So this lady acts like she’s the boss, but absolutely nobody bosses me around, except my kid. And that’s mostly because I like to win and I like to be able to give that to my little girl. But if Anna thinks she’s in charge of anything that I do, she really needs to reconsider. Look, she has enough on her hands with two little kids, a rescue dog, and her idiot cat. She doesn’t need to be in charge of anybody else, especially the hot guys she’s imagining.
- Without giving us spoilers introduce your latest and greatest novel or work in progress and let us know which it is and if it’s a WIP let us know when it goes live.
My next book, Big Boss, is scheduled to release on October 13th. It’s an age gap workplace romance featuring a former rockstar billionaire who is definitely going to fall in love with his assistant.
- What do you like best about your main character in your latest and greatest or WIP from above?
I like that my heroine is learning to embrace her differences and live her most authentic life. The way she shows her boss how to embrace who he is has a significant impact on their friendship and love story.
- Tell us a little about one of your side characters from your latest and greatest or WIP?
The heroes of this series are a group of billionaire best friends who play poker together. You’ll meet the hero of the next book in this one, but he’s in a rough place and not at his best, so be gentle with him until he gets his own book.
How did you come up with your idea for the above story?
- I loved Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club series, and wanted to write about a group of guy best friends who take care of each other even though they are all different types of men. In the first book, the hero was a single dad athlete, and in this book, he’s a former bad boy rockstar who’s trying to overcome the ghosts of his past reputation.
- What was your writing plan for this book or WIP?
Panic, procrastination, and lots of caffeine/DoorDash delivery.
- How do you handle writer’s block?
Work on a different book. When I’ve been stuck in this one (book 2), I’ve been working on book 4 (I can’t WAIT for the last book in this series).
- Do you have a secret writing ritual and what is it?
I do like to leave home during the last pre-deadline push and stay up all night and eat weird snacks.
- What is your writing snack?
I like salty snacks like Veggie Straws or cheddar popcorn. I’m also really into energy drinks when I’m working hard.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a mom and a lawyer, so I’m usually running my kids to different places or at the courthouse for my day job.
- What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn is the best. I like the change of colors with the leaves and cooler temperatures, bonfires and s’mores, and my favorite holiday (Halloween).
- What is your favorite genre to read and what do you like about it?
I read almost entirely romance (mostly contemporary and mostly queer/sapphic) and YA fantasy. I love happily ever afters and make believe, and I have loved both of these my entire life, so it’s not a surprise that these are still my two favorite things to read.
- Do you have a writer’s mission statement? What is it?
My author tagline is “escaping reality one page at a time” and this is what I always want to give my readers. I know regular life can be difficult and even depressing, and if I can give you a break for a few hours or a day, then I’m grateful to be able to do that.
- What do you listen to when you write? How does it help to put you in the mood?
I make playlists for my books, but usually, I just listen to brainFM or Endel (programs that play sounds/music that is supposed to optimize brain activity for work and creativity) when I’m writing. I can’t listen to lyrics or it messes up how the book sounds in my brain.
AUGUST QUESTION OF THE MONTH
What was your biggest failure that you turned into a success?
Last year, I truly struggled with depression, and it was extremely difficult to get back to writing. I was so sad all the time that it was hard to go to a place where people could be happy and fall in love, and I was honestly worried that I couldn’t do it. So I started small by taking care of my health first, and that helped me to get through finishing a manuscript. My last release was my best yet and has more reviews than any of my other books.
For all those writers who are struggling. I wanted to let you know that I believe in you. YOU CAN DO IT.
Cowboy’s Secondhand Heart Chapter 3
Lisa grabbed her coat close around her. It was a cold day for October, and the drizzle made it miserable. Today, Joseph and Lisa were going to paint the inside of the two-bedroom cottage about a mile down the road from the big ranch house so she could move into it. The house was beautiful, with a big yard, and it was October, but you could see the outlines of flower beds that Lisa was certain in spring would be beautiful.
When she went inside, she found Joseph in the kitchen painting it a sunny yellow color. She could smell coffee over the smell of the paint.
“Mmm, it smells good in here. Do you have another cup? … I can’t thank you enough for helping me, Joseph. It really means a lot. The place looks terrific.”
“No problem. There is a cup over there. Are you ready to get in here?” He didn’t wait for an answer but went on, “Well, everything is up to code. Mom and Dad redid the plumbing and electricity. You’ll have new appliances once we get the painting done. It’ll be like getting a new house. You’re even getting new floors.”
“It’s the best. I don’t understand why they would do this. I mean, I’m not one of their children, yet your mom treats me like I’m one of the other girls. It’s kinda nice. After I graduated, my mom and dad moved to Tucson, so I don’t get to see them very often.”
“Are you gonna stand there and talk, or are you gonna get busy and get this place painted?”
Lisa took one more sip of coffee and grabbed a roller, a paintbrush, and a can of eggshell-colored paint, and went to the bedroom. She shook the can, opened it, poured it into the roller pan, and began to cut in the corners of the room. Soon she was rolling and giving it a second coat.
Joseph came in and looked at her face smudged with paint and thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He picked up the paint rag and started wiping her face with the cloth. The electricity between the two was unmistakable. Joseph dropped the paint rag and grabbed Lisa by the shoulders so tightly it almost hurt. He pulled her close to him. Their faces were so close Lisa could feel his breath on her lips and almost taste the remnants of his coffee. Then suddenly, there were voices in the kitchen. It was Sarah and James. They had brought lunch. Joseph turned and went out the front door of the house, slamming the door and avoiding his parents, leaving Lisa to explain.
I’m not about to explain what I can’t explain to anyone, and I don’t want to share this with anyone but Joseph.
Lisa took a deep breath and went to greet Sarah and James.
“What do you think?” Lisa asked as she stood in the middle of the bright, buttery, sunny kitchen.
Sarah knew something had happened and asked, “Are you okay? You look upset. Is there anything I can do?”
James scolded his wife and said, “Leave her alone, will ya. Give her some privacy.”
“No, I’m fine. It’s just the paint fumes.”
“Well, of course. Let’s open this window and get some fresh air in here. How much painting is left to do?” Sarah wanted to know. “Where did Joseph go?”
“He headed to the hardware store to get some stuff to help us clean ourselves up.”
James ended that conversation with a harumph.
Chloe was having a sleepover at her friend Christine’s house. Joseph was free to be unusually self-indulgent, and that’s what he was. He went to the Niwot Tavern, grabbed himself a table, and settled in. He wasn’t going anywhere until he felt better or felt nothing at all. He ordered beer and shots of whiskey and waited for the numb to fall over him.
What was that? Why did I do that? Was I just about to kiss her? I haven’t kissed anyone but Jennifer since I met Jennifer in college. I can’t be this man. I can’t be this dad.
Just then, Heather, one of the local girls, came up to him, “What the hell are you doing down here in town, Joey? Are you slumming?” she asked. Heather was a petite blonde with big long hair and short shorts. She wore cowboy boots and a tight T-shirt rolled up and tied in a knot at the back.
Joseph doesn’t answer her question, “Can I buy you a drink, Heather? How the hell have you been? It’s been a long, long time.”
Heather said, “Well now, that’s downright friendly of you.”
Heather and Joseph sat at the table drinking until it was closing time, then Heather said, “We could go back to my place if you want.”
“I really should go home, but I’m tired of my mother pulling my strings. So let’s go to your house.”
Joseph was a little taken aback when they pulled up to a motor home parked next to where Heather’s parents lived. Joseph remembered a cheerleader disappearing from high school, but it was never proven that Heather had anything to do with that. Joseph was still drunk, however, and didn’t realize the danger he was in. He followed Heather up the stairs into the Coachman Catalina Summit. He watched his step and ducked his head—it was quite the feat getting inside and not hitting his head. The place smelled of hairspray and plastic.
“What can I get you to drink?” Heather asked. She did not want this party to stop.
“Do you have any Jack Daniels? That’s what I like, but I’ll take anything.”
“Great. I’ve got some beer in the fridge. Do you wanna grab a couple, and I’ll change into something more comfortable.”
Heather went to the back of the camper, and when she appeared again, she was wearing a short red silk robe with a dragon painted on the back, and that’s all. Joseph could see her various piercings and the tattoos on her thigh and stomach.
It was when he noticed the pierced labium that he felt he was in over his head and needed to go home. “Heather, I can’t be here. I don’t want to be here. I still love my wife.”
“You don’t still love your wife. It’s been years since she died. I’m just not good enough for you.”
“Look Heather, you caught me at a bad time. I was hurting and wanted to hurt someone else, and you don’t deserve to be used that way. … Goodbye, Heather.”
“If you think this is over, you’re wrong.”
With that, Joseph headed straight for his truck, the barn, and Jasper, counting his blessings.
The next night after dinner, Julia suggested a game of Cornhole, “Let’s play after Mom and Dad have gone to bed. We’ll play out in the barn, so we don’t disturb anyone. It’s Friday night, and I am so bored I can’t stand it. I need to howl at the moon.”
“Two things, Julia. I have never played cornhole before—never even heard of it, and I get weirdly competitive. I can’t help myself.”
“Do you remember the game Toss Across? It’s kinda like that, only different. We’ll teach you how to play.”
“Okay. I’ll stay up and play with you.” Lisa said, leaning forward in excitement at being asked by Julia to do something.
“What about you, Joseph? You look like a guy that needs to let loose.”
“Look, I am not a guy that needs to let loose. Just because tomorrow is Saturday does not mean that I don’t have a shitload of work to do. We have pregnant cows that are going to calf any day now.” Joseph ran a brush through Chloe’s hair.
Lisa was embarrassed she had assumed that a Friday night was a good night to get a little loose for everyone. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Joseph. I just thought everyone went a little crazy on Friday nights.”
“Oh, come on. Please, brother Joey. I do stuff for you all the time.”
“Fine. I’ll meet you out in the barn after Chloe falls asleep. Who is bringing the refreshments?”
“I’ll send Stephen. Any requests?”
“Jack and Bud.”
This is my chance to get to know Joseph better and to show him that I am just a regular person. Not that I care one way or the other.
The four headed to the barn for a game of Cornhole.
Julia gets the bucket out with the Cornhole bags, “Let’s play girls against guys.”
“That’s fine, Julia. But I want to play with you at some point tonight,” Stephen said, and then he blushed. “You know what I mean.”
Lisa wanted to get a little teasing in. “Yes, Stephen, we do know exactly what you mean.” This caused Stephen to turn bright red and turn his face away from the three. Lisa worried for a moment that she may have gone too far.
Joseph poured drinks for everyone—shots of Jack Daniels—and then he opened bottles of beer for each of them.
These guys make drinking into a sport, at least sometimes. I hope I can keep up without getting sick.
Lisa did what everyone else did. She chugged her shot and took a drink of her beer.
Joseph took the bags and handed a set to Lisa, “Ladies first.”
Lisa threw first, and then Stephen. Next Julia and Joseph. In the end, the girls won the round, and the boys needed to drink a shot. The boys won the next round.
Lisa pitched her bags. “Julia, will you teach me how to ride?”
“I’m honored that you asked. Sure, we can do something after school.” Julia pitched and missed. Her bags slid off the board.
“Come on, Julia. You gotta do better. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow with a headache.”
Joseph and Stephen pitched their bags, and it was Julia’s turn again “You guys are going down. I hate losing and losing getting drunk. No way.”
“How were things on the ranch today, Joseph?” Lisa pitched her first bag.
“They were fine, but we have a young calf with a bacterial infection over in the other barn. We had the vet out to give it antibiotics. Now, all we can do is watch and see if it takes. How were things at the school?”
“They were okay; we had one little kid I think may be on the autism spectrum. I am going to suggest to his parents that we have him tested.” Lisa pitched her last bag.
There was a terrible ruckus out in the cow pen. Joseph, Julia, and Stephen looked at each other and knew immediately what it was. Lisa was out of the loop.
“Have you ever seen a baby calf be born?” Joseph grabbed Lisa’s hand and pulled her through the horse barn out into the cool night air and into the calving shed. There were lots of cows and newborn calves. The four walked along until they came to the cow that was in labor. Joseph put his hand on the cow’s stomach.
“This calf is breech. … We need to help her. Stephen, grab some rope. You know where we keep it. Julia, your arm is long and slender. We are gonna have you put the rope around the calf’s hoof. Just tie the end in a loop, like this.” He demonstrated. “Now you reach in, Julia.”
“I know how it’s done. I just don’t know why you think I need to do it. Have you ever seen the size of an erect bull?” Julia grabbed the rope from Stephen and got down on the ground and put her hand up the butt of the cow.
“Do you got it, Julia? Do you have the calf’s feet?” Joseph was almost screaming at her.
“Yeah, I’ve got it.” Julia was down on her knees.
“Okay, Stephen. Let’s show these ladies how it’s done.” The two men sat down in the dirt and pulled the calf out. First, the back legs appeared, then then a little body, and finally a little head. The calf lay on the ground next to Joseph for a second and didn’t move.
Julia said, “Damn it. I put my arm in a cow, and the calf dies.”
Joseph grabbed the calf and gave it CPR of sorts. He held its mouth closed and blew into its nose as hard as he could. The calf started to move. Joseph stood up and grabbed the calf around the middle and helped the calf stand up.
Julia sniffed her arm, “I am never gonna get this smell off.”
The calf started to nurse, and Joseph clapped his hands together. He picked Lisa up around the waist and twirled her around. “Now you know why being on the ranch is so special. If you didn’t know before.”
The four didn’t go back to the Cornhole game. They just sat in the barn and watched the baby nurse like it was the first time they had ever seen anything like it. It was the first time for Lisa.
Lisa grabbed the last of her boxes out of storage at the Thomson Family Ranch and moved them to the cottage down the road, then waited for Adam and Joseph to bring over her furniture.
I wonder if Joseph and I will have another one of those moments today. Another embrace. Another chance to hold each other. What was that all about? I want to know. I want to look at it. I want to dissect it and do it again, only better. But what did it mean? Was there a deeper meaning behind it? What kind of feelings did Joseph have for me? … Here they come.
“Hey guys, thanks for helping me out. I’m glad you came too, Chloe.”
“Hi, Miss Lisa. Daddy said I should come, that there might be a job that I could do.”
“Hey, it’s not a problem,” Adam said. Adam was young, with dark, curly hair poking out from under a John Deer hat, which set off his blue eyes. It made him look younger than he was.
“Where do you want this stuff?” Joseph asked.
“I thought I’d put the couch in front of the window right here. And the chair over between the dining room and the living room doorway.”
The couch was a light gray color and had big puffy pillows on it. The chair was yellow, with an abstract pillow that went on it.
“I don’t have a dining room set, so I was thinking I’d set it up as a library—get some Ikea bookshelves or get an Ikea dining room set, I don’t know. What do you guys think? Do you have any opinions, Joseph? Adam, what do you think? While I decide, we can go ahead and set the bed up in the bedroom. When we’re finished, I thought we could go into town for a beer and a sandwich at the tavern.”
“Ok, we can watch the game there,” Adam said.
They worked at a fever’s pace to get everything done in time so they could go to town and watch the Broncos game.
Lisa and Chloe started in the kitchen, unboxing and unwrapping all her dishes so they could be washed and put away. The two guys carried in all the furniture and boxes and put everything in the correct rooms, and then they put the bed frame together.
“I’m finished in the kitchen and the living room. Adam, I need some picture-hanging hardware stuff. Could you go to the hardware store and get that for me?” Lisa asked.
Adam cheerfully agreed to go. “Any excuse to go into town, and I’m all over it.”
“Chloe, would you go with him and make sure he comes right back?”
Chloe was very excited to be going with Uncle Adam and to be having some real grown-up responsibility.
“Well, I appreciate it very much. I forgot to get the hanging kit when I was there yesterday.”
The two left for town, and so Lisa successfully maneuvered the situation so she could talk to Joseph about that embrace last weekend and his current attitude toward her.
“Joseph, what happened last week? What was that all about?” Lisa asked as she lay across the bare mattress in her new bedroom. Joseph was putting together her makeup table. He stopped and looked at her in horror.
“Look. I do not ever want to talk about those few seconds ever.”
“I want to understand why you did it. I think I deserve at least that.”
“Are you really that naïve? Or are you that stupid?”
“I don’t know. I have never felt that way before. I have never had a man touch me like that. Your feelings—explain what’s going on.”
“I can’t get you out of my mind, and I can’t do anything about it. I’m still in love with my dead wife, and I have a daughter that I am very protective of.”
“Not that it matters, because I couldn’t do anything about it either. I can’t date a student’s parent. It would be unethical. But more to your situation—I would never try and replace your dead wife. I think the more you love, the more room you have for love. … Exactly what do you think I would do to Chloe, who I have already gotten quite close to?”
“Well, Lisa. It’s a good thing neither one of us has to worry about it,” Joseph said, hoping that would put an end to the whole conversation.
“Why did you grab me like that and hold me and look into my eyes with such intensity that I thought you could see right into my soul? Why did you get me so wrapped up? It does matter to me that you did it.”
“I was tired, and I just lost my self-control.”
“You need self-control to keep your hands off me? That’s hard to believe. In fact, I don’t believe it at all. We were about to kiss. That’s what we were about to do. …”
Joseph grabbed Lisa by the shoulders again and looked into her in the eyes with that same intensity. “Lisa, you’re incredibly beautiful in your innocence. That makes you beautiful. You’re strong. That makes you beautiful. And you’re accomplished. That makes you beautiful. You are just incredibly sexy. I could also say it’s your auburn hair or your gorgeous green eyes, but it’s more than that. I think you’re sexy the way you are with Chloe, and then in an instant, you’re making Pop-Pop laugh. You are so special. But neither one of us can do anything about it. That’s that.”
“No, I can’t do anything about it. You can do something about it. You just choose not to.”
“It doesn’t make any difference. You can’t do anything about it if I choose.”
“You’re only my student’s father for another seven months.”
“This is a small town, and word is going to travel fast if we get caught, and we will get caught.”
“Let’s think about it. I have more to lose than you do. … What would we do about Chloe? It doesn’t feel right to keep a secret like this from her.”
“I don’t know if I have the courage for this.”
“We’ll tell everyone we’re just friends. That way we can see if we like each other enough to take it to the next level.”
Adam and Chloe arrived with the picture-hanging hardware. With the bedroom all set up, all that needed to be done was that the sheets and blankets needed to be put on the bed and the house would be livable.
“Someone said something about sandwiches at the tavern so we can watch the Broncos game for a while. I’m starving,” Joseph said.
“We’d better get your dad some food, don’t you think Chloe? Should we make him wait while I make the bed, or should we just go?” Lisa said teasingly.
“Let’s go. I’m hungry. I want wings.”
Everyone loaded into the pickup truck and headed for the Niwot Tavern. It was very busy, so they had to wait for a table in the bar. Adam and Joseph each had a beer, and Lisa and Chloe had Cokes.
They had just settled into their seats and gotten their drinks when a little blonde who was very drunk came over to the table, “You’ve got some balls coming back here and bringing your family. You don’t think I’m gonna tell them where you were the other night—after you helped that school teacher paint her house. That’s right, little girl, your daddy was fucking me. Or rather, fucking me over. You see, he came to my place to do the deed, and then Mr. High and Mighty decided he was too good for me and left me there with two open cans of beer,” Heather spoke in a slurred montage.
The manager came over and apologized, “Someone get her outa here. … Heather, you can’t come back here to drink anymore.”
Lisa looked shocked but didn’t say anything.
Chloe said, “Is that where you went when we couldn’t find you after you painted Miss Lisa’s house? What is fucked?”
Adam said, “Man who Heather WOW! You must have been drunk. I won’t tell Dad. Chloe, you don’t tell anyone either, okay? This needs to be a secret.”
Joseph just sat there in total disbelief. “Man, I’m really embarrassed I’m sorry you just witnessed that tirade. Hey, Chloe let’s not mention it at the house, okay?”
“I’ll get him something a little stronger to drink,” Lisa suggested, as she left for the bar. When she came back, she was clutching a Shirley Temple and three shots of Jack Daniels.
“Word at the bar is she’s not through with you. You got her thrown out of the bar where she likes to drink. Now you’ve made an enemy,” Lisa said.
“Oh, everyone in this bar saw. By the time we get home, Mom and Dad are gonna know what happened,” Joseph buried his head in his hands. “At least she won’t be able to do another one of these surprises.”
The food came, and everyone ate and enjoyed themselves as much as they could. Chloe chattered away about Halloween, which was coming up, and Joseph and Lisa sat quietly listening to her exuberance. Adam was totally into the game. Finally, the food was gone, the game was over, and it was time to go home.
Joseph drove with Lisa sitting next to him and Chloe and Adam in the back seat. I have to talk to her again. I have to know what she thinks? How does she feel now that she knows about Heather? I have to explain Heather and my mother’s matchmaking. I’m not sure that Lisa will understand, but I have to try.
Lisa said, “I always hate the first night by myself in a new place. All the strange noises that you have to get used to.” She was hoping that Joseph might pick up on her hint and come by and keep her company.
When Lisa got out of the truck, she reminded Joseph that he was on the Harvest Festival committee and they had a meeting tomorrow after school.