From the Hat Down by Andi Marquette – Blog Tour and Giveaway!

We know that From the Boots Up, by Andi Marquette was awesome, right? What could be better than a title and sequel named, From the Hat Down? Pretty clever, yes?

I’m proud to be a stop on the blog tour for Andi’s new book!

What’s that? You want to know more? Well, read on – and don’t forget to enter the raffle.

Thanks for including me in the awesomeness that is Andi Marquette’s world 🙂

From the Hat Down Blog Tour Banner

Synopsis

Meg Tallmadge is a veterinarian at a clinic in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s got a great job, great friends, deep ties to the family ranch, and big plans for her vet future. Sure, there are bumps in the road, like her mom’s continued denial about who Meg is and her painful and infuriating attempts to make Meg a “proper” woman. Then there’s Meg’s recent breakup with a girlfriend, which has her wondering why she can’t seem to open up to relationships. But Meg knows that life is messy, and sometimes all you can do is get through and shake it off. What she can’t seem to shake off, however, is her past.

It’s been almost ten years to the day since she met the love of her life, and about eight since she let her go. Meg has a hard time admitting that maybe she didn’t really let go, and that maybe some things you never really get over, no matter how hard you try. But her past is half a world away, caught up in her own life, relationship, and journalism career, and Meg isn’t one to chase the ghosts of past relationships. Even if they send you a birthday card and nudge what you thought were the closed-off parts of your heart. After all, second chances are the stuff of fantasies and movies where the good guy always gets a happy ending. You can’t count on something like that.

Or can you?

excerpt

From the Hat Down

Andi Marquette, © 2014

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

May, 2009

Meg sipped her coffee and stared at the three boxes stacked next to her front door, and guilt tugged her thoughts. They’d been there a couple of months now, reminders of her break-up with Kate. She’d called Kate last week, to set up a time to pick them up and Kate, ever the organized and conscientious type, had asked apologetically if she could collect the boxes later, as she was just starting a new job and trying to get settled in her own place in Fort Collins. Barely an hour south. But the distance between them was much more than that. Meg had agreed. The least she could do was give Kate the space to get her stuff when she could. Meg had offered to drive it down a few weeks ago, but Kate wouldn’t hear of it, though she said she appreciated that. Meg knew it was genuine. She’d been nice about it. She always was. It made Meg feel guilty for pushing her to pick the stuff up.

The boxes maintained their blank silence as she studied them. She had debated moving them into the bedroom she used as an office, but decided to just leave them by the door. Maybe they were penance, in some way. Reminders of a relationship gone sour, representatives of an ending.

She took another sip. Endings sucked. But in a weird way, they were pre-beginnings. You couldn’t have a beginning without an end, after all. She shifted her attention to the window, and the trees outside, past the covered front porch. Mid-May and many had finally leafed out, presaging summer. She looked at the boxes again and a wave of sadness washed through her chest. She swallowed it with a gulp of coffee just as her Blackberry rang with a particular tone. She smiled as she pulled it off her belt. “Hey, fellow vet person. What’s up?”

“Hi, Doctor Horse Chick,” came Sean’s goofy nickname for her. She had a way of stringing words together in unique combinations that somehow ended up making perfect sense. “Just checking to be sure you remember that I’ll be in your fabulous Laramie Tuesday doing a most awesome lecture on holistic approaches to large four-legged domestic animals.”

Meg almost snorted coffee through her nose. “Approaching, say, cows holistically? Like, with new-age lassos? Do you tie a crystal on the end?”

“No. Incense,” she retorted with a “duh” tone.

Meg laughed. “And what kind of incense might make a cow even more catatonic than some of them already are?”

“Sandalwood. Maybe jasmine. I haven’t tried that one yet. Patchouli makes them grow dreads and crave reggae.”

“Bob Moo-ley,” Meg said, trying not to giggle.

“Oh, hell no. I cannot believe you just said that.” Sean started laughing. “‘No woman, no cud’ is their fave tune.”

Meg grinned and set her nearly empty coffee cup on the topmost box. “Are you bringing one of these dreadlocked bovines to your lecture? I’m sure the students would appreciate it.”

“Whatever. They’re all serious cowboy-types up there. Maybe I could get a cow to wear a ten-gallon Stetson. Though you look better in Stetsons than any cow. Than any human-types, actually.”

“Well, it is the head covering of choice in this state.” She nudged a box with the toe of her boot. “So you still want to stop by when you’re done?”

“Is there wind in Wyoming? And that’s a rhetorical question, by the way,” Sean said with teasing warmth.

“Wind? Here?” Meg asked in a “what are you talking about?” tone.

“Exactly my point.”

“Cool. Just come by the house.” She picked up her cup.

“Will do. I’ll call you if anything changes. Oh, speaking of seeing you—your birthday’s coming up,” she said in a sing-song tone.

Meg grimaced. “Don’t remind me. I’m trying to be low-key about it.”

“Please. You’re always low-key. Why not have a party? Just to shake things up a bit?”

She glanced at the boxes, then back out the window. “You know I’m not really the party kind. Besides, I’m going to the ranch that weekend. You and Ted want to come up? I’d be okay with a birthday barbecue.” She walked into the kitchen and rinsed her cup out with one hand and set it in the drying rack.

“I’d love to, but Ted’s brother is supposed to be coming through then. Damn. We want to at least take you out for dinner, though.” Sean sighed plaintively. “Since you won’t let me throw a massive street party for you, with a DJ and Chinese acrobats, will a small, painfully intimate dinner with me and Ted suffice?”

“Always,” Meg said, smiling. “I’ll check my schedule and we’ll talk more when I see you tomorrow.”

“Sounds good. Catch you later.”

“Yep. Hi to Ted.” Meg hung up and slid the phone back into its holder on her belt. She gave the boxes another hard stare then turned and walked down the hallway toward the two bedrooms at the rear of the house. The one she used as her office was to the right, her bedroom to the left. She went into her office to her leather satchel, which rested on her desk chair, flap open. She rummaged through it to make sure she had everything she needed for the day.

Another damn birthday. At least she’d get to spend it with her dad at the ranch. Meg dug around in her satchel, looking for her appointment book. She preferred the old-fashioned approach to keeping track of her schedule, though she did enter her patient appointments into her Blackberry, as well.

Where had she put the book? It wasn’t in its usual place in the satchel. She stopped her search in the satchel and looked at her desk. Ah. There it was. She reached across her desk for her appointment book, partially hidden beneath a veterinary journal. She moved the journal and picked up the appointment book, and her gaze lingered on the small wooden carving of a horse that stood nearby, next to her computer monitor. It held its head high, and its right front leg was raised, as if it was preparing to tear off across a prairie. The unknown artist had captured the moment between stillness and motion, that second in which muscles bunch and adrenaline surges before the physical form follows the urge.

Meg set the datebook back down and picked up the horse. She ran her fingertips over the smooth chocolate brown wood. The carving fit perfectly in her palm and she remembered when it had arrived in the mail from Argentina six years ago, a gift for her graduation from vet school at Colorado State. She studied the detail on its face, and on its mane and tail. The horse’s surface felt warm, as if it was generating its own heat. She closed her hand around it, remembering the small box it had come in, and how she’d felt when she saw the handwriting on the address label. She smiled, because she felt a little bit of that now.

She returned the horse to its place on her desk, wondering how its sender was, and if she might be thinking about her. Maybe she was even writing a card, getting ready to mail it. She always sent Meg a birthday card. Every year since they first met ten years ago, a week before Meg turned twenty-five. She stared at the horse for a while, a strange combination of longing and regret coloring her thoughts before she picked her datebook up and tossed it into her satchel. She slung the bag over her shoulder and headed for the front door.

Meet the Author

me n hatAndi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of the forthcoming All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.

When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.

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Uncommon Romance Blog Tour – My buddy Jove Belle gets SeXy

I’m a little late for the blog tour – all I can do is blame the month of May.

Enough said on that 🙂

My friend Jove Belle has a new book out! It’s a collection of sexy stories, and having read it, believe me – you’ll either be taking a cold shower or looking for your partner 🙂

Meet the Author:
Jove was born and raised against a backdrop of orchards and potato fields. The youngest of four children, she was raised in a conservative, Christian home and began asking why at a very young age, much to the consternation of her mother and grandmother. At the customary age of eighteen, she fled southern Idaho in pursuit of broader minds and fewer traffic jams involving the local livestock. The road didn’t end in Portland, Oregon, but there were many confusing freeway interchanges that a girl from the sticks was ill-prepared to deal with. As a result, she has lived in the Portland metro area for over fifteen years and still can’t figure out how she manages to spend so much time in traffic when there’s not a stray sheep or cow in sight.
She lives with her partner of seventeen years. Between them they share a collection of six children, one dog, two cats, a mortgage payment, one sedan, and a cushy SUV big enough to hold the Lesbian Brady Bunch on their family outings. One day she hopes to live in a house that doesn’t generate a never ending honey-do list.
Incidentally, she never stopped asking why, but did expand her arsenal of questions to include who, what, when, where and, most important of all, how. In those questions, a story is born.
Her books include The Job (coming October 2014) Uncommon Romance, Love & Devotion, Edge of Darkness, Split the Aces, Chaps, and Indelible. They are available at http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com

Uncommon Romance By Jove Belle

BSB-UncommonRomance_2

Happily ever after doesn’t look the same for every couple.

In Raw Silk, happily married June and Ashlyn Phillips occasionally enjoy adding another dynamic to their sex life. When Katerina “Kat” VanderVort enters June’s office one day, she sets her sights on June. Lucky for her, Ashlyn loves to indulge her wife’s fantasies.

In On Her Knees, Simone Davies is finally happy. That is, until her chief tormentor and biggest crush, Abby Nelson, shows up at her firm’s holiday party. Together they struggle to forget the past and build a future together.

In Hollis, homicide detective Jude Lassiter pushes a little too hard, and her instructor at a FBI anti-terrorism training session, Special Agent Beverly Hollis, knows exactly how to punish her. Jude is all too willing to submit.

Meet the Author:

Jove was born and raised against a backdrop of orchards and potato fields. The youngest of four children, she was raised in a conservative, Christian home and began asking why at a very young age, much to the consternation of her mother and grandmother. At the customary age of eighteen, she fled southern Idaho in pursuit of broader minds and fewer traffic jams involving the local livestock. The road didn’t end in Portland, Oregon, but there were many confusing freeway interchanges that a girl from the sticks was ill-prepared to deal with. As a result, she has lived in the Portland metro area for over fifteen years and still can’t figure out how she manages to spend so much time in traffic when there’s not a stray sheep or cow in sight.
She lives with her partner of seventeen years. Between them they share a collection of six children, one dog, two cats, a mortgage payment, one sedan, and a cushy SUV big enough to hold the Lesbian Brady Bunch on their family outings. One day she hopes to live in a house that doesn’t generate a never ending honey-do list.
Incidentally, she never stopped asking why, but did expand her arsenal of questions to include who, what, when, where and, most important of all, how. In those questions, a story is born.
Her books include The Job (coming October 2014) Uncommon Romance, Love & Devotion, Edge of Darkness, Split the Aces, Chaps, and Indelible. They are available at http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com

Here are her social links 🙂
Social Links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jove-Belle-Writer/158540030985619?fref=ts
Twitter:https://twitter.com/jovebelle
Website: http://www.jovebelle.com/
Blog: http://lesbianauthors.wordpress.com/
Goodreads author: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/998382.Jove_Belle
Goodreads book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18342342-uncommon-romance

AND – if you HURRY – you know – because it’s late and it’s the month of May

You can enter to win HERE:
Giveaway:
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link:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/ZWVmNGVlNGJjMTU1MjI4NzVlZTMxNDA4OTYzNWMyOjQ2NA==/

Thanks again to Debra The Book Enthusiast for another great tour!

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From the Boots Up by Andi Marquette Book Blitz

Today, I’m honored to be hosting the awesome Book Blitz featuring From the Boots Up by my good buddy, Andi Marquette!

Go ahead – READ ON…

You’ll find a preview and excerpt of her book – after which I’m sure – you’ll want to hit the links to WIN a copy!

From the Boots Up

Book Blitz

From the Boots Up FINAL 300 dpi

Book Title: From the Boots Up
Author: Andi Marquette
Genre: F/F Romance
From the Boots Up is a runner-up in the 2013 Rainbow Awards for best contemporary lesbian romance and best lesbian novel.
Hosted by:Book Enthusiast Promotions

Synopsis

Meg Tallmadge has more than enough on her plate. She’s finishing up a college degree, getting ready to apply to vet school, and working another summer with her dad, Stan, on the family ranch in southern Wyoming. He’s managed to get the Los Angeles Times to send a reporter out to do a story on the Diamond Rock, which doubles as a dude ranch. Meg knows the ranch needs all the publicity it can get to bring in more customers, but she’s not looking forward to babysitting a reporter for a week. When the originally scheduled reporter can’t make it, Meg worries that they won’t get a story at all, which is worse than dealing with a city slicker for a few days. Fortunately for Stan and the ranch, the Times finds a replacement, and Meg prepares to be under scrutiny, under the gun, and the perfect hostess. She knows what this opportunity means to her father, and she’s hoping that if it goes well, it’ll ease some of the distance between them that resulted when she came out a few months earlier.

What Meg’s not prepared for — and never expected — is the reporter herself and the effect she has on her. In spite of what she feels, Meg can’t risk the fallout that could result from overstepping a professional boundary. But as the week draws to a close, it becomes clear that not taking a chance could be the biggest risk of all.

NOTE: Contains F/F mature situations.

Meet the Author

me n hat

Andi Marquette was born in New Mexico and grew up in Colorado. She completed a couple of academic degrees in anthropology and returned to New Mexico, where she decided a doctorate in history was somehow a good idea. She completed it before realizing that maybe she should have joined the circus, or at least a traveling Gypsy troupe. Oh, well. She fell into editing sometime around 1993 and has been obsessed with words ever since, which may or may not be a good thing. She currently resides in Colorado, where she edits, writes, and cultivates a strange obsession with New Mexico chile.

excerpt

May 1999

My weekend with Tex Hollis began when I pulled into the driveway of the Lazy T-Bar Ranch west of San Antonio. I knew this wouldn’t be an ordinary weekend when Tex cast a critical eye over my shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Two days later, I was as comfortable in jeans and boots as any of the buckaroos who spent their days in the saddle—

Meg laughed and tossed the magazine back onto her dad’s huge oak desk. She leaned back in her chair and braced one booted foot on the desk’s edge. “Tex Hollis,” she said, sarcastic. “Sounds like somebody out of a Longarm book.”

Stan looked at her over the top of his reading glasses. “And since when did you start reading that?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Davey keeps a stash. He gave me one to read one night, thinking I’d like the ‘plot’.” She grinned wickedly. “The plot was way better than the sex.”

His eyes widened and she laughed.

“I told Davey that, and he never loaned me another one. I think I ruined one of his fantasies.” She pushed back farther, regarding him mischievously.

He cleared his throat. “Fantasy?”

“Please, Dad. You’re a guy. You were Davey’s age. You know what guys think about.”

His cheeks reddened and he started moving papers around on his desk. “If your mom heard that. . .” he said with exaggerated sternness.

“She’d lose her religion because I know about sex. It’d burst her bubble.” Meg moved her foot and let her chair legs fall to the floor with a thump. And then her mom would haul out her Bible and start talking about chastity.

“Well, moms were young women, too, and they don’t like to think about their daughters running wild with young guys.”

“You mean like Mom did with you?” She asked innocently.

The phone rang and he shot her a mock disapproving glare that dissolved into a smile before he answered. “Diamond Rock Ranch. This is Stan Tallmadge.” He clicked the mouse on the computer as he talked.

Meg reached across the desk for the magazine and flipped idly through it again before studying the cover. A copy of Spirit, from Southwest Airlines. A pair of worn cowboy boots with spurs stood on a workbench against a log cabin wall. A nice photo, for a stereotype.

She glanced up at him. From the conversation he was having, it sounded like the call was another reservation. They still had two spaces available for guests this month and she hoped the spots filled. This sounded like it would drop their space to one. Good.

She studied him then, noting the fine lines that spiderwebbed from the corners of his eyes and the deepening creases around his mouth. His hair, once as dark as a crow’s wing, had lightened to gray at his temples, though she often thought about him without the gray, her attempt to prevent him from aging.

The magazine cover advertised a story about Montana, and how people could get an “Old West” experience at a couple of dude ranches up there. She’d heard of them, and she wondered how the ranch owners had managed to get covered in Spirit. The Diamond Rock needed more coverage like that. Even more than what they’d get from the reporter who was coming out to bother them next week. She turned the page and a photo of a couple of men on horseback herding a few cattle caught her eye. One of the men looked like her dad. She glanced at him again as he continued to talk, doing the Diamond Rock spiel to the person on the other end.

Ranching was in his blood, just like it had been in his father’s and in his grandfather’s before him. No other place on earth would fire his spirit like Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains. Meg knew that, and she knew that if he ever left, it would kill him, just as staying was slowly leaching the years from his bones as it got harder and harder to make ends meet, to get enough paying customers for the dude ranch experience even while he tried to work the ranch with fewer staff.

He looked at her, eyes the color of a summer thundercloud, like hers, she’d been told, and gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled and returned to her magazine, but she wasn’t really thinking about the article. She took after her father in demeanor and physical appearance, she knew, and it was a point of contention when her mother had lived there. But it was Stan who had made Irene “pert near crazy” with his stubborn streak and independent nature. Loyal to a fault, but unreachable in the deep down parts of his heart, he’d driven Irene right back to Kentucky nine years ago, when Meg was sixteen.

“All right,” he said. “Thanks for calling. We’ll see you next week.” He hung up, satisfied. “Full up.”

She grinned at him and placed the magazine back on his desk, relieved. “So when’s that reporter coming in?”

He leaned back in his chair and stroked his mustache thoughtfully. He looked like an old-style cowboy with it, especially when he wore his hat and duster. She thought he resembled Wyatt Earp.

“Hopefully next Friday, still. I got a call from the editor out there this morning and the writer she wanted broke her leg. So she’s trying to rustle someone else up on short notice.”

Meg hid her concern. It was already Wednesday. Next Friday was just over a week away. “Will she be able to get somebody else to come instead?” A story in the Los Angeles Times was too important. They needed the publicity.

“She’s working on it.” He tried to hide his own concern, too, but she read it in his eyes. “Might have to delay the story a little bit, if she can’t find anybody on short notice.”

“How long?”

He gave a little shrug. “She said maybe a couple extra weeks. Then there’s another window of opportunity in July. Which won’t be too bad.”

The dude ranching season pretty much ended here by mid-August as fall started creeping in over the mountains. Stan needed this publicity, because it wouldn’t only serve for this summer. It would continue for the next season, and the article would be on the Internet, so they could use it in more of their promo.

“Did she say who the reporter might be?” The one that had been scheduled was originally from Idaho, and Meg had talked to her briefly on the phone. She sounded nice, and she’d grown up in a ranching town, so Meg figured she’d “get” the Diamond Rock, and she’d be able to really nail that in her story.

“Nope.” He shrugged again. “I’m sure she’ll find someone who’ll do a fine job on the story. It’ll work out.”

“Hope so.”

He narrowed his eyes then. “And you’ll be damn hospitable. I don’t want to have to be telling your mom why the story that gets published in the Los Angeles Times is about somebody’s bad experience at the Diamond Rock.”

“Why would you even think that?” She looked at him, hurt.

“I know how you get,” he said, more gently. “You don’t suffer fools and, unfortunately, you’ve got some of your mom’s temper. But in this case, I need you to suffer.” He smiled at her. “No practical jokes on the greenhorn.”

Her mother’s voice echoed through her mind. “Damn it, Stan! Would you get that girl in hand?” She sighed. “I’m not sixteen anymore.”

“No, but twenty-four ain’t that far off.”

“Twenty-five.”

“Not yet, missy. Next week. And I can still turn you over my knee. So no bullshit. We need this publicity.” He tried to look forbidding but a twinkle danced in his eyes and she relaxed.

“Well, since I’m such a loose cannon, can I not be in charge of the reporter?” She didn’t mind playing babysitter, but if she didn’t have to, that was fine with her. She hoped whoever the Times lined up had at least a little outdoor experience.

“The way I see it, whoever they send will be here for a week and they’ll want a ‘full range’ of ranching experience, and they’ll observe and ask questions. They might or might not want a tour guide. And you’ll be an official Diamond Rock liaison, so every day, I expect you to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with the reporter. Just treat whoever it is like a regular registered guest. You’re good with that, hon. They really do like you. Don’t think of it as being under the microscope or something.”

“Great,” she said with a sigh. She imagined them all dressed up like on the set of Bonanza and she groaned softly.

“I know. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, because we do have to mind our manners even more, and you don’t know for sure what’s going to end up in print. We’ve got to make it so this reporter can’t resist writing a great story about the DR. In fact, we want this reporter to come back every chance he gets. Or she,” he corrected himself.

“I know. Don’t worry.” She reached over to the neighboring chair to retrieve her hat. “You don’t think whoever it is will be like the writer of this story”—she gestured at the magazine, “and change your name to something like ‘Slim Thompson’?” She was only half-teasing.

He pursed his lips, pretending to think. “I’m hoping for something like ‘Dutch Walters’. And maybe you’ll get to be ‘Cherry Goodnight’.”

Meg grabbed the Spirit magazine off the stack of papers and threw it playfully at him.

He caught it and tossed it onto the desk, chuckling. “You could change your middle name to Cherry before the reporter gets here. So there’d be some veracity there.”

She gave him a look and started to get up.

“Your mom called this morning,” he said, as he leaned back in his beat-up office chair. He folded his arms and regarded her with an expression that was a mixture of concerned dad but acceptance for whatever decision she might make.

She settled in her seat again, her Stetson in her lap. She rubbed her fingertips over the black felt, waiting. She got her stubborn streak from him, but hers was more pronounced. He’d told her she could outwait a rock.

“You need to talk to your mom more,” he said after a while. “She misses you.”

She didn’t answer. Instead, she studied the knotted pine wood on the walls behind his head. He waited a few more moments then leaned forward and picked up the copy of Spirit. He flipped through it as she had done earlier.

“She’s your mom,” he said, without looking up from the pages.

“She’s not really thrilled with me right now, as you know.” She watched for his reaction, but his expression didn’t change.

“So don’t talk about that.”

“That’s all she wants to talk about. It’s not like I make it a point to advertise my personal life.”

“Well.” He set the magazine aside and tugged at the hair above his right ear, something he did when he was really uncomfortable.

Meg wished she hadn’t told him, either. Wished she’d never said that the painful break-up she’d endured last fall was with a woman. Since then, he’d struggled with it, and some of their interactions were tinged with an unfamiliar stiffness.

“I’ll call her,” Meg relented.

“That’s my girl.” He said with obvious relief.

“But I drive her crazy. Even on the phone.” Her mom always asked whether Meg was seeing any nice young men at school and Meg would have to deflect those statements or tell her she was still getting over someone. Irene knew it had been a woman because Meg had told her, around the same time she’d told her dad. But since Irene had gone back to Kentucky, she’d found the Lord, and this particular Lord didn’t care much for gay people. Even those in your own family.

“She’s still your mom,” he said, tugging on his hair. “Find something you’re both interested in and keep the conversation there.”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully. She stood up and put her hat on. “See you around, Dutchie.” She grinned at him and was out the door before he could toss the magazine after her.

She decided to put off the dreaded phone call and walked instead across the swath of hard-packed earth between Stan’s office and living space and the lodge, which had been the main ranch house before her grandfather had converted it in the fifties to accommodate space for kitchen and dining facilities that could have passed muster in a big-city restaurant. Stan had upgraded it two years ago. New appliances, better shelving, new pots and pans, new dishes. They’d even added a walk-in cooler. Alice, the chef and “Kitchen Queen,” as she called herself, more than approved of the changes. She’d been at the ranch since just before Meg’s mom had left, and she thought of her as family, now, like a favorite aunt.

She went in through the front, and the rich, heavy odor of cowboy chili greeted her, along with voices from the kitchen and the sound of a knife chopping something. She blinked in the dim dining room, after being out in the midday sun. Three long tables, decorated with blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, stood parallel to each other in the center of the big room. Each could seat fifteen on the benches, and some summers, they did. On rare occasions, they had to add another table. Meg hoped it was that kind of summer. The more paying guests, the happier her dad was.

She wiped her hands on her jeans and checked through the stack of mail on the closest table then went into the kitchen, through the swinging door that separated it from the dining room and entered Alice’s domain, which could rival something in one of those high-end cooking magazines.

“Hey, Meg,” said Anna, Alice’s prep cook, as she looked up from the cutting board on the island where she was chopping carrots.

“Hey.”

Alice emerged from the walk-in. “Hi, sweetie,” she said with a smile that, in conjunction with her swept-up hair, made her look like a glamorous 1940s actress, even when she had her cowboy duds on, as her dad called them. Jane Russell, Meg thought. That’s who Alice looked like, though her hair was a lighter color. She was in her late forties, now, but she was just as pretty as when she’d started working at the ranch. Alice always turned guys’ heads, but she was so down-to-earth that she didn’t seem to notice.

“Would you like a sandwich? You missed lunch.” She closed the walk-in door.

“Is the chili ready?” she asked hopefully.

“Not yet. Let me make you a sandwich.”

“Are you sure? I can just—”

She raised an eyebrow imperiously. “I am the Kitchen Queen. I have spoken. Go sit down.” She gestured at the counter by the back door.

“Yes, your majesty.” She walked around the island and hung her hat on one of the pegs by the door then sat down on one of the stools, her back to the counter so she could watch Alice and Anna. “We got another reservation.”

“Oh, good. I know your dad was worried about filling up,” Alice said as she sliced bread.

“He said that the reporter that was supposed to come broke her leg.”

She stopped slicing bread and looked over at her, concern written in the lines across her brow.

“The editor is trying to find another reporter who can come out on short notice.”

She went back to her sandwich making. “Well, that’s how journalists operate. They’re used to changes in plans.” Alice finished with the bread and started slicing part of a turkey breast. “How soon can the new one come?”

“They don’t know. I guess they’re trying to keep the same schedule, if they can find someone. But they might not be able to. So maybe the next couple of weeks or July.”

“Too bad. From what your dad said, the first one sounded like a good match for an assignment like this.” She spread deli mustard on one slice of bread and mayonnaise on the other then placed the slices of meat on the mayo piece and lettuce and tomato on the mustard piece. She’d add her “secret spices” next.

“Oh, and I’m not supposed to be an asshole.”

Anna snickered and Alice looked over at her, her lips twitching with a smile. She returned her gaze to Meg. “You’re hardly that.”

“Dad seems to think I am. He kind of makes me feel like I’m a teenager, still.”

“That’s his job as a parent. To make you feel like a teenager the rest of your life. And if it’s any consolation, you’re far from being a teenager. You’re your own woman. Just remember that to your dad, you’ll always be his little girl.”

“Then why is he freaking out that I’ll be an asshole to the reporter?”

“He’s just stressed, hon. He wants to make a good impression so the story gets a lot of attention.” She went over to one of the refrigerators and took out a jar of dill pickles.

“He thinks I have Mom’s temper and he thinks I don’t suffer fools. I guess he thinks if the reporter’s an idiot, I’ll let him or her know.”

She laughed. “Nothing wrong with pointing something out, and nothing wrong with a woman having a temper. You just need to learn how to direct it appropriately. And maybe soften the blow.” She retrieved a plate from under the stainless steel counter along the back wall. “Diplomacy, love.” she said. “The art of telling people they’re idiots without making them feel too bad about it.”

Anna giggled as she reached for another carrot.

Meg grinned. “I guess I might need to work on that a little bit.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Alice said with a smile.

Anna finished with the carrots and put them in a plastic tub that she carried into the walk-in. She had to duck her head, since she was pushing six feet tall. She’d never played team sports, for which her height probably would have served well. She was, however, an excellent barrel racer.

“I’m not going to screw this up,” Meg said. It still stung a little, that her dad thought she might.

“No, you’re not.” Alice brought the plate over to her. It looked like something out of a food magazine, with the pickle and chips arranged artfully around the sandwich halves.

Meg smiled. “Thanks. I love your sandwiches.”

She squeezed her shoulder. “Iced tea?”

“Yes, please.” She turned so she faced the counter and bit into the sandwich. Alice made the best. “How is it that your sandwiches always taste so good?” She said after she’d swallowed.

“Made with love.” Alice winked as she put a glass of tea and a napkin on the counter next to Meg’s plate.

“You’re the best-kept secret in the West. Please don’t ever leave us. But if you do, mention the Diamond Rock on your cooking show.”

She laughed and went to clean up. “You’re your father’s daughter.”

Meg continued to eat, Anna and Alice chatting amiably behind her. When she finished, she took the plate into the dishwashing room then went back into the kitchen where Alice was checking the chili. Anna must have gone into the dining room, because one of the swinging doors was moving.

Alice handed her a spoon. “One taste. No double-dipping.”

She laughed and took a spoonful, holding it over her cupped left hand so none would spill. She blew on it and tasted it. “Oh, my God. Best. Chili. Ever.” She finished the spoonful and Alice took the utensil from her.

“Make sure you tell the reporter that.”

“I won’t have to. One taste will prove it.”

Alice set the spoon aside and continued to stir one of the big pots on the stove.

“He’s still acting weird,” Meg said after a few more moments.

She stopped stirring and gave Meg her full attention. “About your break-up with Amanda?”

She nodded.

“He’ll come around.”

“I think he’s hoping that I was just experimenting, and now I’ll go find a boyfriend.”

“He also just wants to make sure you’re happy.” She reached up and brushed Meg’s hair out of her face, like a mom might. “Sweetie, your dad loves you more than life itself. But he’s a little traditional in some ways, and it’ll just take him a little bit to get used to the idea. Parents always have expectations for their children, and he’s having to revise some about you.”

“I feel like I screwed up. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him.” A knot tightened in her chest, and she hated this wedge that seemed to have come between her dad and her.

Alice pulled her into a hug. “You had to. Because this is part of you, and it’s not healthy to keep that all bottled up inside. I’m proud of you, for telling not only your dad but your mom.”

Meg groaned as Alice released her. “I’m supposed to call her.”

She gave her a sympathetic smile. “You are who you are, and you’re choosing to live your life on your terms.”

“She doesn’t like my terms.”

Well, it’s not for her to decide, is it?”

“She makes it seem that way.”

“You’ll get through.” She pecked her on the cheek. “Come and talk to me later tonight if you want.”

Meg nodded. “Thanks.”

Anna came back into the kitchen and Meg waved at her before she moved to the back door, where she retrieved her hat before she went outside. Across from the dining room and kitchen about thirty yards away stood the two-story structure dubbed “the motel,” modeled after a Northwoods hunting lodge for the guests, its rooms accessible from the outside. Covered verandas sheltered the walkways. Her father lived in quarters just off the office building, also across from the motel, and the hands lived in bunkhouses. All the structures surrounded a large packed-dirt parking area, like wagons circling a campsite.

She took the outside steps of the lodge to the second floor, where she lived. She alone occupied this level, unless they had extra guests. Otherwise, she kept the extra rooms closed up. Maybe the reporter’s story would bring them enough business that they’d be able to open these extra rooms. Her bootheels made hollow sounds on the wood and the metal roof of the veranda creaked and popped in the sun. She sighed as she opened the heavy wooden door into her foyer, hung her hat on one of the pegs near the entrance, and walked down the hallway toward her bedroom, where she kept a phone.

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Guest Blogging at the 2014 Lesbian Appreciation Event! And giveaway.

Hello!

I’m guest blogging at the 2014 Lesbian Appreciation Event this year.  I was very excited to receive the invitation.

TURNING FEAR INTO PARANORMAL FICTION.  

 

Hit the Link to read it!  I’m also giving away one of my ebooks (of your choice!)  Leave a comment to be entered.

Have an awesome day!

Love & Devotion – Awesome Bonus Scene – Blog Tour – Day Five

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Hello! Welcome to day five of Jove Belle’s blog tour! Since it’s my very first, I hope I do her justice. If you’ve missed any of the other days on this tour, I have included the links below for your convenience, along with the  link to enter the drawing for special prizes.

I was lucky enough to score a bonus scene from Jove’s book – Love & Devotion.

Cool, right?

I think so! If you’re anything like me, you fall in love with Jove’s characters – I’ll admit that I do.  I loved this book and I read it one sitting. This is why I’m so excited to bring you a bonus scene. And hey, make sure you read all the way to the bottom to enter the drawings for the prizes Jove’s giving away during the tour.

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KC Hall loves her family, her small East Texas town, and her best friend, Emma Reynolds. All of that takes a backseat when her lover beckons. Lonnie is blond, beautiful, and willing. She’s also married and a lifelong friend of KC’s mama.

In the book we see all the events through the eyes of the main character, KC.  What I love about getting bonus scenes from the author is that I get to see the story from another character’s point of view.

In this one, KC’s kick-ass older sister, Kendall, confronts KC’s lover, Lonnie Truvall – AKA: Evil selfish bitch. And really, don’t we all love a good smack-down when someone clearly deserves it?

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BONUS SCENE FROM LOVE & DEVOTION BY JOVE BELLE

Grocery shopping was by far Kendall’s least favorite household chore and she didn’t give a damn what Owen said about there not being enough money in their household budget for them to hire a personal shopper. She knew how many hours she billed. He could damn well make room. She planned to insist on it the next time she got stuck with this chore. After all, that was her compromise. If he didn’t want to pay for the service, then he was responsible for doing the shopping. In exchange, she took out the trash.

So how she ended up at the market on a Sunday afternoon was beyond her. Despite her years in law school, Owen could still out negotiate her every time. She never shared that little tidbit with her clients.

“Where the hell are the olives?” She asked herself, but truthfully if anyone around her felt like answering she would not turn down the advice. “And what kind of olives, for God’s sake?” Was Owen planning to make martinis? Or did he want the kind that the kids wear on their fingers? She finally found the green ones on the top shelf next to the artichokes. The black ones were nowhere to be found. She grabbed the jar and called it good. If wanted the other kind, he could come find them himself.

As she reached for the jar, she bumped into the person in front of her with her cart. “Excuse me.” She said it reflexively without even looking up. At the moment, she cared more about getting the damned olives and getting out of there than anything else.

“Kendall.” Lonnie drew her name out in that slow drawl that sounded more Southern than Texan. It irritated the crap out of her—like just about every other thing about this woman—but Owen assured her it was sexy. Her sister, KC, confirmed it. Why she wasted her time trying to be sexy for Kendall was not something she would ever understand. Although at this point, it might be more a matter of reflex than actual conniving. Kendall didn’t care enough to ask.

“Mrs. Truvall,” Kendall tried to answer blandly, but despite her efforts, she could still hear the judgment dripping from the name. She supposed she was old enough now to justify calling Lonnie by her first name, but she stuck with her surname just to illustrate her point. She was too Goddamned old to be sneaking around with Kendall’s younger sister. Just the thought of Lonnie with KC made her angry enough to spit. If she thought it would help keep them apart, she’d give in to the urge. “I thought you weren’t feeling well.”

Last Kendall had seen her, Lonnie had been headed home on the loving arm of her husband with plans for him to nurse her back to health.

“Yes, well, Glen had to take care of some urgent matter at the store, so I decided to take care of the weekly shopping.” Lonnie spoke plainly for once. Not that she came right out and said the words, but at least she didn’t pretend that Kendall hadn’t caught her with KC just a few hours earlier. If there was one thing she couldn’t abide, it was the assumption that she was stupid. And there was absolutely no mistaking the sounds coming from behind that bedroom door. As much as she didn’t want to know about her baby sister having sex with a woman old enough to be their mother, that’s definitely what was happening when she’d walked up.

“So, you’re feeling better then?” Kendall should just take her things and go. The olives were the last thing on Owen’s ridiculous list. She hated this conversation more than she hated grocery shopping.

Lonnie smiled, slick and knowing. “Yes, thank goodness. It seems that whatever was ailing me has passed.”

Kendall was done playing. This woman thought it was funny. Funny that she’d been caught fucking her best friend’s baby. It was as far from funny as things got. She leaned closer, narrowed her eyes, and spoke in a low, hushed voice. “It ends now or I’ll tell Mamma.” The words came out rushed and Kendall cursed her temper. It was hard to sound intimidating when she tripped all over herself like a first year law student.

Lonnie raised her eyebrow, but looked otherwise unfazed. “You wouldn’t dare. It would destroy your mamma and your sister. You love them both too much to do that.”

Kendall squared her shoulders and channeled Dixie Carter, God rest her soul, a woman who could talk fast and make people tremble because of it. “Don’t underestimate me. Or the rest of my family. We are stronger than you can possibly imagine. And the only person I will destroy in this town is you. I will tear you apart and unveil your licentious ways. Are you ready for your husband to know that you seduced someone half your age? A woman nonetheless. What will your sons say when they learn about it? Their bodies may be in the Middle East defending our country’s interests, but their hearts and souls are still that of proud Texas men. What about your daughter? She’s still in high school, and having a hard time of it from what I hear. How much harder can school get for her, do you think?”

Kendall wasn’t actually threatening Lonnie’s husband and children, especially her daughter, Leann. She wasn’t the kind of woman to purposefully create collateral damage. But it would be foolish to think that they would emerge unscathed if news of KC and Lonnie’s affair hit the local grapevine. Those women were without scruples. They shredded lives and reputations with little thought of the consequences for their careless words. She’d experienced that first hand when KC had come out during high school. She’d do everything she could to shield Leann from that experience, but that didn’t include cowing before this woman in the middle of the damned grocery store.

Lonnie reeled back on her heal as though Kendall had physically slapped her. Truthfully, she wasn’t far from it if this continued for much longer.

“You leave my baby out of this.” She hissed the words between clenched lips.

Kendall had the advantage and it filled her with more arrogance than something this unseemly should. “I imagine my mamma would have said the same thing, given the opportunity.”

Lonnie stood to her full height and moved her cart carefully out of Kendall’s path. “You have a good day now, Kendall.”

She left Kendall standing in the aisle, shaking with indignant anger. It took her a moment to collect herself before she could make her way to the front of the store. She felt more unsettled than she had when the reality of their affair fully hit her. Lonnie knew, she knew – and assumed Kendall was too timid to expose it. Kendall was too pragmatic to go into full on attack mode. The fallout was too far reaching. But that didn’t make her timid. It made her considerate. Whether Lonnie understood it or not, this battle was far from over.

As she unloaded her cart onto the conveyor belt, she thought about the conversation she’d have with Owen when she got home. There was absolutely no doubt about it. Next time he wanted olives, he was getting them himself or she was hiring a service. This was her last trip to the grocery store.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED ANY – CHECK OUT THE OTHER STOPS ON THE TOUR – THEN ENTER THE DRAWING BELOW.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FOR JOVE BELLE

NOW FOR THE PRIZES – YOU KNOW YOU WANT THEM!

ENTER THE AWESOME DRAWING!

Over the course of the tour, Jove will  be giving away the following:

  • Five e-book copies of Love & Devotion (It doesn’t hit print until December, but don’t worry, She’ll be giving away a signed paperback then.)
  • A signed copy of Indelible
  • A signed copy of Split the Aces
  • A signed copy of Edge of Darkness
  • One set of four wine charms with a heart dangler – made by our very own Jove Belle!
  • One set of four wine charms with a cowboy boot dangler (In honor of the fact that Love & Devotion is set in Texas)

Now, entering the drawing isn’t quite as simple as leaving a comment in the space below. Feel free to do that, but know that it’s not entering you into the drawing.

For this, Jove is using a service called rafflecopter. All you have to do is click right there where is says “Click Here to Enter the Drawing” in big blue letters. Go ahead, click it. Then, when you get there, it’ll give you some ways that you can enter to win the prizes. Be sure to click on all the options, because that increases your odds of winning.

Good luck!

CHECK IT OUT – AND CLICK IT 🙂

Click here to enter the drawing

Also, Jove Belle would like a big shout out to Book Enthusiast Promotions for hosting this awesome blog tour!

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