The Contest Continues for the iPad Mini

New Jack Drago adIf you haven’t caught the news here or on Facebook, I’ve decided to give more people time to read CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE (novella – in other words, short story) and answer the questions for a chance to win the iPad Mini. The contest has been extended to June 30. If you’ve already read it, click here and answer the questions. They give you three possible answers. They’re not easy, and a couple are trick questions. BUT, if you read the book, you won’t have a problem.

CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE is only $2.99.  And during the contest, I’ve made CIRCLE OF DISHONOR free during this time. So double bonus!

Here’s a little tidbit from CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE. (No answers given away.)

He lightly squeezed the woman in his arms. Who was he kidding? He was up shit creek without a paddle when Kat learned the truth. So, he’d keep her safe and when it was over, leave. Same old, same old. Chances were she wouldn’t want anything to do with him when she found out he still worked for The Circle, and they had set her up.

[June 30, 2015: Congratulations to Jenn Williams. She was one of the few to answer all the questions correctly. The iPad Mini will be mailed this week!  Please keep reading!  Thanks! Carla]

Welcome Katherine Bone (Giveaway)

MyLadyRogue500x750Please welcome Katherine Bone! I love this woman. She’s sweet and talented. Not only talented in her writing, but in making jewelry. I have a beautiful pair of cameo earrings she gave me for just being her roommate at a conference a couple years ago.

Lucky me!  I’ll be your roommate anytime, Kathy!

In the hope that she will look favorably on me again, I will be giving away her book, My Lady Rogue (ebook).  The winner will be picked from a commenter and announced on Wednesday night (May 27).


Everything Simon and Gillian have done has led to this moment… Will it be too late?

Baroness Gillian Chauncey thought she’d seen everything during her years of devotion to England. But as war escalates and political bonds are severed, a devastating betrayal forces Gillian to make a life or death decision to save the man she loves.

Lord Simon Danbury’s loyalty to the crown has never been questioned — until now. As death’s darkening veil cascades over London, a hostile mole inside Nelson’s Tea tries to assassinate him. Surrounded by the greatest spies in England, only one thing stands to defeat him — losing the one woman who has made life worth living.


“DO YOU REALLY think this will be the last time we are all gathered together?” Gillian moved into Simon’s welcoming embrace, swallowing back a heart wrenching sob.

Ten minutes had passed since Garrick had left the townhouse. Ten long minutes of watching Simon’s brows furrow ever tighter, deepening until the aristocratic lines of his handsome face were grossly disfigured. Gillian couldn’t bear the ugly transformation, for his expression only hinted at the war building inside him. His steadfast code of morality and honor had consistently succeeded in suppressing his own needs and desires. What of sorrow? Would the news of Nelson’s death prove a more impenetrable shield? Could she shore up this wounded man’s agony? And more importantly, how could she if she tried?

In the past, their separations had been purely physical, an exhausting distance no preoccupation could eliminate. Today, her new enemy held greater influence on Simon’s emotions than marriage vows and honor. And she knew well enough the folly of ignoring this new foe. She’d seen what despair had done to Garrick.

She ran her fingers over Simon’s shoulders, luxuriating in the feel of the exquisite lines of his tailored morning coat. They were as close as they could possibly be, and yet the distance had never been further. Too much stood between them, Lady Danbury’s and Nelson’s deaths, the fate of Nelson’s Tea, their unspoken feelings. Did he feel it too? She’d long dreamed of sharing a deeper intimacy with this man who haunted her days and nights, absorbing his scent of sandalwood and spice, taking all of him, holding nothing back. Now she suppressed a shiver in the resounding quiet. Her long wait for Simon had come to an end at last, hadn’t it? But at what cost?

Her heart cried out with longing. He was no longer married. He could be hers, if not for the sorrowful voices haunting their lives or the ones they heard pulsating throughout the city.

Nelson is dead! Nelson is dead!

Simon inhaled deeply, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “We cannot fail. Our business is not only risky, it relies solely on His Majesty’s grace. With Nelson’s assistance, leadership, and guidance, we were assured good measure. No longer.”

She hesitated to ask why. “And now?”

Surely King George respected Simon enough to allow him to continue Nelson’s Tea after he and Lucien had saved the king’s life at Drury Lane?

His winded sigh heightened her doubts. “I’m not as certain as I once was. Without Nelson at the helm, Nelson’s Tea’s motivation is gone. Once morale is gone—”

“Not all gone,” she said, clinging to him as if her life depended on it. And it did. Simon was everything to her. He was her night and day, her moral compass. He was the most intelligent man she’d ever met. His skill at disguise, his mastery of language, culture, and stratagem far outweighed any nobles servicing England in the House of Lords or the Admiralty Board.

He stepped back, only slightly, and lifted her chin, tilting her face up to his. Her gaze traveled from the lapels of his coat to his starched cravat, upper neck, and chin, finally settling on his generous sensual mouth. She held her breath as hundreds of butterflies fluttered to break free from her chest and waited for him to speak as if her very life depended on his next words.

“You and I are not of this world, are we?”

She closed her eyes absorbing his warmth like she’d been deprived of the noonday sun. “I am part of any world you reside in, Simon. I would follow you anywhere.”

When he said nothing, she opened her eyes, suppressing the chill that swept over her. Why wouldn’t he let go and just be? She leaned toward him, absorbing the power emanating from his body.

Dark hair draped over his forehead as he glanced down at her. Heaven help her, she was a selfish woman. She trembled with desire, wanting his mouth on hers, longing to know how he tasted. She wanted assurances, his promise that their dreams of being together hadn’t been crushed. It was wrong to desire these things, so very wrong. It was too soon.


Katherine Bone has been passionate about all things historical since she was an Army bratMy Lady Rogue Meme traveling all over the world. Initially, she dreamed of being an artist, but when she met and fell in love with Prince Charming, her own dashing Lieutenant vowing duty, honor, and country, she found herself saying, “I do.” Whisked away to Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals, where tales of swashbuckling adventure filled the lonely gaps when the Army called Charming away, Katherine’s imagination took flight. No longer nomadic, she calls the south home and spends most of her time daydreaming about Charming and heroes of yesteryear.




Facebook- Official Fan Page








Welcome Hildie McQueen (Giveaway)

Last Hero Sml Say hello to Hildie McQueen. I love her name.  Cool, heh? And her too. Sweet and loves to give me a hard time. (So deserved.) That’s true love, right?  HA!

She will be giving away a $25 gift card to a commenter.  Be sure to say hi.


Mega star Jensen Ford returns to his home state of Tennessee, to film a blockbuster film. Although the pretty local bakery owner catches his eye, she could never survive his Hollywood lifestyle. His mind knows its best to keep her at arms length, but how to convince his heart?

Cassie Tucker doesn’t like arrogant Jensen Ford, definitely doesn’t want to get to know him either. With a cupcake shop to run, an ex harassing her and her younger brother moving in, she doesn’t have time for the movie star’s antics.

Is it fate or happenstance that they end up alone together time after time?


Amazon bestselling author Hildie McQueen loves action, love and unusual settings. Author of western historical, Highland historical, paranormal and contemporary romance, she writes something every reader can enjoy.

Most days she can be found in her pajamas hiding from deliverymen while drinking tea from her David Gandy coffee mug. In the afternoons she browses the Internet for semi-nude men to post on Facebook.Hilda HS Pub 2

Hildie’s favorite past-times are romance conventions, traveling, shopping and reading.

She resides in beautiful small town Georgia with her super-hero husband Kurt and two unruly boy Chihuahuas and a spoiled rotten girl Chi named Lola.

Visit her website at





Be sure to go and buy CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE, read the whole novella (short book) and

click here

for a chance to win an iPad Mini by answering the questions correctly. You really and truly have to read the book to answer them. There has been such a low number of people answering the questions (and getting them right), I’ve decided to extend the contest to June 30.  So that should give you plenty of time to read it.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]Here’s an excerpt from CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE. And no, none of the answers are in it. Hopefully, it will be interesting enough for you to want to read it all contest or not.


“I’ll take you up on your offer, but the money isn’t enough,” he said in a near growl.

“What? Are you kidding me? That kind of money could get me ten guys like you.” As soon as it came out of her mouth, she wished each word would evaporate into the night air.

The pierced eyebrow lifted. “If that was true, you wouldn’t be begging me to help you. You know I’m the only one who can protect and help you at the same time.” That smirk she hated was back.

Beg? He only wished. The handsome devil. He was evil.

She crossed her arms. “So you don’t want money. What will it take to get your help?” She avoided thinking about it too hard. The heated look he gave hinted at what it entailed. Would she have the strength or will power to say no?

“I want the money. That’s part of the deal. From what you’ve told me, there’s no guarantee the gold will be found. So I could do all that work and end up with nothing.”

“And?” She hated sounding like a smartass, but she really wanted him to get to the point.

He grinned and leaned forward, one hand resting on the wall behind her. She should feel trapped, but her body started melting against his. Yeah. She wanted him. Badly.

“Give me free access to your body for the next week and then if the deal goes tits up,” his grin deepened, “we’re even.”


His eyebrows rose.

Did she just say that without hesitation? Oh, Lord of Mercy, she’d lost her mind.

A new series is coming February 2016.  Brothers of Mayhem. Yep, an outlaw motorcycle club and wait until you get to meet the heroes. Ohoooo, baby! Hot! The first book is HIDDEN HEAT!

Welcome Naima Simone! (Giveaway)

Chayot Book CoverPlease welcome one of the sweetest and funniest authors, and a member of a family that’s awwwesome!  So Naima, in her kindness, has joined in the giveaways this month. Say hello to her, and she’ll draw a winner of a $5 Amazon gift card. That’s anywhere between a deep discount on an paperback to five 99 cent books! YAY!


Some sins refuse to let go…

Six months after concert pianist Aslyn Jericho survives an attack at the hands of an obsessed fan, she is still trying to resume a normal life, despite the paralyzing fears that have stolen her ability to play and perform. Enter her gorgeous and mysterious neighbor with news that threatens to send her spiraling back into her nightmares. Her stalker has returned. And he wants Aslyn.

Months after security specialist Chayot Gray’s darkest secret was exposed to the world, he’s struggling to cope with the fallout. Shame and guilt threaten to consume him, and he longs for the anonymous, numb existence he’s known for two decades. Then he discovers a masked figure lurking outside his neighbor’s home. The pain-filled shadows darkening Aslyn’s eyes call to him, and her loveliness stirs a desire he didn’t know existed. Now Chay must conquer his inner-demons in order to save her from a madman determined to finish the job he started…

~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~

“You need to go,” Chayot growled. He didn’t backpedal, didn’t cower, but damn if he didn’t want to. One touch of Aslyn’s slender musician fingers, and that fractured armor that encased his emotions would shatter into splinters. In this second, she threatened him more than a counselor’s couch or demons he couldn’t beat back.

Ignoring his warning, she pressed on. “What’s wrong?”

“Aslyn.” He narrowed his eyes, hardened his voice to stone. “Go. Now.”

“No.” She moved forward again, eliminating the space between them. Compassion and concern radiated from her gaze, but underneath glinted something more worrisome. Determination.


The therapist had poked the beast within him, but Aslyn stirred it. Excited it. It reached out to her with eager, greedy claws, wanting to drag her closer, gorge on her sweetness. Satisfy the voracious need…quiet the relentless craving.

If he let the darkness loose, he didn’t know if he’d be able to cage it again. If she wouldn’t be collateral damage left in its wake.

“Aslyn, damn it. Get out.” The words rumbled from his chest on a tide of desperation.

“No,” she repeated. And then more softly, “No.”

She moved too fast or maybe he’d moved too slow. But before he could dodge her, she infiltrated his personal space, pressed her chest to his. Cupped his face. She murmured his name and he tasted the sweet scent of strawberries on her breath. He wanted it in his mouth. Wanted to taste it directly off her tongue. Lust, blistering and heavy, poured through him in a thick, molten molasses. It pounded in his chest. Pooled and throbbed in his c*ck so the hard length pressed insistently into her belly. No way she didn’t notice. No way she didn’t feel it damn near nudging her, begging for her attention.

But if he expected her to be appalled, he should’ve known better. Most women would’ve spun away or played coy. She cuddled closer, applying a teeth-gritting pressure to his d*ck that had him two seconds from pinning her against the wall, dragging down her jeans and panties, and pounding into a p***y he knew would be hot and tight like a vise grip.

“I don’t want—” he gritted out, squeezing his fists until his fingers pulsed in protest. The moment he removed them from his pockets, all bets would be off. He’d touch her, and there would be no going back from that.

“What?” She whisked her thumb over his cheekbone, under his bottom lip. “You don’t want to use me?” she breathed. “That’s what you said, right?” She drove her fingers through his hair, her nails scraping his scalp and arrowing tremors of pure need down every nerve ending and synapse in his body. He groaned, snatching his hands from his pockets and grabbing her hips, prepared to thrust her away from him before the tenuous leash on his control snapped beyond repair. “Use me, Chay. I’m right here. I’ll take you into the dark and promise not to leave you alone. We’ll go together.”Naima web pic

Then she kissed him.

~~~~ Bio ~~~~

I was born the daughter of a sharecropper… Okay, maybe not. But I am the daughter of a pastor from whom I inherited my love of romance. The man can preach a mean Song of Solomon! (There’s that plug, Daddy! You can pay me later!)

Although my first book starred a cucumber named Fred, my first romance came several years later in the seventh grade, when I wrote myself as a heroine opposite Ralph Tresvant from New Edition. Through the power of my pen and imagination, Ralph took one look across a crowded stadium, met my dark, mysterious gaze, fell passionately in love, and serenaded me in front of millions of fans. Out of all the girls in the world, he chose me! And of course, we lived happily ever after–once we had the inevitable fight, aka black moment, and made up with a passionate declaration of love and fidelity. This same story reincarnated itself many times over the years: with Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and as recently as last night, Vin Diesel.

Though the characters have changed, my love of love has endured. Shaping the lives of unique men and women who experience the first hungry bites of lust, the dizzying heights of passion, and the tender, healing heat of love–nothing compares to it. Except maybe discovering new material for love scenes with my husband, the head of Research & Development!

The Contest For iPad Mini Continues

Jack Drago is a renaissance man. A man’s man when needed but a pushover for women. He’s been used by his lovers, but still loves and respect women. Tattoos all over, head shaved, piercings in all kinds of places, Jack was everything Katerina needed. She knew he was a bad boy who grew up to be the type of bad man to get the job done, in and out of bed.

Be sure to read CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE before answering questions for a chance to win an iPad Mini.  You can purchase it anywhere books are sold. Then click here to answer the questions.

Welcome Susannah Sandlin (Giveaway)

LDD Comp-LORESPlease welcome Susannah Sandlin! I’m lucky to see her once a year at Southern Magic’s Romance Readers luncheon every November. It pretty much consists of her waving to me and me waving back. Talk about a busy lady! Wow! That’s what happens when you have two personalities (both nice) as Susannah is also award winning author Suzanne Johnson.

She’s giving away a copy of LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP to a lucky commenter. The winner can choose from print, digital, or audio of the book!!

“Fans of National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code will love this!”
—My Book Addiction


From award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes a heart-pounding romantic thriller that pits a quick-witted scientist and a scarred ex–combat diver against a ruthless billionaire treasure hunter with ties to the White House.

When biologist Gillian Campbell makes an offhand comment about a family curse during a TV interview, she has no idea what her words will set in motion. Within days, Gillian finds herself at the mercy of a member of the C7, a secretive international group of power brokers with a dangerous game: competing to find the world’s most elusive treasures, no matter the cost, in money or in lives. To save her family, Gillian teams up with Shane Burke, a former elite diver who’s lost his way, navigating the brutal “death coast” of the North Atlantic to find what the collector seeks: the legendary Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar, stolen by Gillian’s ancestor and lost at sea four hundred years ago.


He wasn’t sure what woke him, but the first thing Shane Burke saw when he cracked open his eyelids was the bottle of Jack Daniel’s, tipped over and resting on its side. He could’ve sworn he finished it off last night but there was at least an inch of rich amber liquid still resting inside.

Good. Now he didn’t have to wonder what he’d have for breakfast.

The second thing he saw was a great pair of legs. Well, technically, a great pair of ankles above a pair of leather sandals, and then the legs.

Obviously, he was starting his Saturday morning with hallucinations.

Only one good solution for that. He dangled an arm off the side of his bed and almost had his fingers wrapped around the neck of the bottle when one of the leather sandals kicked his buddy Jack Daniels under the bed, clipping his hand in the process.

“Ow.” Hallucinations didn’t take his booze and kick him in the knuckles.

Ignoring the throbbing in his hand and the stabs of hangover agony behind his eyeballs, Shane rolled onto his back and squinted at the rest of his nonhallucination.

Shoulder-length hair that fell in a sheen of dark chestnut brown, fair skin, fierce brown eyes, red lips compressed in a tight line, black skirt and white blouse, big briefcase-style purse. Had he picked her up at Harley’s last night? If so, he had to cut back on the sauce.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I forgot your name.” Pity, ’cause she was a hot little number, way classier than the regulars at Harley’s. It’s not like he got laid so often that he could afford to forget it when he did.

“We haven’t met.” She propped her hands on her hips and muttered something that sounded like, “And you’re supposed to help me?”

Help her with what? Wait, maybe she was a charter. Had he chartered The Evangeline out to a tour group or fishing party today? Surely he’d remember if there was money coming in.

Color him officially confused. He struggled to a seated position and gave her another look. “What am I supposed to help you with?”

She crossed her arms and raked a ball-shriveling gaze the length of his body. “I came here to offer you a job, but I don’t think you’re up to it.”

He tugged the sheet up in self-defense. “I’m not at my best. Ever consider making an appointment? Not dropping in at the crack of dawn?” He had no idea what time it was but it couldn’t be that late.

“It’s past noon. And I didn’t figure, given your financial situation, that you’d be so picky about what time of day someone offered you money.” She shook her head. “Never mind. This was a mistake.”

She banged her head on the low doorway out of the master cabin, which served her right, the sanctimonious shrew.

Shane eased himself to a standing position and waited to see if last night’s bourbon was going to make a reappearance or if he might topple over. Neither happened. Today would be a good day.

By the time he’d shuffled into the postage-stamp-sized bathroom, taken a leak, and brushed his teeth, he remembered the reason for last night’s bender. Not that he needed a reason, but last night he’d had one. First Bank and Savings, said a guy named Ralph (who bore an uncanny resemblance to a bullfrog), had grown tired of waiting for Mr. Burke to get current on his payments on The Evangeline. First Bank and Savings, so sorry, would need back payments in full within thirty days or the boat would be foreclosed on and put up for sale.

First Bank and Savings, so sorry, could go screw themselves.

Shane splashed water on his face, studied the dark-blond stubble on his chin, and decided not to shave. The bristle looked good with his bloodshot green eyes. Plus, he needed to get used to looking like a beach bum. If the bank took The Evangeline—which wasn’t just his boat but was also his home and his meager livelihood—he’d be doing any future shaving on a park bench or in the community bathroom of a shelter.

Shit. How was he going to put his hands on almost a hundred grand in a month?

He jerked open the bathroom door and almost fell over the brunette. “I thought you left.” He edged around her. “You’re taller than I thought.”

“I reconsidered.” The edge of her mouth quirked. “You’re wearing more chocolate than I thought.”

They both looked down at his boxers, black and covered with images of red foil-wrapped Hershey Kisses. “They were a gift,” he said. A total lie; he’d found them on eBay. “Think you could wait for me on deck?”

“Good idea.” The woman’s cough sounded suspiciously like a laugh. He doubted whatever job she had to offer would pay enough to satisfy the bullfrog at First Bank and Savings, but on the off chance that she was an heiress in need of a washed-up trawler captain, he’d dust off his manners and put on pants.

He watched her climb the steps and disappear through the hatch. Nice ass, but kinda wobbly on those sandals, which had silly narrow heels. Either she wasn’t used to wearing them or the almost-sighting of his man-candy had upset her sense of balance. Stranger things had happened. Probably.

Author Bio

Susannah Sandlin is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance suzanne-johnson-author-photoseries, as well as The Collectors romantic suspense series. She’ll start a new romantic suspense series for Montlake Romance in 2016, beginning with WILD MAN’S BLUFF. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series from TOR Books. Susannah was a finalist for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards in both 2014 and 2015, and is the 2013 winner of the Holt Medallion for paranormal romance. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama, but is plotting an eventual return to the Gulf Coast.

Author website:

Author Facebook page:


The Kindle versions of both Collectors books are on sale May 8-24, $1.99 each.

Month Long Celebration (Free Book)

Don’t forget that CIRCLE OF DISHONOR is free at Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and All Romance Ebooks (Kindle).

Before entering the contest to win an iPad Mini, be sure to read CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE first.  Then answer the questions here.

defiance 1

Welcome Meda White (Giveaway)

RWMH-barnesnoble-kobo-200x300 Please welcome my friend and lunch buddy, Meda White. If you want a book that makes you feel good, be sure to read this one. Or any of her books for that matter. Romance and sweetness. Perfect for a pick-me-up.

Meda is giving away a copy of her book, RIDE WITH MY HEART.


Maddie Baker is back at Southland, trying to put her life back together after her divorce. When she reconnects with her former rodeo partner, she struggles to keep the feelings she’s always had for him hidden. After all, it’s too soon, and she’d had a good reason for keeping her distance all those years ago.

Georgia State Trooper Heath Cook has been avoiding Maddie since she moved home, knowing the crush he’s always harbored won’t stay hidden for long. If his wasn’t the only heart he cared about protecting, it might be different. But his daughter doesn’t need to get attached to someone on the rebound.

Maddie and Heath’s renewed friendship leads to a deeper attraction than either of them imagined possible. But with Maddie’s jealous ex making a play to win her back, Heath has to decide if he’s willing to put his future on the line. And when Maddie’s past comes back to haunt her, it might be beyond Heath’s power to help. Together, they’ll have to see if they can hold on for the roughest ride of their lives.

This contemporary romance contains Southern Gothic elements.


Heath pulled back to look at her. “Reunion?”

“I know you dated her in college.” Maddie watched his reaction in the glow of the moon.

“How?” He squeezed her upper arms.

“Because I called you and she answered the phone. She was happy to inform me I’d been replaced.” A knot formed in Maddie’s throat, and she looked down.

“When? When did you call me?” His grip tightened.

“When I needed a friend—” Her voice broke, and she turned her head away, hoping he wouldn’t catch the tear rolling down her cheek.

He caught it in the pale light and wiped it away. “She lied. You’re irreplaceable, Maddie Baker. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. If I’d known—”

“It was for the best really.” She forced herself to meet his gaze. “I needed to learn to survive without you.”

“But it was hard just surviving each day.” He swallowed audibly. “Wasn’t it?” Heath’s hands moved to her back, and he pulled her closer to his warm chest.

Maddie nodded because she couldn’t speak. She wanted to put the past behind her, but if she didn’t talk to Heath about it, it would come between them more than it already had.

Buy Links:





Meda White writes sweet, sultry, and southern contemporary and new adult romance.Meda White head shot Born with Georgia clay running through her veins, she continues to enjoy the Southern lifestyle with her husband, a very spoiled Collie, and a stray cat who adopted the family.
When not writing, you might find her making music, shooting zombie targets, teaching yoga, or explaining the meaning of her unusual first name.

Contact Meda at-

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Welcome Susan Carlisle! (Giveaway)

Dr Redemption 300Thoughout the month, I’ll have the pleasure of author friends coming by and telling us about their books. Plus giving away one! We never can have too many books.

My first guest is Susan Carlisle!  She’s talented and such a sweetheart. So please say hello to her in the comments.  That’s where she will pick her winner for a copy of DOCTOR’S REDEMPTION.

A love worth staying for…

Dr. Mark Clayborn never wanted to return to Alabama, but his father’s recent ill health has him back and facing his demons. Yet from the darkness shines a beacon of light: Laura Jo Akins—and he’s hoping she tastes as sweet as he imagines her to be!

For so long Laura Jo’s only focus has been her daughter, but despite her reluctance, gorgeous Mark incites feelings she’d thought herself immune to… Could Laura Jo be the one to give Mark the courage to stay—and discover the love he deserves?


The parades were what Laura Jo Akins enjoyed most about the Mardi Gras season in Mobile, Alabama. This year was no different. She placed a hand on the thin shoulder of her eight year old daughter, Allie.

Her daughter smiled up at her. “When does the parade start?”

“It should already be moving our way. Listen. You can hear the band.”

The faint sound of a ragtime tune floated from the distance.

Allie looked up at Laura Jo. “Can we stay for the next one too?”

The sure thing about Mardi Gras was that the parades kept coming. The closer the calendar got to Fat Tuesday the heavier the days were filled with parades. Sometimes as many as four a day on the weekends.

“No, honey. They’re expecting me at the hospital. We’ll watch this one and then we have to go.”

“Okay, but we get to see one another day, don’t we?”

“Maybe one on Wednesday. Next Monday and Tuesday you’ll be out of school for a long weekend. We’ll be sure to watch more then.”

“Why can’t I be in one?” Allie asked turning to look at Laura Jo.

It had been a constant question during last year’s Mardi Gras season and had become a more demanding during this one. “Maybe when you get older. For now we’ll just have to watch.”

As the banner holders at the head of the parade came into sight the crowd pushed forward forcing her and Allie against the metal barriers. A bicycling medical first responder or mobile EMT circled in front of them then rode up the street. He looked familiar for some reason but then most of the medical help during the Carnival season were employed at the hospital where she worked. Dressed in red biking shorts and wearing a pack on his back, he turned again and paddled back their direction. Laura Jo squinted trying to make out his features but his helmet obscured her view.

Members of the medical community volunteered to work during Mardi Gras to help out with the crowds. Most of the nurses and doctors gave up their days off during the season to work the parades. It wasn’t required but many enjoyed being a part of the celebration. Laura Jo knew most of the employees at Mobile General, at least by face. Although she couldn’t place the rider, he looked just fine in his form fitting pants. He must bike regularly.

“Look Mommy,” Allie pointed to a group of people who had come through the barriers and were entertaining the crowd standing on both sides of the street. They were dressed in clown type outfits riding three-wheel bikes with bright colored fish attached to the side.

Laura Jo smiled down at her daughter. “That’s the Mystic Fish.”

They made a circle or two in the open parade area and then disappeared into the crowd across the street from her and Allie. Laura Jo knew from years of watching parades they would appear somewhere else along the parade route.

“What’s a mystic fish?” Allie asked.

“You know what a fish is. In this case it’s a club or group of people. It’s also called a krewe. Because they meet in secret they are mystic or mysterious. It’s all just fun.”

“Are you in a queue?’

“It’s krewe. Like a crew member. And no I’m not.” She placed a hand on her daughter’s head. “I have you to take care of, work at the shelter and at the hospital. No time.”

Laura Jo understood being a member of a krewe. Her family had been participants all her life. In fact they had been a part of the largest and most prestigious krewe in Mobile. She’d been one of the Mobile society that celebrated her coming of age at Carnival time. But no more.

The noise level increase as the first high school band approached. She positioned Allie between her and the barrier so Allie could see. As the first ostentatiously decorated float rolled by the spectators pressed closer to them.  The float was designed in a dragon motif and painted green, purple and gold with piles of beads hanging off pegs. Members of the krewe were dressed in costumes and wore masks.

She and Allie joined those around them in yelling, “Throw me something, mister.”

Raising their hands along with everyone else, she and Allie tried to catch the beads, plastic cups with the krewe name printed on them or stuffed animals that were being thrown from the float. Bands playing and music blaring from large speakers mounted on the floats made it difficult to hear.

One krewe member made eye contact with Laura Jo and pointed at Allie. He threw a small stuffed gorilla to Laura Jo which she handed to Allie who hugged it to her and smiled up at the grinning man. The float moved on.

When a strand of brightly colored beads flew through the air in Allie’s direction from the next float, Laura Jo reached to catch them. She couldn’t so they were snatched by the man standing behind her. He handed them to Allie. She smiled brightly at him. That was one of the special things about Mardi Gras in Mobile. It was a family affair. Any age was welcome and everyone saw that the children had a good time. Twenty minutes later a fire truck that signaled the end of the parade rolled by.

The man standing next to them shifted the barrier creating an opening. A few people rushed through in an effort to snatch up any of the goodies that had fallen on the pavement.

“Mama, can I get those?” Allie pointed out into the now virtually empty street except for a few children.

Laura Jo searched for what Allie was asking about. On the road lay a couple of plastic doubloons. “Sure, honey. There won’t be another parade for an hour.”

Allie skirted through the opening and ran in the direction of the strand of gold and silver disks. In her exuberance to reach her target she stumbled and fell, stopping herself with her hands. Laura Jo gasped and rushed to her. Allie had already pushed herself up to a sitting position. Tears welled in her eyes but she’d not burst into sobs yet. There was an L-shaped hole in the thin material of her pants and a trickle of blood ran off the side of her knee.

“Oh honey,” Laura Jo said.

“My hands hurt.” Allie showed Laura Jo her palms. The meaty part looked much like her knee.

“Burns.” Laura Jo took one of Allie’s wrist and raised her hand blowing across it. Here she was a registered nurse with not a bandage to her name. Allie’s injuries were going to require far more than what Laura Jo was doing.

“Can I help here?” a deep male voice said from above them.

Laura Jo glanced up to see the bike medic she’d admired earlier. She’d been so adsorbed with Allie she’d not noticed him ride up.

“Do you have any 4x4s? Some antibiotic cream?” Laura Jo asked.

The man gave her a curious look then stepped off the bike. He sung the red pack off his back and crouched down on his haunches. “Let me see what I can do.”

Laura Jo looked at him through moisture in her eyes. She knew him. Or more accurately knew who he was. Mark Clayborn. She had no idea he was back in town. But then why would she. “If you’ll just share your supplies I can handle it. I’m her mother and a nurse.”

“I appreciate that but I need to treat your daughter since it happened at the parade. I’ll have to make a report anyway.”

She gave him room. Years ago she’d been so enamored with Mark Clayborn. Just young enough to hero worship him, she dreamed of ‘what if’ when he glanced her way. Which he never did unless it was to smile at the gaggle of young maids in his queen’s court. He had it all. Good looks, social status, education and a bright future. And to top it off he was Mardi Gras King that year. Very girl dreamed of being on his arm and she was no different. She had watched him so closely back then no wonder he seemed familiar.

Allie winced when he touched the angry skin of her knee.

Laura Jo’s hands shook. As an emergency room nurse she’d seen much worse but when it came to her own child it was difficult to remain emotionally detached. Still she should be the one caring for Allie. She’d been her sole caretaker and provider since her father had left Laura Jo when she was three months pregnant. Having been pushed aside before, she didn’t like it any better now than she had then. No matter how irrational the reaction.

“So what’s your name young lady?” the medic asked Allie.

She told him.

“So Allie, what have you liked best about Mardi Gras this year?”

Allie didn’t hesitate to answer. “King Cake.”

He nodded like a sage monk giving thought to the answer. “I like King Cake too. What’s your favorite? Cinnamon or cream cheese?”


“I’m a fan of cream cheese. So have you ever found the baby?”

“Yeah, once. I had to take a cake to school the next week.”

“So you baked one?”

“No, my mother did.” She pointed at Laura Jo.

Mark glanced at her with a look of respect but there was no sign of recognition as to who she was. Even though their families had known each other for years he didn’t remember her. The last she’d really heard was he’d been in a bad car accident and later left for medical school.

“You mom didn’t get it from a bakery?”

“No. She likes to make them.” Allie smiled up at Laura Jo. “She lets me put the baby inside.”

Allie continued, telling him how she liked to stand beside Laura Jo as she rolled the pastry out. She would wait patiently until it was time to put the miniature plastic baby into one of the rolls before Laura Jo braded them into a cake. When it came out of the oven Allie begged to be the one to shake the green, purple and gold sugar on top.

“Well, that sounds like fun. Are you ready to stand?”

Laura Jo couldn’t help but be impressed. Mark had cleaned up Allie with little more than a wince from her.

He placed a hand below Allie’s elbow and helped her to stand then said to Laura Jo, “Keep the area clean. If you see any infection call a doctor right away or take her to the ER.”

Laura Jo rolled her eyes. “I’m a nurse, remember?”

“I remember but sometimes when it’s someone we love our emotions get in the way.”

That was something close to what her father had said when she announced that she was marrying Phil. Her father had made it clear that Phil wasn’t good enough for her and not welcome in his house. “He’s only interested in your last name and money.” Her father went on to say that Phil certainly wasn’t worth giving up her education for. When she asked how her father knew so much about Phil he admitted to having someone check into his background. That Phil had already been married once and couldn’t seem to hold down a job. “He’s not good enough for you. Not welcome in our home,” had been her father’s parting words.

She’d chosen Phil. Even though she’d soon learned that her father had been right the situation it put a rift between her parents and her that was just as wide today as it had been nine years earlier. She had sworn then never to ask her parents for help. She had her pride.

Taking Allie’s hand, Laura Jo said, “Let’s go, honey. I’m sure we have taken enough of the medic’s time.”

“Bye,” Allie said.

Mark bent and picked up the doubloons off the pavement and placed them carefully in Allie’s hand. “I hope you find a baby in your next cake. Maybe it’ll bring you luck.”

Allie grinned back at him with obvious hero worship.

“Thank you.” She led Allie through the barrier. “Bye.”

That would be it for the reappearing Mark Clayborn. He had been a part of her life that was now long gone. She wouldn’t be seeing him again.


Susan Carlisle’s love affair with books began when she made a bad grade in math in the Susan300sixth grade. Not allowed to watch TV until she brought the grade up, Susan filled her time with books. She turned her love of reading into a passion for writing. With over ten books published through Harlequin Mills and Boon’s medical line, she writes hot romances with sexy docs and the strong women that captivate them.

She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband of over thirty years. Susan loves castles, traveling, sewing, afternoon tea, hats, James Bond and reads voraciously.

And The Contest Begins With A Free Book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]Want to win an iPad Mini on May 31? Starting today, click on the link below and answer all of the questions correctly. At the end, it will ask for your email address. One entry per household. Must be in the U.S. (Sorry international fans.) One winner will be announced on May 31.

Click here to answer the questions.

The questions will be based on events in CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]

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And a thank you for coming by, CIRCLE OF DISHONOR is free wherever books are sold (except Amazon – I couldn’t get them to drop to zero).