Thursday, September 3, 2020


                    CHAPTER ONE (Unedited version)

“Chief, we have a situation,” came over the radio.
“Code?” Adrian Skehan, Alden's sheriff, asked, tapping on the steering wheel impatiently.
“Unclear. Old McPherson is seeing blinking lights in the wilderness,” Holly, the sheriff’s office dispatcher, explained. “Couldn't find a code for that.”
Of course not.
“Stationary or moving?” he asked, without even flinching.
That was something he would have never said in his previous life as a Boston police detective.
A scoff. “Stationary, boss. Stationary. We have a code for moving lights, don't you remember?”
True. They came up with it after Mrs. Hayden got into documentaries about extraterrestrial life and believed her lapses in memory had nothing to do with her fondness for cherry liqueur but that she was actually being kidnapped by aliens.
Kids playing with a laser pointer hadn't helped at all.
CIA was the code. Cherry Induced Abduction.
How he ended up in such a crazy town, where law enforcement needed a special code list, he had no clue.
Well, he did. He just didn’t want to think about it.  
“He said it’s coming from the old B&B. Sparkly, white-bluish lights.”
“On my way.”  
Probably teenagers messing around.
Alden's B&B had been closed for many years, but now that it had a new owner, it was being renovated and reopening in a couple of months.
He parked the patrol car in front of the building and walked toward the swimming pool area, where, as reported, a bluish flickering light was coming from. As he approached, he heard the chatter, the clicking of glasses, and someone yelling LOLOOO.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Dispatcher had been wrong; they did have a code for this: OG WMD. Original Grandmas Weapons of Mass Destruction. In his previous life, he'd been chasing terrorists and narcos. Now? Now he chased senior citizens. And more often than not, they managed to escape him. Not running, though, simply smiling and patting him on his arm as they faked ignorance.
The bane of his existence, Rebecca, Wilma and Greta were in the swimming pool, on the jacuzzi side, wearing very indiscreet flowery bathing caps and drinking what looked like champagne. They'd turned the lights on and the bubbles too. Music played from somewhere—one of the grannies’ cells, probably.
Man, he thought that once these bunch got Mike, Rebecca’s grandson, and Kyra, his first love, hooked up, they would have calmed down, but no.
The second they saw him, the grannies glanced at one another, each drawing in a big breath, and with cheeks full of air, dove into the water, looking like crazed chipmunks.
For the love of God.
He crossed his arms and stood by the pool, waiting for them to come up for air.
It took a while before those damn bathing caps resurfaced. He had to give it to them; for eighty-year-olds, they had great pulmonary capacity.
“Well?” he asked with a glare, his voice as stern as he could muster.
Silence. Then Wilma, the one with the flashy red cap, turned to her partners in crime. “Didn't work, girls. He's still here.”


“Never seen this place from this point of view,” Wilma said, sitting on the holding cell’s bench and glancing around. “Rather inhospitable.”
Rebecca and Greta, both on the bench next to her, nodded.
“You know what's missing? Curtains,” Greta suggested. “Some festive theme. In red. There would be no outside view, but the bars would stay hidden. Would boost morale.”
Wilma assented. “And pillows. This bench is too hard.”
And now that they were on the topic, an in-depth cleaning would do this place a world of good.
"In hindsight, it was a good decision to keep the bathing suits on,” Rebecca said.
Yep, it had been. Or they would have been facing charges for breaking and entering, indecent exposure, and giving an officer of the law a heart attack.
“He got mad this time,” Greta murmured. “The bottle of champagne didn't help.” Neither did all the run-ins they’d had with Adrian lately.
“I can't believe you arrested them,” they heard Rachel yelling from the office.
“Your granddaughter is here to rescue us,” Rebecca said, turning to Wilma. Then she frowned. “We didn't get a free phone call, like in the movies. Or did we get it and I spaced out?”
“I don't remember calling anyone,” Greta mused, shaking her head.
Neither did she, but whoever had phoned Rachel had their best interest in mind. Rebecca's grandson, Mike, would have bailed them out but would have given them a talk and taken the sheriff's side. Greta's son, Grady, would probably pay to keep them behind bars. Rachel was the only one carrying the senior flag. She always took their side, no matter what. Even when they were in the wrong.
She'd rushed to their defense when the sheriff tried to get Wilma's driving license revoked, which, taking into consideration that they were driving twice the allowed speed and about to turn into oncoming traffic, kind of made sense. In their defense, though, Wilma hadn't had her glasses on, so she hadn't seen the speedometer. And the oncoming traffic consisted of an empty street with a couple of cars parked on it.
Rachel sounded outraged. “You can't keep eighty-year-olds in a holding cell.”
“And I wouldn't have if they didn’t try to convince one of my officers to release them.”
“Since when is it a crime to try to conv—”
“Slipping him money,” Adrian cut Rachel off.
“I told you it was a bad idea,” Rebecca mumbled to her friends. “A fifty-dollar bill was too little.”  
“Trying to bribe an officer is illegal. Breaking and entering too,” Adrian stated, his voice calm. So far.
Rachel's snort was loud. And rude. “There was nothing broken, and they didn't enter the building. They just used the outdoors facilities. You could say they were rehearsing for the opening, making sure everything worked.”
Wilma looked at her friends. “Why didn’t we think of that?”
The conversation outside seemed to grow louder and louder. Rebecca lifted her shoulders. “In between the champagne and the chlorine, I ended up guzzling, I was a bit fuzzy. Still am.”
Greta pointed at the toilet in the far corner. “It's the smell coming from that. As soon as we get out of here, we're organizing some fundraiser to get this place in tip-top shape.”
Wilma couldn't stifle the laughter. “You plan on visiting often?” At her friend’s shrug, she dug into the pocket of her bathrobe and produced her cellphone. “Let’s immortalize the moment. Just in case.”
“You had your phone all this time?” Rebecca asked.
“I just remembered. Let’s do a selfie. With the bars as the backdrop. Ladies, get your duck faces on.”
“I really don’t understand it,” Greta said in a sigh. “All our lives being told small lips are beautiful, and look at us now. Right when we need them, they’ve deflated.”
“Like everything else,” Rebecca commiserated. “No lips, no boobs, no ass. Just shriveled-up skin.”
“It’s from all the time we spent in the pool, don’t worry,” Greta said.
Rebecca didn’t seem too convinced.
“Ready?” Wilma asked, interrupting. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, so she wasn’t sure the shot was centered, but she stretched out her hand, took the picture and hoped for the best. “Now let’s Tweet with the hashtags #campingwiththegirls #exploringnewfrontiers #nevertooOldtogetarapsheet.”   
“Two months,” Adrian said sternly. Wilma could almost see him standing with his arms crossed on his chest. That handsome, young face of his, frowning and getting old and crinkled prematurely. What a waste. “The B&B opens in a couple of months. Couldn't they wait?”
Rachel was raising her voice, sounding exasperated. “They don’t make long-term plans.”
“Two months is a long-term plan?”
“What do you think? They don't even buy their bananas green,” her granddaughter all but yelled, her tone aggravated. Wilma could also see her in her mind, standing as tall as possible, on tiptoe, probably, facing off with Adrian. “This is an abuse of authority.”
Rebecca turned to Wilma. “I love your Rachel. You really got lucky in the grandchildren department.”
Wilma knew. She'd missed her granddaughter's childhood because of the divorce, but Rachel had gotten in touch with her ten years ago, and when she decided to move to Alden, Wilma had been ecstatic.
“Like you can complain with Mike,” Greta said to Rebecca. “You’re both lucky. I struck out.”
Greta's son was no fun. Her grandson, Connor, was a sweetheart, but he was in the military and was very seldom in the US.
“I remind you I'm already taking care of all the police cars’ maintenance.” Rachel’s voice was getting louder by the second.
“Three cars. Do I have to remind you what the OGs did to make that happen?”
Greta and Wilma stared at Rebecca, who whispered, “What?! That was an accident. It could happen to any one of us.”
“Wait a second.” There was a pause, and then Rachel cursed. “You have them in their bathing suits and wet robes? What are you thinking? They’re old. They could get a cold and die,” Rachel reprimanded him.
Good attempt at guilt tripping. It might have worked with other police officers, but Adrian was too seasoned. The OGs knew; they’d tried it before.
Adrian snorted. “They won’t. Viruses don’t dare mess with them. And it’s not my fault they decided to drive there in their bathing suits and without any spare clothes. Wait, how do you know…”
“They’re Tweeting from their cell, that’s why. You have them half-naked in there.”
Oops… and Wilma thought she’d pointed the camera at their faces.
“I’m going to sue you,” Rachel continued. “The whole department. This is misuse of power. Abuse of authority. Human rights violation. Whatever it’s called.”
From then on, Wilma couldn’t make out the words, because both were screaming. After a short while, the door from the corridor opened, and Rachel marched in, followed by Adrian.
“How good to see you, dear. You're here to bail us out?” Wilma asked, as the sheriff began unlocking the cell.
Rachel had her arms crossed, her lips pursed, and was giving him the evil eye. “I'm afraid not, Grandma.”
Adrian opened the cell and, to their surprise, pushed Rachel in and closed the door behind her. “She’s being charged with disorderly conduct.”
“Disorderly conduct, my ass,” she replied. “This is contempt of cop.”
The sheriff ignored Rachel. “The phone, ladies,” he demanded, stretching his hand out to them.
Wilma harrumphed but gave it to him. “Don’t take it out on poor Walter. He was scared of frisking me.”
“Have a great evening, ladies," he said as he walked away. “See you tomorrow.”
“Now what?” Greta asked when they were alone again.
The four of them sat on the bench.
Wilma sighed. “Now we wait until Mike logs on to Twitter.”


The next day, Rachel stomped down the stairs of the Town Hall, the OGs in tow, Mike behind them.
“Sentenced to community service,” she said, fuming. “At age eighty. For breaking and entering and attempting to bribe an officer of the law. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
Her grandma and the other two culprits turned to each other and shrugged. No, not ashamed at all.
“It could had been worse,” Wilma admitted.
“Really? How much worse?”
“We could have been naked. Skinny dipping at our age is probably considered two offenses. Indecent exposure and attempted murder. If we got community service now, imagine what we would have had if we gave the sheriff a heart attack.”
“And we had a hostile judge.”
“Well, if you wouldn’t have reprimanded him.” Although Rachel understood her grandma. Who could look seriously at a judge when you’ve changed his diapers? All in all, they had been lucky. Alden only had two judges, and Greta had had an altercation during bingo with the other one, who was infamous for holding grudges.
“They have a point there,” Mike admitted, trying very unsuccessfully to stifle his laugh. “The judge was a jackass.”
“Not helping, Mike. You’re taking this rather well.”
He lifted his hands. “As they said, it could be worse.”
Since hooking up with Kyra, Mike was much more relaxed. A year ago, he would have hit the roof and lectured them, too.
“I see. Our grandmothers are going through their bucket list, and the only one worried here is me.”
“Oh, I’m worried,” Mike interjected. “I’m worried you seem to be going through the same list too. Need I remind you that you also got arrested?”
“We appreciate all you do,” Wilma said, patting Rachel on the arm, “but you have to recognize you were not too… inspired when you started a brawl with the sheriff.”
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” Greta offered.
True. Although she was sure a ton of honey wouldn’t be enough to sweeten that sour-ass sheriff of theirs.
Disorderly conduct charges. Apparently to yell at a sheriff and threaten to cut his balls off was a punishable crime too.
“What exactly is a bucket list?” Rebecca asked, turning to her grandson.
“A to-do list before one kicks the bucket,” he explained. “Get a tattoo, try bungee jumping. Shit like that.”
The faces of the three ladies brightened.
“Not helping. At. All,” Rachel punctuated, cutting him short.
Greta’s eyes went big. “Oh, that’s a great idea. Not the jumping. The list.”
Both her friends nodded.
Mike seemed to have finally realized his mistake and tried to change the subject. “What were you doing at the old B&B?”
“We promised Audrey that we would go for a swim when the place reopened. She would have been so pleased to see her beloved business up and running again.”  
“You could have waited until it actually reopened,” Mike suggested. “We would have avoided all this mess.”
“Audrey would have wanted it like this, I’m sure,” Wilma answered.
Rachel was sure too. Audrey had loved mayhem as much as her friends, or so she’d been told. “Well, it’s not Audrey dealing with the aftermath, it’s me, so no more shenanigans. Please. I’m already in the doghouse with the sheriff as it is, I don’t need any more trouble with him.”
Stickler for rules, the jackass.
In the first seven years she’d spent in Alden, she could count with the fingers of one hand how many times she’d talked with the old sheriff, a very accommodating, sweet man, but then her grandma and friends had decided to regress to their teens right about the same time the new sheriff had stepped in. Now, because of all their run-ins with the law, she had Adrian’s number on speed dial. And he had hers. She spoke with that jerk more often than she did with her mother. Well, not so much talking like a sane, balanced thirty-four-year-old would, but more so scolding and yelling like a nut. Or begging and apologizing, or everything all at once, depending on the situation. Which always had her at a disadvantage.
“Complain all you want about Adrian, but you were lucky he called me to bring clothes for the OGs; otherwise, they would have appeared in front of the judge in their bathrobes and impressive caps. That wouldn’t have helped your case either, Rach.”
True. Mike was not big on Twitter or social media. There was no chance he’d have seen their message in time.
“Are you coming with us to the gym?” Mike asked. “Today is Wednesday. Self-defense class. You could take out your frustrations on the guys.”
“No, thank you.” There were two self-defense classes at Haddican’s, the first one for seniors. She had already had enough of crazy grandmas for a day. How Mike could deal with them en masse, it was beyond her. If she’d have time, she would love to drop by Kyra’s dance studio, Alden’s Dance Factory, where Mike’s wife and Sara, Mike’s sister, held dance classes, but she was extremely busy today, not to mention, she wasn’t the most feminine person in the world. Pole dancing when you smell like petrol and your nails are dirty with motor grease? Not that sensual. “The boys are waiting for me in the garage, we’re swamped. Maybe another day.”
Wilma shook her head reprovingly. “You spend all your time in that garage of yours.”
“Cars don’t repair themselves, and they don’t talk back and argue, either,” she said, that last part in a barely audible mutter.
Her grandma ignored her completely. “How is it going with the dating service? Did you find any interesting candidates?”
Mike turned to Rachel; his brow pinched. “What dating service?”
“They signed me up for one of those dating apps,” she explained. “They faked my profile like you wouldn’t believe it.” By now, Mike’s frown had disappeared and he was laughing. Or so she thought, because he’d covered his face and his shoulders were shaking. Either he was laughing or crying. She had a good hunch which one of those it was.
“It’s what everyone does, honey,” her grandma justified herself. “They all exaggerate a bit.”
Rachel looked at Mike, whose face had resurfaced. Yep, laughing his ass off. “Exaggerate a bit? The only real thing on there is my name. You guys even uploaded a picture of me from ten years ago. I’m the youngest looking thirty-four-year-old in existence.”
“Correction. You’re twenty-nine,” Rebecca explained. “We heard thirty is the tomb for dating.”
Wilma assented. “Besides, what could we do? You’re always in the garage, with those greasy coveralls. We can’t upload a picture of you working under a car. It’ll scare the candidates.”
Why on earth Rachel had taught the OGs how to use their smartphones, she didn’t know. One thing was clear: she had no one to blame but herself.
“Results are what matter the most,” Greta decreed. “So, have there been any, honey?”
“Nothing promising yet,” Rachel muttered, “so don’t get your hopes up.”
She could tell them about the dates from hell she’d gotten from that app, but she feared the OGs weren’t ready for so much gruesome reality. Besides, they did mean well. It wasn’t their fault the world of dating was a cesspool.
“Now I’ve got to go,” she said, and, after kissing her grandmother, Rebecca, and Greta, she took off in the direction of her business, waving at Mike. “If they get into trouble, it’s on you. I’m off duty.”
She heard his chuckle and a ‘You got it,’ before turning the corner and entering the garage.
Rachel went straight to her office. She loved her grandma and the other OGs, but she was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to keep up with them and their shenanigans today. Man, and she thought she’d never step foot inside another cell or courtroom. Ha. Think again, Rach.
“So, boss, how did it go? You going to prison?” Rico asked, peeking out from the door, a smirk on his smudged face.
“Worse,” she said, dropping into a chair. “Community service. I have to teach mechanics to a bunch of juvenile delinquents.”
Rico looked at her and burst out laughing. “Is the judge trying to put you away for murder?”
Probably. Rachel wasn’t the most patient, most diplomatic person in the world. Far from it. Add a group of unruly teenagers to her garage and disaster was bound to happen. “All this is Adrian’s doing, I’m sure.” He was the one trying to reinsert the thugs back into society. Convicting her for murder was just an added bonus.
“The sheriff wants to keep them out of trouble,” Rico said.
“Why the heck doesn’t he take them in at his office to help? He’s always complaining about being short-staffed.” Rico gave her a duh-look and she sighed, resigned. “I know, I know. Those delinquents would burn down the police station, so we get them instead.”
“Look at it this way,” Rico offered. “They might not know how to repair a car, but stripping it bare and reselling the parts, they must have down pat. It’s a start.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


 Hello my lovelies, check out the cover for Grease Babe. Isn't it gorgeous? I know you've waited forever to read about the OGs, but fret no more: Grease Babe releases September 14th!

Alden is not only home to the gorgeous Bowen brothers, but also to the OGs, three hilarious octogenarian grandmas who believe age is nothing but a number. After their success helping one grandchild find love, they’ve decided to move on to the next. Nothing will stop them. Not even jail…

Rachel’s upbringing was rough, but at 34, she loves the life she’s built for herself. She adores her grandmother, Alden, and her job as a mechanic. Now, if her grandma and her friends would just stop getting into trouble, everything would be perfect. She’s doing her best to keep them on the straight and narrow, but she spends more time arguing with the sheriff than working in her garage. Case in point the OGs’ latest stunt, which got all of them, Rachel included, sentenced to community service. So now she has to keep an eye on the crazy grannies and on the street teenage thugs she’s been court-ordered to teach mechanics to.
And all thanks to the sheriff and that huge, unbendable stick up his ass.

Adrian Skehan, a top-notch detective in Boston, enjoyed putting dangerous criminals and drug kingpins behind bars. He loved his fast-paced, glamorous city life, but after his estranged grandfather had a major stroke, he moved to Alden, became the sheriff and now he spends his days chasing after senior citizens and dealing with the OGs  and Rachel, their obnoxious defender.
Terrific career move, really. Way to screw up his life. And his mental wellbeing.

As if life wasn’t hard enough, now the OGs have decided to work on their bucket list… meaning the granddaughter and the sheriff must join forces to survive the mayhem.
He likes his women… ivory-tower delicate. Not loud, highly opinionated and smelling of gasoline.
She likes her men… easy-going. Not arrogant know-it-alls and sticklers for rules.
Keeping these two together is a recipe for disaster. Too bad the OGs don’t see it that way.
Pre-order your copy from Amazon:
Add it in Goodreads and BookBub 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

STARTING POINT- First chapter

Starting Point, a prequel to the Doomsday Preppers series is going to be live on June 16th.
Here you have the first chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Somewhere in the north of Minnesota, outside a remote cabin, in the middle of winter…

All things considered, dying of exposure while watching a star shower beat the hell out of kicking the bucket in a hospital, staring at an IV drip. Being drunk also helped.
Gaze on the sky, Megan reached for the glass of wine on the wooden table by her chair—and knocked over the almost-empty bottle of chardonnay. Oops. She looked down, but whatever liquid it contained had spilled already, leaving a dark splotch on the crisp white snow. Oh, well, too bad. She was too drowsy to move. She knew she should be freezing—heck, she probably was—but she couldn’t feel it. If anything, she felt warm and cozy. It was the booze, undoubtedly. One could always count on booze to make things better.
A pity she didn’t have a pen and paper handy. She would have liked to say goodbye. That was the downside of accidental suicides: no planning. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, and nor could a dead woman walking.
She raised her glass to the sky. “To you, Jess. I tried, girl. Crashed and burned, you might say. Make room up there, because I’m coming.” She tossed back the remaining wine, liquid sloshing over her hand.
It had all been so innocent, so unintentional. After turning off the lights in the rental cabin, she’d come out armed with a quilt, a bottle of wine, and a glass, ready to watch the star shower. A shame she hadn’t thought about taking the key too. Or her cellphone. Of course she’d lock herself out of a totally isolated cabin in the middle of winter.
She was hallucinating already, because she could see Jess’s reproving face staring down at her. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t give me that look, sister. I did try. You saw me trying. That frigging cabin is impenetrable.”
She’d tried smashing out windows with a snow brush, a rock—heck, even this Adirondack chair. Not a crack. The chimney was too narrow to climb down, even for her. She’d been able to break out a car window, but she had no clue how to hotwire the damn thing and there was nothing in it that could help her anyway. She could have crawled into the trunk to conserve heat for a little while, but she had no intention of dying huddled in a trunk, missing the star shower.
“I suppose I could try building an igloo,” she mused to Jess’s apparition. “But who the fuck are we kidding? You know I was never one for the National Geographic Channel. I wouldn’t know where to start. So this is it. Deal with it. I have.” The closest town was too far away. She hadn’t seen any other cabins driving up here, no neighbors to go for help. Even if she’d manage not to get lost in the forest, a huge if at that, she’d never make it to civilization on foot, so she’d resigned herself to the inevitable. When the universe gave you lemons, right?
Never mind that the universe had been giving her lemons all her life and she’d been guzzling down bitter lemonade nonstop. It was time to show the universe the finger and use those damn lemons for downing tequila shots. Figurative ones, that is.
She hadn’t had this in mind when she rented the cabin. She’d come here to view two scheduled star showers in solitude and comfort. The plan had been to move on afterward, make the most of the time she had left for as long as she could. Apparently, destiny had other plans. The story of her life.
All and all, Minnesota was as good a spot as any to bite the big one. She had very fond memories of this place, having spent a great summer here eighteen years ago, when she was thirteen. And she loved the cold. She’d rather die from that than the alternative, thank you very much.
Megan just felt sorry for the owner of the cabin. What a shock it would be for the old lady when she came up and found her tenant turned into a Popsicle. Hopefully the hefty deposit would cover her trouble.
And Logan. She felt sorry for him too. Regretted the way things had ended with her brother—the time apart, not even texting. Death had one good side: it put everything else in perspective. She should have kept her big mouth shut. He’d been happy living a lie. Who the heck was she to intrude on that?
She could still see Jess in the sky, shaking her head. “Try harder, damn it.” Hey, auditory hallucinations too—rude ones at that.
There was no fooling her old friend. Jess knew Megan had thrown in the towel. The impenetrable cabin was just a shortcut fate had tossed in Megan’s lap. Crumbs, for which Megan was secretly happy. Jess disapproved, clearly. Well, tough shit.
Her gaze strayed to the dark splotch in the snow. Maybe she could have left a note written with wine on the snow. Nah, her decision to drink the booze had been the right call. No one should be forced to die totally sober. It was bad enough that she had to do it alone. Then again, everyone died alone. With the difference that most couldn’t choose how and ended up hooked to machines and drips. At the mercy of doctors and sedatives. She was going out in style and on her own terms, something very few people got to do. For this, she should be grateful, really.
And her affairs were in order. Mostly. Her brother would get a hell of a shock, her parents too, but that couldn’t be helped now. And on the long run, they’d be better off. She’d already drained them enough, emotionally and financially.
A momentarily pang for all she was going to miss clenched her stomach. There was so much she hadn’t had time for. Normal, everyday shit. Getting married. Having children. Living in a small town where everyone got in your business. She and Jess had loved to watch TV shows about small-town America. They’d dreamed about traveling the country and finding a place.
They hadn’t had time.
Jess had loved Korean dramas, and they had talked about visiting Korea too. But now that Megan was alone, she wasn’t up for living her last months in a faraway land, at the mercy of Google Translate.
Megan took a long, deep breath, the sharp cold not hurting her throat anymore. She was ready for this. She’d made her peace with the cards she’d been dealt. She hoped that wherever she ended up, there was a muscular hunk to welcome her. Screw the white-bearded old man asking if she’d been good. She wanted a ripped, well-hung stripper, tattooed up to the eyeballs, rubbing against her and asking if she’d been naughty. She still hadn’t identified which afterlife she should pray for to get that, but she was positive God was a woman, so her chances seemed good.
She opened her wool jacket and kicked off the quilt, feeling too hot. She would have liked to continue watching the star shower, but her eyes were so heavy, she couldn’t keep them open. The wineglass slipped from her numb fingers. The last thing she saw were two shooting stars dancing in the forest.

Dead tired and cranky as hell, Alec was driving home long after sunset when his cell beeped. Sean. He turned the hands-free on. “Talk.”
“Yo, how’d it go? I heard your message about the hunting trip being cut short. Just checking you didn’t murder our clients and bury them in the middle of the forest. Although if you did, I’ll totally understand. Just send me the location and I’ll come with a shovel.”
Ha. Ha. “Let’s set some things straight, asshole: do you understand the concept of a silent partner?”
Sean laughed. “One that doesn’t talk much? You, for example.”
Alec prayed for calm. “Do not overbook your little expeditions ever again. Ever.”
The punk was going to be the death of him. The deal had been for Alec to be a silent partner, providing capital and dealing only with survival training, not to cover Sean’s ass in hunting trips with obnoxious, bored CEOs who wanted to play tough guy.
“That bad, huh?”
Alec grunted. “Their constant bragging about kills on other trips grated on my nerves like fuck. Thank God sleeping in the woods grew old damn fast and they called it quits early.”
Alec didn’t know how Sean put up with that crap. In his place, Alec would have been sent to jail long ago.
“That’s weird.” Sean sounded confused. “They normally carry super-duper state-of-the-art tents with all the comforts. Some of them even have portable toilets.”
“Yeah, well. I took them deep into the forest. No clearings big enough to put those atrocities up. If they wanted amenities, they should’ve stayed at their hotel.” He had them shitting in the woods, hunting at night with vision goggles, and getting only a couple of hours shut eye crouching in the snow.
Sean laughed. “Oh God. I better get the complaint forms ready.”
“Don’t give a shit.” Those assholes had no respect for the life they were taking. “You know where I stand.”
“Yeah, yeah. Hunting is only acceptable as a means of survival.  Big, bad special forces dude—you were never so tenderhearted about shooting humans.”
Damn right. “Animals have never tried to shoot me.”
Sean ignored that. Like always. “You’re driving on a logging road, by the sound of it. Why didn’t you stay at the hotel in Grand Rapids? You could have rested a bit and then gone out to party. Fuck some pretty thing. God knows they throw themselves at you all the time.”
“Not interested.” Neither was his dick. Hadn’t been for a long while now. Meaningless sex was just exercise, a form of release that wasn’t worth the awkward aftermath. Too much trouble.  “It would had been tempting fate to spend any more time near those jackasses than required. I’d have shot them.” He’d been about to in the forest. Several times.
“Good call then not staying. Cops tend to frown upon murder. Future clients might too.” Sean’s voice turned a little more serious. A little. “Thanks, man. I owe you one.”
At that moment Alec noticed one of the rental cabins he managed was totally dark. One of the rented cabins. He frowned. “You owe me more than one, punk. Almost home, talk to you later.”
There were no lights on anywhere on the property, no smoke coming from the chimney, which was odd because Heather had told him a city girl had picked up the keys that afternoon. He was running on fumes, and the last thing he wanted was to smile and be polite and make small talk. Not even the star shower filling the sky could keep his interest. Still, he navigated a K-turn and drove up the hillside. He’d check that everything was in order and take the chance to introduce himself to the new tenant. Heather had great instincts about people, but she also had a soft heart and Alec liked to keep on top of stuff just in case. Ensure everything run smooth and no one took advantage of the old lady. He’d offered a million times to manage the online bookings, but Heather had refused, and Alec knew better than to insist. Her stubbornness was legendary, which had actually served her well. And him. If she hadn’t been so hard-headed all those years ago, when Alec had first come to live with her, she would have sent the angry teenager back into the system right away. She wouldn’t have been the first, either.
Hopefully this would be a fast stop. In and out. Minimum niceties. He had an overdue date with his bed, and his patience was at a historical all-time minimum.
As he approached the cabin, the headlights of his truck illuminated a small bundle lying in a chair in the front yard, arm hanging over the side. No gloves. What the fuck? There was a bottle in the snow—a glass too. A quilt discarded nearby. Fantastic.
He cut the engine and got out of the cab. Had the stupid city girl passed out in the cold, not even properly dressed? “Yo, lady.”
No answer. No movement either.
The hair at his neck prickling, he broke into a run. Shit, her lips were turning blue, and she was cool to the touch. “Wake up!” he said, shaking her and patting her cheek.
He checked her pulse. Frail, but there. He had to get her body temperature up, pronto.
Lifting her in his arms, he hurried to the porch. The cabin was locked. Damn. Thank God he always carried the master key, because he could kick this door to kingdom come and it would not give way. After some juggling to retrieve the key, he got the cabin open. Leaving the woman on the sofa, he ran to his truck, grabbed a Mylar blanket, and dashed back. The fire in the stone hearth was all but extinguished, so he threw a log on to rekindle it.
She was still unresponsive. Waiting for the fire to warm the place up was not an option, and her jeans and shirtsleeve were soaked. He yanked the wet clothes off her—wool jacket, jeans, sweater—until she was down to her underwear and a spaghetti-strap camisole, which were the only dry garments. Peeking from the upper edge of the camisole was a beautiful dragon tattoo that seemed to cover her chest. Her flat chest. This close, he couldn’t help noticing the ravages of what looked like a double mastectomy. Breast cancer? The colorful tattoo did a good job of drawing the eye, but the scars were there.
He wrapped the Mylar around her, took off his coat and shirt, and hugged her, hoping his body heat would help raise hers. Fuck, she was skinny. She might need warm intravenous fluids. If she didn’t come to soon, he’d call reinforcements.
He lay on the sofa with her on top of him, rubbing her arms and back. Keeping his cheek on her forehead, trying to assess her temperature. He was always a degree or so hotter than an average person, so in no time he was radiating heat like a furnace, and little by little her body warmed up. He brushed a strand of platinum-blonde hair away from her face. Her lips were no longer blue. Her pulse was stronger. Shit, that had been a close call.
And like that, panic turned to anger. Stupid woman. What the fuck had she been thinking? Damn Heather’s fondness for finding renters through Craigslist. As if NoName needed more weirdos.
He thought about disentangling himself from underneath her, but he was afraid that would wake her up. And if she woke up, angry as he was now, he would read her the riot act at the top of his lungs, which would freak her out. There was a good chance she would be too drunk to care, though. After all, he couldn’t tell if she was sleeping or had passed out shitfaced. The latter, probably.
Be that as it may, he’d already dealt with enough city folks and their crap today. He could use a break. And some shut-eye too. This sofa was the first soft surface he’d had under him in days. Not to mention she was the first woman he’d had over him in a very long time—but he shook that thought away. It had been an emergency. This was all about keeping her alive.
He gave another glance at the woman softly snoring on top of him. He touched her forehead again. Warm. She was going to be fine. He could relax. And he might as well catch some Zs himself, because exhaustion was catching up to him.


He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sleeping, but next time he opened his eyes, the sun was rising and the woman on top of him was nuzzling his chest. She’d managed to disentangle herself from the blanket and her little hands were feeling him up. Oh shit. So that was what had woken him. He was being fondled. And his body liked it.
He cleared his throat. “You okay, lady?”
If she heard him, she didn’t bother answering. She caressed his pecs and went back to nuzzling him. “Thank you, Great Goddess. Thank you. You nailed it. Down to the tattoos.”
Crap. His hard-on was getting bigger by the second. Now the motherfucker was interested. Being groped by a half-conscious woman was the most action he’d had in ages. Such a testament to his sex life. “You okay?” he repeated, his voice barely there.
“I am now,” she whispered, her tongue flickering too close to his nipple. “Can we skip the nickel tour of heaven? I’ve got all I ever prayed for right here.”
Alec wasn’t one for nickel tours either. He was also too much of a gentleman to take advantage of a confused woman. But he couldn’t help asking, “All you ever prayed for?”
She nodded, her sweet mouth moving up to his throat, the tips of her hair tickling his skin. Man, she smelled so good, even after getting shitfaced. Go figure. Her forehead touched his chin and she let out a moan. “Stubble. Love stubble burns. On my face. On my thighs.”
Holy crap. He closed his eyes, trying to get the situation under control. Fighting to get words out. Nothing came.
Her lips brushed over his stubble. When he opened his eyes, he saw hers. They were smoky gray. Opaque. With unbelievably thick eyelashes. He hadn’t seen such striking eyes in twenty years. Since…
He froze. “Meg?”
She ignored his question and looked around, seemingly surprised by her surroundings. A frown formed on her face. She blinked several times and then, as if something had dawned on her, she wrenched away with a surprised yell, covering herself with the blanket.
Alec lifted his arms, trying to look harmless. It wasn’t easy. After all, he had over a hundred pounds on her and was almost naked.
She glanced around again, confusion clouding her beautiful eyes. Yes, she was Megan. No doubt about it. He’d recognize those eyes anywhere. Although last time he’d seen her, she’d been a chubby thirteen-year-old with a sweet, if bossy, disposition. She’d had sparkles in her gaze, dimples in her knees, and curls in her long hair. This Megan was skinny as hell. Her face was angular, and her straight, short hair didn’t reach her shoulders. Oh, and there was no sweet disposition to be found anywhere. “What…”
“You passed out and were freezing. I brought you in.”
Again, she didn’t acknowledge his words. “I’m still here,” she whispered as if to herself.
Where the hell did she expect to be?
“Shit, it was so perfect,” she mumbled, ignoring his presence and burrowing into the blanket. “Cosmically perfect.” She looked up to the ceiling. “Why are you fucking with me? Can you please get another punching bag, thank you very much? And you”—she pointed at a corner of the ceiling—“stop laughing. Not funny.”
She was not making any sense. Then again, one of the symptoms of hypothermia was confusion. “You were freezing to death,” he explained, trying to calm her down. “If I hadn’t been passing by—”
She snorted, standing up. She wobbled, then grabbed the back of the couch and stood straight. Sweet little Meg had apparently grown to be a woman who wouldn’t appreciate him reaching over to steady her. She was still bossy, though. “Right. God save us from good Samaritans.”
“What?” Now he was the one who didn’t understand squat.
She moved aside the armhole of her camisole, by her heart, revealing a DNR inscription over the swirling dragon tattoo. “Do not resuscitate, Mountain Man. Don’t you know how to read?”
Oh. She hadn’t been confused.
Not confused at all.
He stood up and crossed his arms. Fuck trying not to look intimidating. “I was too busy saving your butt, sorry. And for the record, I didn’t resuscitate you. I just groped you until you warmed up.”
“Who asked you to? Ever heard of minding your own business?”
“You weren’t complaining while you were groping me back. Besides, a death on a property I run is my business.”
“I’m alive,” she said, shoving his jacket at him and pushing him to the door. “Unfortunate accident averted. Won’t happen again. Bye.”
He was pissed. More than that, he was stunned. There was no other way to explain how such a tiny woman managed to push him out of the cabin.
After she slammed the door in his face, he realized the master key was still inside.
She’d locked him out.

Rough, unedited, version subject to change