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I write sweet and inspirational romances and romantic suspense novels for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, Simon and Schuster, Howard Books, and Tule Publishing Group. I love to interact with readers daily on Facebook and Goodreads.
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Nov 25, 2016

Yuletide Peril Chapter Four


Chapter Four
      Jon had to get her out of this house. It wasn’t safe here. "Come on," he said, coaxing her to stand. "You’ve got to pack a bag. You’re not staying here."
         She drew back. "I’m not going to let them run me out of my home."
         He admired her fire and determination, but he wasn’t going to be waylaid. "They obviously have a video feed somehow connected in here. Who knows how long they’ve been watching you. Are you really okay with that?"
         Straightening her shoulders, she shook her head. "No, I’m not."
         "Grab enough clothes for the rest of the week," he said as he propelled her toward her bedroom.
         At the door, she paused and glanced back at him. "Where will I stay?"
         "We’ll figure that out. Later," he said, giving her a meaningful look.        He didn’t want to reveal too much in case the caller had audio as well as video into the small house.
         Understanding crossed her pretty face and she hurried down the hall. A few minutes later, she returned to the living room dressed in well–worn jeans that hugged her curves and a maroon Boston College sweatshirt. She carried a pink-and–brown–striped duffel bag that was bursting at the zipper. Her blond hair had been brushed out and was now held back with a black headband.
         Liking this casual side of her, so unlike her normal buttoned–down work demeanor, Jon smiled with approval as he took the duffel from her hands.
         From the front entryway closet she grabbed a long black wool coat and then slipped her sock–clad feet into a pair of tan Uggs. "Ready?"
         Jon opened the door. "After you."
         They left her house and walked around the corner to where he’d parked his sedan. Once they were in, with the engine running and the heater cranked high, Jon said, "We need to call the FBI."
         "No! They’ll kill her if we do."
         Jon had figured she wouldn’t go for calling in the Feds. So he proposed another option. "Then we have to call Trent Associates."
         She frowned. "The personal security company? We don’t need a bodyguard."
         "The Trent team does more than just guard people," he said. "Tabby, we need some reinforcement here from people who are trained to handle situations like this."
         She considered for a moment. "You’re right. But you have to make it clear, no cops."
         "Understood." He drove them out of Newton and back toward downtown Boston.
         When he pulled up to the parking garage for his high–rise condo, Tabby said, "I’m not staying here."
         He pressed the automatic opener attached to his sun visor and drove inside. "Yes, you are. This place is totally secure."
         She looked a bit panicked. "But I can’t stay with you."
         "Why not? I have tons of room and, besides, Mrs. Marsh will love doting on you." He could just imagine how delighted his live–in housekeeper would be to have his assistant in residence since the two women worked so well together organizing his life.
         He shifted a sidelong glance at his companion. Oh, yeah, Tabby already had a special place in Mrs. Marsh’s heart. Bringing her home was going to make his housekeeper’s year. He’d just have to be careful that he didn’t let his lovely assistant get too embedded into his heart as well.
         Minimalist furnishings in soft earth shades and the replicated impressionist masterpieces adorning the walls of Jon’s condo brought the same calming serenity to Tabby they always did as she followed Jon inside.
         A woman in her late sixties bustled out from the kitchen. She blinked at Tabby a moment before a smile burst on her lined face and shone in her kind green eyes. "Miss Grant!" Mrs. Marsh gave Tabby a bear hug. "So good to see you." She turned to Jon and gestured to the bag in his hand. "Guest room?"
         "Yes," Jon said. "Tabby will be staying with us for a few days."
         Mrs. Marsh clapped her hands in delight. "Wonderful. You take that bag on in and I’ll be there in a moment to ready the room."
         "Please don’t go to any trouble," Tabby said, a bit overwhelmed by the welcoming response of Jon’s housekeeper.
         "No trouble at all," Mrs. Marsh replied. "Are you hungry? Jon usually comes home from these functions starved because he tends to forget to eat with all his talking."
         Tabby laughed. "Yes, he does do more talking than eating. And yes, I’m hungry."
         Mrs. Marsh led the way to the kitchen where the center island counter was covered with all the fixings for sandwiches. "What would you like?"
         "Oh, I can make my own," Tabby said quickly.
         Mrs. Marsh sighed. "Self–sufficient, just like Jon. Well, I’ll leave you to it while I put fresh sheets on the guest bed." She bustled out, her ample hips swaying with each step.
         Taking advantage of the moment alone, Tabby closed her eyes and bowed her head to pray. Lord, please watch over Beth. And let us get her back safely. Thank you for Jon and his willingness help. I would be so lost without him.
         In so many ways. Spangler Sports Management had become the center her world revolved around. But at the core was Jon. Always Jon.
         Admiration and affection filled her. She knew if she wasn’t careful the protective barrier she’d built around her heart would crack and she’d find herself longing for the impossible. Jon’s love. He was a playboy and her boss.
         Two very good reasons to keep emotion and sentiment from entering their relationship.
         A whisper of movement beside her let her know she was no longer alone. She quickly finished her prayer with a hasty amen and then lifted her gaze to find Jon staring at her, curiosity in his dark eyes.
         "I’m sorry. You were praying. I didn’t mean to interrupt."
         "No worries," she said and reached for a plate.
         "Were you praying for your sister?"
         "Yes." She bit her lip. "I hope she’ll be okay until we get her back on Monday."
         "You don’t trust God will keep her safe?"
         Guilt pricked at her. "Of course I do. It’s just… It’s hard not to worry."
         One side of his mouth lifted in a crooked smile. "That I can understand."
         "I was also thanking God for you and your generosity." The revealing words were out before she could censor them. She held her breath and waited for his reaction.
         For a moment he looked taken aback and then pleased. "Okay. Wow."
         Tears of gratitude gathered at the back of her eyelids. "I really am grateful, Jon."
         He held her gaze, his dark eyes warm and penetrating. "You’re welcome."
         The moment stretched as something elemental arced between them. A smoldering flare glowed in the depths of his eyes. An answering flame ignited within her. Her heart jolted and her pulsed pounded. Extremely conscious of his magnetic appeal, she forced herself to look away and fumbled with the sandwich fixings. Getting caught up in the moment wasn’t a good idea.
         "I’m starved," he said and reached past her to take a plate, a sliced roll, and began building a sandwich. "I called James and he’s sending someone over tomorrow afternoon."
         Keeping focused on her task, she forked a pickle from the jar and laid it on her plate. "You and James served in the army together, didn’t you?"
         "We did."
         "Was he an MP like you?"
         Jon paused. "How did you know I was an MP?"
         "It’s my job to know everything about you, Jon," she replied as she finished making her sandwich.
         He arched an eyebrow. "Everything?"
         Her cheeks heated at his suggestive tone. "Well, everything that is pertinent."
         "Hmmm. I wonder," he said and took a bite out of his sandwich creation.
         Not sure what he meant and determined not to ask, she said, "Tomorrow morning I want to go to my church service. Will you come with?"
         He choked on his sandwich. "Uh, sure."
         She took a bite of her sandwich to hide a satisfied smile. She hated that it took her sister’s kidnapping to bring this opportunity about, but she wasn’t going to waste it. Jon had always declined her invitations to church. But he’d said he’d go with her tomorrow and that could only be a good thing.


Nov 18, 2016

Yuletide Peril Chapter Three

Chapter Three
      For a moment Jon was quiet. Then he hit the button on the elevator control panel and got the car moving again. "Okay, this is what we’ll do. You go to your car and drive home. I’ll wait a few minutes and then meet you there. Unlock a back window."
         "But what if the person is watching?"
         Jon’s smile was grim. "Don’t worry. No one will even know I’m around."
         Uncertainty arced through her as the doors to the elevator slid open. She’d never felt so out of control and vulnerable.
         Jon put his hand on her shoulder and gave a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "I’ll be there soon. I promise."
         Knowing that to Jon a promise was unbreakable, she nodded and gave him a smile full of gratitude for sharing her burden. "Thank you."
         He walked her to the exit. "I’ll make sure you reach your car safely before I go back upstairs."
         Glad to have him watching her back, she hurried out of the building and across the parking lot to where she’d left her coupe. The cold winter air had a bite to it that sent chills rattling over her. As she slid into the driver’s seat of her car and started the engine, she silently sent up a prayer that she wasn’t making a mistake by not going directly to the police.
         And that trusting Jon didn’t get them all killed. Or fatally wound her heart.
         Jon parked his sedan around the corner from Tabby’s small Cape Cod–style house in Newton and walked around the block before approaching. This late at night the deserted street was peaceful and pretty with a new dusting of fresh winter snow.
         And there weren’t any out of place vehicles with occupants keeping watch over Tabby’s place.
         Tugging his navy wool overcoat tighter, Jon kept to the shadows as he moved along the hedges to the back of Tabby’s house. He found a bedroom window unlocked, easily gained access and entered. Silently, he made his way down the dark hall, grateful his leather–soled shoes didn’t make noise on the runner beneath his feet. The soothing fragrance of vanilla and sweet flowers hung in the air. Scents he associated with his assistant. Her office held the same fragrances.
         He entered the living room where he found Tabby sitting ramrod straight on the couch in her evening gown, her cell phone in hand and notepad and pen at the ready. So typical of his lovely assistant. Always prepared.
         She must have sensed she wasn’t alone. She jerked around, her eyes widening as she opened her mouth to scream, which came out a soft yelp when recognition bloomed on her face. Her hand went over her heart. "You startled me. Boy, you’re quiet."
         Good to know his military training wasn’t rusty. He removed his overcoat and laid it on the back of a nearby chair.
         "They haven’t called yet," she said as she returned to her vigilant posture.
         His heart twisting at her obvious upset, he sat beside her and took her hand. "We’ll get through this."
         Her big blue eyes teared up. "I feel so bad for her. She was always troubled when we were kids."
         "Tell me about her," Jon prompted, hoping to keep her mind off waiting.
         "She and our father fought constantly. If he said the sky was blue, she’d insist it was red. And there was no reasoning with her. I remember one time, about a year before she ran away, my parents took her to see a doctor. When they came home, she was so subdued and compliant. It was weird." She shuddered. "Years later I found out the doctor had put her on lithium for manic depression."
         "She’s bipolar." He knew little of the disorder other than it was manageable with medication.
         "That was the diagnosis." Sadness entered her eyes. "Unfortunately, her forced peacefulness only last a few days. She refused to continue with the drug, which at the time was the only option. She flew into a rage. Destroyed the house. My parents found me hiding in the closet. And I never saw her again."
         Sympathy squeezed tight in his chest. "I’m sorry. That must have been very scary."
         "It was. But what was worse was after Beth left, my parents—" She shook her head. "I don’t know. They sort of imploded. We lost the house. Their marriage fell apart. Though they’ve remained married, they aren’t a couple. If that makes sense."
         "Like they were going through the motions, but not really feeling it?" Oh, how well he understood. "My parents were like that. They stayed together until my little sister graduated from high school and then called it quits."
         She squeezed his hand. "That’s hard."
         "Yes." He still felt the sense of loss, like something precious had died when his parents divorced.
         They fell silent, each lost in their own thoughts when the cell phone in Tabby’s hand trilled. She jerked as if the instrument had bitten her.
         "Steady now," Jon said. "Take a deep breath and let it out."
         She did as instructed.
         "Good. Now when you answer it, push the speaker button."
         She did. "Hello?"
         A disembodied voice, clearly disguised to prevent determination of gender, said, "If you want your sister alive, bring a hundred thousand dollars in cash to the T subway stop at Fenway Park."
         Tabby’s eyes widened. "I don’t have that kind of money."
         "Get it from your boss," the voice said.
         With a quick glance at Jon, Tabby said, "I can’t ask him for that much cash."
         "Sure you can, considering he’s sitting right next to you."
         Jon’s gut clenched as he met Tabby’s shocked gaze. How did they know he was there?
         Unnerved, Jon looked around, searching for some way the caller could be watching. Though nothing looked out of place or odd, somehow the caller must have planted a video feed.
         Jon nodded to Tabby and motioned for her to answer affirmatively.      She shook her head and mouthed, "No."
         "Come on, make a decision," the voice demanded.
         "Why do you think my boss is here?" Tabby asked.
         "I told you. I’m watching you. I have eyes everywhere."
         Jon spoke up. "You’ll get your cash. How do we know you really have Beth?"
         They heard movement on the other end. A moment later, a weak female’s voice filled the air. "Tabby? I’m so tired. What’s happening?"
         Tabby gasped. "Beth, are you okay? Have they hurt you?"
         More movement and then the muffled caller returned. "She’s unhurt and alive for now. Bring the cash to the stop by tomorrow morning and don’t forget your phone."
         "I don’t have that kind of cash on hand," Jon said, his mind racing. They’d have to call the police and get a stakeout on the T stop. "The earliest would be noon on Monday. I’m sure it will take the bank a few hours to release that amount of money."
         "Noon on Monday or she dies. And no cops!" The line disconnected.
         Tabby’s pale complexion made Jon suspect she was in a bit of shock. He took the phone from her hand, turned it off and laid on the coffee table. He drew her to his chest and slipped his arms around her. She began to shake. Protective instincts surged and a wellspring of tender emotions rose in his chest, nearly choking him.
         Oh, no, he was going to a place he’d sworn he’d never go with any woman. He’d do what he could to get her sister back. And in the process he would protect Tabby only because it was the right thing to do. Or so he tried to convince himself.


Nov 11, 2016

Yuletide Peril Chapter Two

Chapter Two
      "That’s all I can tell you about my sister," Tabby said to the homicide investigator, who’d introduced herself as Detective Carlucci. "I didn’t see or talk to the man. I don’t know what he wanted to tell me."
         "Any idea where your sister might be staying?" the detective asked.
         Tabby gave a negative shake of her head. "I don’t. Since I hadn’t heard from her again I figured she’d moved on."
         "When she contacted you, what did she want?"
         Still feeling the sting from the visit, she sighed. "Beth was having a cash–flow problem and asked if I could help her. I gave her what was in my purse, which wasn’t much. Then she was gone. I really don’t know anything more." Tabby glanced toward the suite where a gurney with a sheet draped over the dead man was being wheeled out. "Do you know what killed him?"
         "Blunt force trauma to the head."
         Turning her attention back to the detective, Tabby asked, "Why would someone do that? Who is he?"
         "It’s my job to find out." Detective Carlucci flipped her notebook closed and dug out a business card from the side pocket of her tailored, expensive–looking suit jacket. "If you think of anything else, give me a call."
         Taking the card, Tabby nodded. "I will."
         The detective moved to confer with her partner, a tall, blond–haired man with sharp, vivid green eyes that seemed to take everything in at once.
         "You okay?" Jon asked as he came to stand beside her, his handsome face full of concern. The crispness of his white dress shirt against his olive skin made his square jaw and high cheek bones more pronounced. Tonight he’d swept his dark hair back in a controlled style that complemented his tailored black suit, though she much preferred the more tousled way he normally wore it.
         She resisted the urge to lean against his broad shoulders for comfort. He was her boss. And that was a line she’d promised herself she wouldn’t cross. Not even because of a dead man.
She shivered. The creepiness of the turn of events made her skin crawl.
         "You’re cold. Here," Jon said and draped her wrap around her shoulders.
         "It’s just so sad. Who do you think killed him? And what did he want to tell me?"
         "I don’t know. But the police will figure it out. Let’s get you home."
         "But the guests!" She didn’t relish rejoining the party and having to field questions, but doing so was part of her job. "We can’t just leave."
         "Don’t worry. I’ll come back and make sure everyone’s had a good time," he said, his dark eyes alive yet so tender as his gaze touched her.
         The unmistakable buzz of a cell phone on vibrate reverberated around them. Jon patted his breast pocket. "Not mine."
         "It’s mine," she said, gesturing to the blue beaded evening bag dangling from the crook of Jon’s elbow. Amid such grim circumstances, an amused smile played at the corners of her mouth. Jon was the only man she knew secure enough in his own masculinity to hold a women’s purse without embarrassment. That was one of the many traits she enjoyed and appreciated about her boss.
         With a rueful grin, he slid the bag to his hand and held it out. She opened the latch and fished out her small red cell. She glanced at the number, didn’t recognize it. "Hello?"
         "Listen carefully and do not react. I’m watching you," said a muffled voice, whose gender was indistinguishable. "If you ever want to see your sister alive again, go home and await instructions."
         The line went dead.
         Terror chomped through Tabby but she forced herself not to let it show, even though it sounded like her sister had been kidnapped.
         Quickly, she closed the phone, took her bag from Jon and said, "You’re right. I need to go home. You stay and make sure the guests are happy."
         Without waiting for a response, she hurried toward the elevator. To her chagrin, Jon matched her pace. As the elevator doors slid open, she put her hand on Jon’s chest to stop him from entering. She felt his heart beating, the tempo nearly matching her own. Awareness of his proximity sent shivers of a different kind sliding over her skin.
         "Really. You stay," she managed to say.
         Capturing her hand and pulling her into the elevator, he said,     "Really. I’m not."
         The elevator doors slid shut, blocking out prying eyes. Tabby bit her lower lip. How was she going to get rid of Jon?
         "Spill it," he said.
         "I… What are you talking about?"
         He grabbed her purse.
         "Hey!"
         He undid the clasp, reached in and dug out her cell. "You received a call that upset you. Who was it from?" He checked the call log.
         Staring straight at the door so he couldn’t see the panic in her eyes, she said, "It’s none of your business."
         Reaching past her, he hit the stop button. The elevator ground to a halt. "We’re not leaving until you tell me what has you so spooked."
         Frustration and panic vied for prominence in her mind. She needed to get home. She needed to be there when the call came in about her sister. Even though they weren’t close, Beth was still family.
         Over the years, Tabby had prayed her sister was safe and happy. And when Beth appeared out of the blue, Tabby had wept with joy that God had brought her sister back to her. Tabby tried to ignore the disquieting knowledge that Beth wasn’t like the girl who’d run away. The cold, hard person standing in her kitchen hadn’t wanted a warm and fuzzy reunion, only money. Confused and hurt, Tabby had done what she could for her sister.
         As she would now. After all, they shared the same blood and Beth obviously needed her.
         "I can’t say anything," Tabby said, looking up at her strong, handsome boss and yearning to confide in him, wishing she could slip into his embrace and forget the horrible events of the night.
         But he was her boss and there was no way she’d ever jeopardize her job or her integrity by becoming just another notch on his belt.
         Though eight years her senior, Jon had a youthful exuberance for life that made him good at his profession and also a desirable catch. Touted as one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors, Jon had his pick of women. And usually dated several at a time. Another reason she would never let herself fall for him. She wanted a love that would last a lifetime. So far, she hadn’t found it.
         Jon stepped closer, his six–foot frame crowding her into the corner. "Who called and what did they want?"
         "Please, I have to get home."
         He reached out to run his knuckles down her cheek. "Trust me, Tabby. I can help you."
         "You’re really not going to let me out until I tell you, are you?"
         He shook his head.
         "Fine." Conceding defeat in the stubbornness department. "The caller said if I want to see my sister alive, I need to go home and wait for further instructions."
         Jon straightened, his expression darkening. "Was the caller a man or woman?"

         "The voice was digitally altered, so I don’t know." She shivered again as fear traipsed up her spine. "And the person said he or she was watching me!"