Katherine was a bossy lady,” he said.

She smirked. That was true.

“She told me that I was to take care of all this right away. She didn鈥檛 want to waste any time. Ya鈥檒l know how she was.” Damien smiled, shaking his head.

Rowan鈥檚 brow furrowed. He鈥檇 said ya鈥檒l. She suddenly realized that she wasn鈥檛 the only one in the room with the attorney. Her heart dropped into her stomach. Matt occupied a chair in the corner, partially hidden by the shadows. She suppressed the urge to howl in frustration.

“What is this?” she asked, seething. Surprisingly, her voice sounded calm.

Damien motioned for Matt to join them. “Why don鈥檛 you scoot on up here?”

Matt obliged. He didn鈥檛, she noticed, so much as look at her.

“The Ellis Cafe and Bakery,” the lawyer said, “also known as Elli鈥檚.” He smiled, straight white teeth contrasting the deep brown of his skin.

When Rowan was still in high school, Katherine had finally given in and ordered a new sign. The local sign company took weeks to deliver it, and when they finally did, it hadn鈥檛 taken long for Katherine and Rowan to realize that the graphic designer had added an apostrophe.

Katherine had laughed, though, and the name Elli鈥檚 stuck. She鈥檇 never gotten around to officially changing her business鈥檚 name, but it became something of an inside joke.

Matt, apparently, knew nothing about it. Good. Rowan smirked.

Damien leaned forward. The dim lighting caught in his gray hair. Suddenly Rowan wondered just how old he was. Wrinkles mapped his face, and his hands were gnarled and wizened. “I鈥檓 sure you鈥檙e both wondering what鈥檚 going to happen to Elli鈥檚 now,” the lawyer continued.

She stole a glance at Matt. He sat with his square hands gripping the arms of the chair, his gaze intent on the lawyer. He seemed more invested than she was. She bit her lip, trying to sort her feelings. It wasn鈥檛 that she didn鈥檛 care, she decided. It was just that the bakery was an old chapter in her life.

She鈥檇 moved on.

Still, she could still hear her aunt鈥檚 voice, echoing from the summer before she鈥檇 started high school. “Do you want to help me out at the bakery?” Rowan had nodded. “If you finish high school,” Katherine had promised, “I鈥檒l give you a job as a baker.”

Her aunt鈥檚 lawyer cleared his throat. He opened a folder in front of him that Rowan hadn鈥檛 noticed. “This is Katherine鈥檚 will. She didn鈥檛 have many last wishes, but the ones she did have, she was very clear about. The house,” he said, nodding to Rowan.

She shifted in her seat. “Yes, about that鈥”

He went on as if he hadn鈥檛 heard her. “She left Elli鈥檚 to the both of you.”

“The thing is,” Rowan said, “I live in New Jersey. My job is there. I can鈥檛 take care of her house鈥” She froze. “Wait. What?”

Damien nodded. “She wants you two to carry on Elli鈥檚. She was so afraid that without her, the bakery would close. This isn鈥檛 just her last wish. It鈥檚 her legacy.”

Rowan struggled to find her voice. “Elli鈥檚? I can鈥檛 run a bakery.”

“Nonsense.” The lawyer smiled kindly at her. “You have a degree in business. You spent all four years of high school helping out. You know that place almost better than anyone else.”

Rowan shook her head.

Next to her, Matt stirred. She stole a glance at him. His large eyebrows slanted, eyes wide. “Why me?” he said in a low voice.

Damien cocked his head. “Katherine wouldn鈥檛 leave you out in the cold, son. She knew how important Elli’s is to you.”

“Okay, but I live in New Jersey,” Rowan interrupted. Confusion, awe, and shock swirled through her. Her hands smoothed the skirt of her dress almost compulsively. It made no sense. Her aunt hadn鈥檛 so much as mentioned any further involvement in the bakery after Rowan learned she鈥檇 given the job to someone else. Katherine had been completely offhand about the whole thing. It鈥檇 felt impersonal, as if Rowan had applied for the job with a stranger. Never had her aunt said anything like “But in case I die, you鈥檒l be the one to inherit the place.”

Katherine鈥檚 lawyer raised his hands, palms out. “Hey, I鈥檓 just the messenger. It鈥檚 up to you to decide what you want to do.”

Rowan frowned. She wasn鈥檛 so sure that she could just walk away. Even if her aunt鈥檚 actions two years earlier had completely baffled her, she still loved Katherine. And Elli鈥檚. She owed it to her aunt to at least try. Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at Matt.

She couldn鈥檛 work with him, though. Maybe she was being petty, but working with the guy who鈥檇 broken her heart twice would be like scraping her wounds open every single day. She鈥檇 never get over him.

Matt turned to her abruptly. Those green eyes searched hers.”So I guess this makes us partners, huh?” Something flickered in his eyes. Relief, she guessed. It puzzled her even more. He remembered her. She knew it. It made no sense for him to feel relieved, though.

Standing up, she shoved her chair back. No. She couldn鈥檛 do it. She needed time to figure things out. Maybe she could give her half of Elli鈥檚 to him. Or they could sell the place. She didn鈥檛 care. Legs wobbling, she darted out of the office and into the hall. People filtered out of the viewing room. She joined them and burst outside.

Feeling numb, she lurched toward her car.

“Wait,” a voice called. His voice.

Against her will, she stopped and turned around. One of her eyebrows lifted like a political debate moderator. She put her hand on her hip.

“We should probably talk about this.” He rubbed at the back of his neck.

“There鈥檚 nothing to say.” She crossed the last few feet to her car. Instead of climbing in, though, she leaned against its side. Despite the heat of the night, she hugged herself.

Matt joined her. His arm nearly brushed hers. Electricity crackled between them. She drew her arm away. “That guy鈥檚 pretty pushy, huh?” He chuckled.

“About as pushy as Aunt Katherine,” she agreed. She stole a glance at him. He gazed back at her. She swallowed hard and tore her eyes away.

“So what do you want to do?” he asked softly.

Shaking her head, she watched people trickling out of the funeral home. They got into their cars and headed home. She wished she was doing the same. Home, for the time being, was Katherine鈥檚 house, though. She hugged herself tighter. The thought of spending the night in one of the last places her aunt had been alive pressed down on her. She didn鈥檛 want to be alone, she realized. If New Jersey wasn鈥檛 so far, she would call one of her friends. Not that she really had anyone who would be willing to drive to Connecticut on such short notice. All of her New Jersey relationships were more like acquaintances, really. Drinking buddies at best. The realization and the sudden loneliness that came with it pressed in on her. Her eyes darted to Matt involuntarily. Heat blazed across her cheeks. She looked away.

“We鈥檙e having the reception at Elli鈥檚,” he offered.

She had to admit that he was trying. Maybe he felt bad about how he鈥檇 treated her. Maybe she should give him a chance. “I know.” She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Are you ready?” The question could be interpreted in several ways, she mused.

He laughed. “For the reception? More or less. I did the prep before I closed up today.” He ducked his head. Curls fell into his eyes. “But the funeral . . . No, I don鈥檛 think I鈥檒l ever be ready.”

She knew what he meant. “I didn鈥檛 even know she was sick,” she whispered.

His arm brushed hers as he turned to look at her. With a touch as light as a butterfly鈥檚, he stroked her cheek. “She didn鈥檛 want anyone to worry.” His hand dropped to his side and he looked away.

Her skin glowed, aching for his touch again. Then his words caught up to her. She rounded on him. “You knew?” Of all people, Katherine had told him. Not her or even her father.

“Only by chance.” Matt looked off into the darkness.

“Why? Why would she tell you?” Rowan put her hands on her hips. She tried to see things from her aunt鈥檚 point of view, to understand why Katherine would hire a stranger over her own niece, why she would tell him before her own family. Granted, Katherine was about as close to the rest of the family as Rowan was. But she and Katherine had always had a special relationship. Never once during any of their occasional phone calls had her aunt even hinted at being sick.

“She didn鈥檛.” A pained expression crossed his face. “I guessed.”

“But why didn鈥檛 she tell me?” Rowan pulled at a strand of her hair. “I would鈥檝e come. I could鈥檝e helped her.”

“There isn鈥檛 anything you could鈥檝e done,” Matt said gently. He touched her shoulder.

Her nerves tingled as their skin met, the sensation zipping through her body like lightning. Suddenly she wanted more of his skin on hers. Closing her eyes, she forced herself to focus. Thoughts tumbled through her mind, conflicting feelings tearing at her heart. A thought slipped into her head. Opening her eyes slowly, she studied him through slitted lids. “Why didn鈥檛 you tell me?”

He stepped back, as if she鈥檇 slapped him. “I鈥” He shook his head. “She asked me not to say anything.”

“So you knew and you chose not to tell her family?” Tears blurred Rowan鈥檚 eyes. “I mean, I can understand not telling my father.” She thrusted the word out as if she was spitting. “But me? What did I ever do to her? To you?”

Matt fell silent. He shook his head.

Of course he didn鈥檛 have an answer, she mused. All these years later, he still avoided conflict. He hadn鈥檛 changed at all, and she needed to remember that. Wrenching her car door open, she climbed inside, forcing Matt several steps away. Gunning the engine, she peeled out of the parking lot without looking back.


JUST ONE MORE MINUTE
Now Available

A down-on-her-luck waitress inherits a bakery with the man who stole her dream job鈥攁nd broke her heart.

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November 2016 News and Goals

via Unsplash
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Just One More Minute comes out in 12 days! You can pre-order your copy for only $0.99聽here. Books2Read will either automagically detect your favorite retailer, or you can choose from their list.

It’s a beautiful thing indeed.

This month is already proving to be a tough one, so I’m trying to take it easy. Easier said than done, of course. I’m flaring hard, so pacing and resting are important. But I also have a release, which means promotion! And of course I’m writing SOF4 (see my latest update here).

Goals for November

  • Write at least 50K for聽Twisted Broken Strings (South of Forever, Book 4). (My total goal is 75K, but I’m taking it slow.)
  • Release聽Just One More Minute. Thank goodness for pre-order. I don’t have to lift a finger on release day, other than to change the price to $2.99. I’m also looking for bloggers who’d like to share Chapter 1 sometime this month, and maybe even review an ARC. If that sounds like you, you can sign up here.
  • Finish beta reading for my CP. She is seriously a doll; I’ve been taking way longer than forever on this and she’s been nothing but patient. The worst part is, I love her novel! Time is not my friend.

There are a lot of other things I’d like to do, but I’ll be grateful if I can accomplish these three. I’ve been scheduling important social media posts so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook (plus I can get聽some extra rest). I struggled a lot with doing this鈥攊n my silly mind, I felt like scheduling them was disingenuous. But Rachel Thompson and all the wonderful people in #bookmarketingchat assured me that it’s all still me, and that it’ll make my life so much easier. They were totally right.

Speaking of chats, I’d聽really like to make more of these. Unfortunately, by the time they start I’m usually shot for the day. That’s typically the hour that all I’m good for is curling up in front of the TV and fighting sleep. There are some really good ones, too, so it’s a bummer. If this sounds like you, let’s high five and make matching #TeamTiredAuthor T-shirts.

I’ve slowed way down with my reading. I still have the rest of Claire Contreras’s Hearts series, and my pre-order of J.C. Hannigan’s聽Rebel Heart came in and I can’t wait to re-read it! Plus I have about a dozen books I’ve bought but have yet to read. Reader/writer problems, am I right?

However, I’ve started writing morning pages again! I’m beyond broke, so I picked up an $0.88 composition notebook. My pages are not usually in the morning; often I’m scribbling in them just before bed, to try to alleviate聽my mind. Not to mention it kills my wrist and fingers. But I get those three pages done anyway.

There are a few writing books I’d like to pick up, especially Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant’s聽The One with All the Writing Advice. I’m fascinated by the concept of cultural shorthand. I also realized I never finished Larry Brooks’s聽Story Engineering. I didn’t even make it halfway through, because there was so much to absorb. But I think I’m ready now.

So many books, so little time.

My GoFundMe page for donations and author services to help my husband and me聽catch up on bills is still up. I was able to pay a couple of bills thanks to your help, but we have a long way to go. We didn’t make our electricity bill, so we now owe that plus next month’s. I’m thinking of coming off the budget plan, because ours is set way higher than what we’re actually using, and keeping up with it is killing us. It’s only in the brutally cold January and February that we go over and it comes in handy. If you’re an author in need of budget-friendly services or would just like to help, you can donate here.

This month聽What Happens on Tour (South of Forever, Book 3) is part of Kobo’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend sale. It will be $0.99 from November 22nd to 28th, no code required! And the first book in the series,聽Diving Into Him, is forever free (everywhere). So if you’ve been eyeing the South of Forever series and are a Kobo reader (you can even use their free app), now’s a great time to start. I recommend getting the free Book 1, then the $2.99 Book 2. Then when the sale goes live, pick up Book 3 for only $0.99! Check out the series page on Kobo here.

A lot of people ask me when I’ll have paperbacks in stock again. I have a few on hand in my office that I’m using as rewards for the GoFundMe. Eventually I’d like to get all of my books back in print, but here’s the thing: it’s less budget-friendly than publishing an ebook. If you’d like a paperback, please consider picking up an ebook copy and telling your friends. My hope is, once I get ahead of my bills, I can finally get started on paperbacks.

I think that’s it for now. To keep up with everything I’m doing, join my email list!