Is it Friday yet? Too Freaking Excited!

Teacup Dragon

Guess what everyone? The new site is almost done! Laird and I just have to make a few tweaks and it’ll be live ~ on FRIDAY!

I’m a tad bit excited, can you tell?

I know today was supposed to be the conclusion of Our Summer Adventure, but this is just too fabulous to let slip into another post. I’ll have the final installment of the story next Tuesday. Hmmm, I guess I should decide if Hannah lives or not, what do you think? Mwuahahahaaa!

Because the new site is self-hosted, you’ll have to resubscribe to the blog. I hope to see all of your smiling faces here each week! I love my readers far too much to lose track of you.

Here’s what I’ll have on Friday:

  • More RWA Swag to give away!
  • Our sweet teacup dragon’s name will be revealed! (Voting will end Thursday at 6pm Pacific, make sure you vote for your favorite name. You can do that here.)
  • I’ll be revealing a dirty little secret that I’ve kept hidden for months now. It’s time to come clean…

I’m looking forward to the party on Friday ~ see you there!

RWA Swag For YOU and Final Dragon Name Voting!

teacup-dragon[color]

Here it is, folks. The final voting for our sweet teacup dragon’s name! And, just because I love you all so much, I want to share in the RWA Swag wealth. Here’s your chance to get some of the cool stuff I brought back from Atlanta. If you don’t get the swag from today, don’t worry! I’ll have more chances later in the month. *If you do get the swag, you’ll need to send me a mailing address to receive the goods.* For every swag winner, I’ll also send a random book I brought home. Score!

Talk about fun stuff, look at all this loot!

RWA ~ Swag_1

And these are the books I brought back:

RWA ~ Swag Books

For today’s swag winners ~ the first three commenters to correctly answer the following will get this super cool Kim Killion 2013-2014 Calendar! If you’ve never heard of Kim Killion before, she does wicked book covers at Hot Damn Designs! Y.U.M.

RWA ~ Swag Calendar

  • 1) What is my daughter’s first name (correct spelling is a must!)?
  • 2) What is my dog’s name (either one is fine)?
  • 3) What is my favorite color?

Good luck and have fun! **I’m a total spaz and didn’t clarify that you only needed to answer one question! My sweet friend Natalie answered them all, so the next two commenters win by default!

Now, on to the dragon naming! I decided to go with the top five names from the first round of voting. You can see the results of the voting here. Thanks everyone for helping to make this dragon extra special!

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend. What are your plans? Has summer ended for you yet and your kids are back in school, or are you still in chill mode?

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Eight: The Key

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Wow! The summer is winding down, but the story is heating up! Keep your ideas coming, we’ve got a few more weeks until the final showdown. Don’t forget, you can catch up on all the past installments by clicking the link above for Our Summer Adventure. A special thank you to Richard Snow for giving me the idea for this week’s story. I didn’t have the gun misfire, but that got me thinking of what else could happen. I hope you enjoy it! Read on…

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Eight: The Key

Roarke snuggled the revolver against Ethan’s temple, a devilish smirk on his face. Ethan’s calm stare moved from him to his sister, the intent clear in his mind.

“Roarke, don’t do this.” Hannah pleaded, but it was too late. Roarke was committed, his finger already pulling back on the trigger.

A soft click echoed through the room, then all hell broke loose.

Rori slammed her palm against Roarke’s face, breaking his nose at the same time Ethan reached for the gun. A shot rang out, followed by a curse from Hannah. Blood spread across her stomach, staining the blue gown she wore.

“You asshole, you shot me!”

Roarke’s reply was to drag Rori from the room and into the darkness beyond.

“Go, I’ll be fine. Get your sister, Ethan.” Hannah staggered against the wall before slumping to the floor.

“She can take care of herself. We need to get you to Lilliana.” He knelt in front of her, prodding where she’d been shot.

“That hurts, you bastard.”

“I would imagine so. This won’t feel so good either,” he pressed firmly into her flesh and she cried out. “We can’t wait for Lilliana, I need to get the bullet out.”

“Why?”

“The fae can’t stand metal to be under our skin. It affects us, makes us lose our fae qualities.”

Hannah’s fingertips fluttered around her unadorned earlobe. “Would it make you appear human?”

“Perhaps. I need you to lay flat, there’s a good girl. This might sting.” Hannah drew a deep breath and nodded.

Ethan ripped her gown a few inches and delicately inserted his finger into the wound. She writhed in pain and called him several choice names. Thankfully, the bullet wasn’t deep, but it took a few tense minutes to extricate it.

“The next time I get shot, just leave it.”

He wrapped the bit of metal in his handkerchief and tucked it into his pocket. “Let’s just make certain there isn’t a next time.” Hannah started to move, but he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Relax for a moment, there’s something I need to find.”

He shuffled to the ornate desk they’d been searching when Roarke entered and pulled open the bottom drawer. Files and papers filled the entire space with nothing beneath them. He shoved the files aside, running his fingers along the sides of the drawer and then across the bottom. When he found what he was looking for, he reached under the ledge where his fingers tripped a switch.

An audible click released the false bottom of the drawer. Inside lay an intricate carving of a single branch and three leaves. It was heavier than wood, possibly wrought iron, which made Ethan chuckle with the irony.

“What’s so funny?”

Ethan held up the piece.

“You found the device. But how?”

“One of Rori’s tricks. She used her connection to Roarke to suss out its hiding place. Just before he pulled the trigger, his thought focused on this.” He turned the device over in his hand. “Do you know how it works?”

“Somewhat. I think I could get it to open the door. Help me up, we should find Rori before Roarke does anything to harm her.”

Ethan pocketed the key and helped Hannah to sit. When she stood she wobbled against him. “We’re getting you to Lilliana. Rori knows what she’s doing.” His eyes met hers, cold steel in her pale, pale face. “Hannah, it was always the plan to get Rori captured. We didn’t tell you because we knew you’d object. Now, we need to stop this bleeding or you won’t make it to the hotel.”

He ripped the lining from his jacket and pressed it against her abdomen, then knelt in front of her to remove her shoes.

“What are you doing?” Her words were a bit slurred.

“We need to get out of here without anyone suspecting anything. Hopefully Roarke is busy with Rori and hasn’t alerted his guards to us, but we’ll have to take our chances. Frankly, I’m surprised no one’s been in here yet to finish what Roarke started.” He slipped off his jacket and put it on her, apologizing with each wince of pain. She leaned against the wall looking wan, but otherwise gorgeous.

“What the hell are you doing?” She jerked her head away from his hands as he mussed up her hair. “That style took all afternoon in a salon to get.”

“Yes, and it should’ve taken me fifteen minutes in bed to undo it.” He gave her a pointed look and she grinned with understanding. No one would question her sluggish walk if they thought her drunk and recently bedded. “There’s just one more thing to make it authentic.”

He pressed his lips to hers, expertly smearing her lipstick. It was a seductive shade of red that he wouldn’t mind wearing again, and again. Except this was a job and Hannah nothing more than a means to an end.

“Wait.” She said, her voice husky, “To really sell it.” She stretched up to his neck and ran her lips over his skin, nipping at his earlobe and then giving lush grazes across his chin to the collar of his shirt. She unfastened his bow tie and loosened several buttons, kissing his chest with each one. When she finished, she looked up at him with a wicked glint in her beautiful eyes. “Ready?”

“You’re evil.”

“I know.”

Is it hot in here, or is that just Ethan and Hannah? Whew.

What the heck is Rori thinking? Why would she offer herself up to Roarke? Is Hannah using Ethan like he’s using her? Or is he just using her?

What’s Roarke hiding behind the special door?

A Day Out In Atlanta!

Downtown Atlanta at Night

Oh, Atlanta. City of humidity and grits. Of peaches and thunderstorms. How I do love thee.

Last week I told you all about the RWA Nationals Conference, so this week I’m sharing a bit of what we did when we weren’t at workshops or the bar. If you missed that post, click here to catch up!

Frankly my dear...

Frankly my dear…

You might say our day out was mostly about Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind. Honestly, I had no idea how much Atlanta loves this woman and the book/movie. I remember watching the movie a long time ago, but not much else. Seeing the props and costumes made me want to see it again, so I got it on Netflix and sat down for all four hours of it. I’m pretty sure when I watched it the first time (probably 20 years ago), I stopped at the intermission because I didn’t remember any of Atlanta with Rhett and Scarlett being married! I thought it ended with Scarlett vowing to never be hungry again. Oops.

Kate ~ GWTW MuseumScarlett ~ Green DressTara

We visited a cool little museum called The Road To Tara. There were so many great items packed into this little train depot. It was as good as, if not better, than Margaret Mitchell’s House!

After the little museum, we got hungry and ate at this shack of a place called Dean’s BBQ. It was recommended to us by the museum lady and damn! This was one good BBQ place. Don’t let the looks fool you. If you’re ever in Jonesboro, head out past the gravel place and look for Dean’s on your left. You’ll be glad you did.

Dean's BBQ Shack

After BBQ, we went to Stately Oaks Plantation. If you ask me, Tara looks an awful lot like this plantation home. The closest Margaret Mitchell got to the place was the fireplace, though. Her great grandfather helped build it. We couldn’t take any pictures inside the house, but the grounds provided loads of photo ops.

Stately Oaks Plantation HouseStately Oaks ~ Fireplace

We also went to Margaret Mitchell’s House in Atlanta. It was cool to see the original door from Tara, as well as the portrait of Scarlett in the blue gown that hangs in her and Rhett’s home in the movie. I think what surprised me most was how tiny Mitchell’s home was! The kitchen is about the size of my guest bathroom. Which isn’t big at all. No photos were allowed inside the apartment, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Margaret Mitchell HouseMargaret Mitchell House ~ Scarlett Blue Portrait

The original doorway to Tara ~ Margaret Mitchell's House.

The original doorway to Tara ~ Margaret Mitchell’s House.

Having our fill of all things Margaret Mitchell, we ventured out to a creepy old cemetery ~ Oakland Cemetery to be exact. This place is fabulous. Some of the graves date back several hundred years. I could’ve stayed there all day, but it was way too hot and humid for this Southern California girl. I wilted within twenty minutes. Yeah, I’m a total wimp. I own that.🙂

Oakland CemeteryOakland Cemetery ~ Grave StructureOakland Cemetery ~ Raised Bed

You can see more of the pictures I took in Atlanta on my Pinterest board here. As always, feel free to repin or swipe any you enjoy.

In all, I loved Atlanta. The people there are so freaking nice. And the food! Oh my. Diet wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary the entire week. I had a food bucket list and checked everything off: grits, peaches, fried green tomatoes, greens, BBQ, and chicken and waffles. My breakfast at The Flying Biscuit was so good, I took Barbara, Patricia, and Kate back there for more! The grits were luscious. Mmmm, and the biscuits and gravy? To die for. I think I need to head back to Atlanta just for some more Southern hospitality!

Where’s someplace you’ve been that you want to return for either the food or the people? Have you ever been to Atlanta? What did I miss (I need to know for my next visit!)?

I adore traveling ~ where do I NEED to go next?

***Next week I’ll have the top five (or ten) dragon names for the final voting! If you haven’t picked your favorite name, do it now! The winning name will be announced when the website goes live mid-August. Thanks again for playing along.

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Seven: The Gamble

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

This week’s installment gives us Rori’s point of view. Thank you to Kristy K James for the fabulous idea! Also, thanks for suggesting Ethan take both women to the party. I’m loving all of your suggestions, and even if I don’t use them the next week, I keep them percolating in my mind. Shapeshifter, anyone? Yeah, that was Gayle’s idea and I think it’s a good one. If you need to catch up on the past weeks, click on the page above under Our Summer Adventure. And be sure to leave a comment where you think the story should go next.

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Seven: The Gamble

Rori sauntered into the expansive foyer of Governor Roarke’s Bel Air home on the arm of her brother. He looked devastatingly handsome in his tuxedo and midnight bow tie. Of all the arguments they had the previous night, his clothing choice had lasted the longest.

Rori glanced over to Hannah, who looked equally stunning on Ethan’s right. Ethan had argued for her to remain at the hotel with Lilliana, but Hannah refused to let him and Rori go to the governor’s party without her.

“Ready?” Hannah asked, looking past Ethan to her.

Rori gave a quick nod. She was to be the bait that evening. While she distracted Roarke, Hannah and Ethan would search his office for something Hannah called ‘the device’. It was the key to Roarke’s operation and they needed it to bring him down.

Ethan flexed his arm, tightening his grip on her. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do.” For more reasons than Ethan would ever understand.

“Be careful.” He stiffened suddenly and Rori glanced up to find a man and woman, both stunning in black, turning to regard them.

“Hannah?” The man said, ignoring Rori and Ethan. “I didn’t think you’d come.” He took Hannah’s hands into his and kissed her fingertips. “I’m glad to be proven wrong.”

“Governor Roarke, I’d like to introduce you to Ethan Donovan. He works for my father, and this is Rori, his companion.”

Roarke’s eyes skimmed past Ethan to Rori, “It’s my pleasure.” He took her hands and kissed them much as he did Hannah’s, but lingered long enough she felt his breath against her skin. He inhaled then rubbed her fingers against his cheek. “You smell divine.”

The smile Roarke gave her made her insides recoil, but she giggled, playing the part.

“I see you’ve found a new playmate.” Hannah said, indicating the woman behind Roarke.

He cut her a glance then snorted. “Not here, Hannah. Not tonight. Why don’t you and your friend go get a drink. I’d like to get to know Rori a bit better.”

Hannah shrugged and pulled Ethan away from them. They disappeared into the crowd, but Rori felt Ethan’s presence, could look up at any moment and find him. He would never truly be far from her, even if they were a continent apart, she could sense his feelings. Right then they were conflicted. Not just about her, but Hannah as well.

His original plan was to use Hannah to gain access to Maxim’s vaults, but something had happened. If she wasn’t mistaken, Ethan cared for the girl, which caused Rori no small amount of concern. He’d never let his feelings get in the way of his job. Ever.

“Rori?” Roarke was staring at her and she pulled her thoughts away from her brother.

He led her through the room, making introductions to people whose names she recognized. Some were in politics, others the film industry. The gorgeous woman in black followed them everywhere, but never spoke to Roarke. Only once did he acknowledge her, and only then to send her to fetch them drinks.

“Who is she?” Rori asked once the woman left.

“No one of consequence.” His gaze flicked around the room and then back to her. “Hannah seems to have disappeared.”

“Would you like me to find her?” Rori kept her tone neutral. Ethan and Hannah were, at that moment, in Roarke’s office.

“In a minute. Tell me, beautiful Rori, how did you become Donavan’s companion?”

It took Rori a second to realize he meant Ethan. “He won me in a game of cards.”

Roarke chuckled and the sound grated down her spine. In the hour she’d spent with him, she saw every possible contrivance of hospitality, but no genuine humanity. The tales Hannah had told them were taking on new meaning the longer she spent with Roarke. Silently she willed Ethan to find what they were looking for so they could leave. The less time she spent with Roarke, the better.

The woman in black returned without drinks and whispered in Roarke’s ear. He scratched at his chin before turning his dead grey eyes on her.

“Your companion is a gambler then? I think I’d like to wager a bet with him. Perhaps I can be as lucky. Come with me.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her along behind him until they reached a closed door. Deep inscriptions etched across the surface shifted at Roarke’s touch.

Rori gasped despite herself. The door was carved from a living tree, one from a sacred grove found only in Wales.

“Have no fear, my darling. The door won’t bite. Unless you try to harm me.” His voice cut through her marrow, chilling her.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Roarke ignored her lie. “Stay close. I wouldn’t want you to wander off without me.” They moved through several darkened rooms with Roarke leading the way. The woman in black stayed behind and with each new room, Rori’s apprehension grew.

“Where are we going?”

“Shhh, not a sound. We’re nearly there.”

His grip tightened to the point of pain, but she kept quiet. A light in the next room lit up Roarke’s silhouette and she saw the grim set of his jaw. As they got nearer, Rori heard Ethan’s deep voice. She willed Ethan to feel her presence, to leave before she and Roarke got there. Cold metal pressed against her lips. “Shhh.” He raised the gun for Rori to see and she nodded.

Roarke pushed opened the door with cat-like grace. Neither Hannah nor Ethan noticed until it was too late.

Roarke’s tsk pulled their attention away from the search. “Hannah. I expected more from you, my kitten. You of all people should know I don’t keep anything important here.”

Hannah glared at him. “Let her go. She has nothing to do with this.”

Ethan stepped in front of Hannah, shielding her from the gun in Roarke’s hand. Rori heard a thundering sound in her ears, like the rush of blood, but it wasn’t her own. It was Ethan’s adrenaline. Cool, calm Ethan was frightened. For her. For Hannah. She swayed against the intensity of his feelings.

Roarke pulled her roughly up to stand in front of him. “I seriously doubt that. I think I’ll keep her, she can be your gift to me.”

“No, please. Take me and let her go.” Hannah stepped around Ethan’s bulk. A wild fear hid in the depths of Hannah’s eyes. Rori understood the sacrifice she was bartering on her behalf.

“Roarke,” Ethan said quietly, “let the women go. I’m worth ten times what you could get for them.”

“I hear you’re a gambling man, Donovan. All or nothing. What do you say?”

“What do you have in mind?” Ethan asked.

Roarke emptied the gun of all but one bullet. “If you live, I’ll let the three of you leave unscathed. If you die, I take Hannah and Rori for my own pleasures.”

“You’re mad! Ethan, don’t. You can’t risk your life for us. Please, Roarke, let them go. I’ll stay with you as long as you want. I promise not to leave. Just don’t hurt them.”

Roarke glared at Hannah. “Begging? I thought I raised you better than that. What do you care for this human trash?” He stepped beside Ethan and held the gun to the side of his head. “You disappoint me, Hannah.”

The room grew heavy as his finger pulled back on the trigger. Ethan stared calmly into her eyes, an unspoken command passed between them.

Just before the gun fired she closed her eyes.

Did Roarke kill Ethan?

RWA Nationals Wrap Up, Plus… Dragon Name Voting Begins!

teacup-dragon[color]

It’s here! The day of voting is finally here! You all gave amazing suggestions for lady teacup dragon’s name. Now it’s time to cast your vote. The poll will be open for two weeks. I’ll announce the name when the new website goes live on August 13th. I’m so excited!

Whew! That’s a lot of names for you to choose from. Thanks for helping name the dragon.

Now, onto RWA Nationals. What a week! Today’s post is all about the conference, next week I’ll post pictures and tell you about our day out in Atlanta.

Romance-Writers-of-America-2-300x49

RWA ~ Romance Writers of America is an amazing organization filled with writers at every stage of their career. From the super newbie who just decided to write a book, to the published icons like Nora Roberts. This year, I attended as a PRO member. What’s PRO? It’s RWA’s way of saying I’m serious about what I do. I’ve submitted my work to an industry professional (agent or editor), and am working toward a goal of being published. Kind of cool, right?

RWA National Conference is a whirlwind of learning, networking, stargazing, and laughing. Yes, laughing. I laughed so much last week I’m surprised I don’t have chiseled abs like the cover models on those romance novels I brought home.

Patricia Sands, Steena Holmes, Kate Wood, Elena Aitken, and Barbara McDowell. Love you.

Patricia Sands, Steena Holmes, Kate Wood, Elena Aitken, and Barbara McDowell. Love you.

What made the conference special for me this year was getting a chance to meet some amazing women I’ve known online for two years. We first met in Kristen Lamb’s online blogging class and since then they’ve become sisters to me. Barbara McDowell is my sister from a cooler mother, Patricia Sands is the wild older sister, Elena Aitken and Steena Holmes are the mischievous twins who look innocent, but always get others in trouble, and Kate Wood is the baby of the family. The one we tease mercilessly, but adore absolutely.

Added to this awesome family reunion was Tracey Livesey (whom I met last year at conference and am truly smitten with), Dara Lee Snow, Trish Loye Elliott, and Melinda VanLone (who I also met last year and roomed with in Dallas). Others filtered through, but this was the core group. They kept my happiness tank filled to overflowing all week.

Here we are looking amazing before the RITAs.

Here we are looking amazing before the RITAs.

Hanging out with my peeps was only part of the experience. Workshops were another reason I flew across ten states to Atlanta (technically it was nine, but our flight dipped over the corner of Tennessee, so I’m counting it).🙂

My favorite workshops were, surprisingly enough, on self publishing. Craft classes were a close second. It amazed me how many self publishing options RWA had this year. It’s becoming clear that the industry is taking indie seriously, and that is a very good thing.

At the PRO retreat I was inspired by the contradictory workshops offered. In the beginning session, Courtney Milan made it known that she dislikes agents and traditional publishing. A great deal. She waxed poetic on the benefits of self publishing (she’s wildly successful, by the way), and encouraged us to take our careers into our own hands. Then, the next class featured Esi Sogah from Kensington Publishing. SHE espoused the virtues of traditional publishing. My head was spinning by the end of the retreat. In a very, very good way. I loved the differing points of view as it’s my belief a writer shouldn’t pick one way over another. Being a hybrid author, someone who is open to and involved with all forms of publishing, is where I believe an author’s success will thrive.

Along with amazing workshops, I had the opportunity to meet with an editor from Tor and two agents. All three requested material from me (YAY!!!). Part of the cool thing at Nationals is that you’re there with industry people, in formal settings like my pitches, and informal, like at the bar. Laura Bradford was cruising by, so I asked her to join us and she did. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that they’re just folks, too. If you see an agent or editor, don’t be afraid to ask them to sit with you. You never know, you just might make a friend.

Laura's the beautiful brunette in the center. To her side is Elena, and hiding behind the menu is the elusive Sara Fawkes.

Laura’s the beautiful brunette in the center. To her side is Elena, and hiding behind the menu is the elusive Sara Fawkes. Notice all the men in the background? There was a Microsoft conference there at the same time. They were thrilled to be surrounded by 2,000 women!

Next year, I’m implementing my Nora Roberts Drinking Game. Every time we see Nora, we have to do a shot. Hear her name? Shot. Seriously, we’ll be drunk the entire time. Nora is a goddess at the conference. She glides through the room without her feet ever touching the floor. I didn’t get any signed books from her this year (I don’t know why since I saw her at the signing), but I did see her plenty of times to make me a little verklempt.

Nora!

Nora!

The signings and goody room! Oh man. The signings are a book lovers dream. For real. You go into this room where tables upon tables are set up. Authors are there to sign books and, time permitting, to chat with you a little. It’s heaven. I didn’t bring home as many books as last year (86), only because I had to ship them. Yes, I was sad about this. I still managed to bring home far too many. As well as a ton of swag from the goody room. I don’t have an exact count on the books, or a picture of the swag because they are still on a FedEx truck waiting to be delivered to my house.😦 Next week I’ll show you my loot.

The conference had two keynote speakers at lunch ~ Cathy Maxwell on Thursday and Kristin Higgins on Friday. Both women had excellent speeches that made us laugh, cry, and laugh some more. Their stories were inspirational, to say the least. I was sobbing like the romantic fool that I am.

Sylvia Day & Kristin Higgins

Sylvia Day & Kristin Higgins

Aside from the workshops, the swag, and the keynotes, there are parties. Each of my online chapters had a party ~ Celtic Hearts was kind enough to have theirs on Wednesday, but Thursday night was a scramble through the hotel to attend four, yes four! parties. We went from a Passionate Ink party (complete with spanking/kink demo), to Hearts Through History, over to the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal party. I ended the night at the Kiss of Death Death By Chocolate party. It was a whirlwind night, but so much fun!

RWA ~ Passionate Ink Kink Demo

Eden Bradley getting her kink on!

The FF&P table decorations. Cool, right?

The FF&P table decorations. Cool, right?

And finally, I can’t end my post without talking a little bit about the RITA Awards. These are the Oscars of romance writing. It’s a night filled with glittering gowns and golden statuettes. Christie Craig was the emcee and damn! She nailed it. Just enough humor and sass to make the evening unforgettable. I knew several of the finalists for the Golden Heart (the award for unpublished works. the RITA’s are for published books), and cheered a little too loud each time their names were read. They didn’t bring home the gold, but to me, they’re already winners. Congratulations to all of the Golden Heart and RITA finalists!

Even Superman got fancy for the RITA Awards.

Even Superman got fancy for the RITA Awards.

Next year the conference will be in San Antonio. I hope to see you there. Want more pictures of the conference? You can check out my Pinterest board! Just click here.

What’s been your favorite experience at a conference? Did you pitch? Was it terrifying or fun? What’s the one conference you’ll always attend?

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Six: The Plan

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

What an amazing week I had in Atlanta for RWA Nationals! There will be pictures and stories for you on Friday. We’ll also start the voting to name our lady teacup dragon.

But first… Hannah and Ethan are back! We left them in the director’s office, with Maxim wondering if Ethan had come there to kill him. To catch up on all the installments, you can click on the Our Summer Adventure page above, or click here for week five. Remember, this story is what you make of it, so leave a comment telling us where you think the story will go next.

Our Summer Adventure ~ Week Six: The Plan

The thought that Ethan had come there to murder her father never occurred to Hannah. As she stood stick straight, her back to the window, her gaze fixed on Ethan, she waited for his response. Ready to act.

“Kill you?” Ethan’s full lips pulled up at the corners in a friendly smile, “Not today.” Then he pushed away from the desk, his gaze going to her. “Ms. James, I’d like to go to my hotel now, if you wouldn’t mind driving me.” It wasn’t a question, but a command.

“You won’t be staying offsite, we’ve prepared a room for you here.” Maxim said before Hannah had a chance to refuse.

The smile widened, creating a little divot in Ethan’s right cheek. The impulse to kiss the dimple rocked her. The man was dangerous, assassin or no. She needed to keep her distance from him.

“That would be best for you, but I’ll stay at the hotel. I’m sure you understand my need for autonomy.”

The director regarded Ethan for several moments before he swore under his breath. “Very well. Hannah will take you wherever you like.”

“Sir, perhaps you should have someone else take Mr. Carmichael. As you said, I’m well-known to the governor. I shouldn’t be seen with this man.” Her pitiful argument fell on stone ears.

“You’ll stay with Mr. Carmichael as long as necessary.” Her father looked at her then, a silent order in the blue depths. She couldn’t deny him. Wouldn’t go against his authority.

“Excellent. Now that that’s settled, Ms. James,” Ethan held his arm out to the side, indicating she should pass in front of him. She kept her focus straight ahead, ignoring the warm scent of him. “Max, it’s been a pleasure. When will I meet with the governor?”

Her father ignored the informal address, which Hannah knew was difficult for the director. “Tomorrow night. You’ll attend a function he has planned. Hannah will be your date.”

Hannah spun around, “You can’t be serious. Roarke knows me. If he sees me with Ethan, he’ll suspect something.”

“Which is precisely why you’re going. It will unbalance him.”

A thrum of dread coursed through her. She wasn’t ready to see him again. Not after what he did to her. After what she stopped him from doing to her. Ethan moved closer and she wanted to lean into his strength, to feel his arms around her and know in her marrow she’d be safe. What had gotten into her? She didn’t need a man to protect her. Didn’t want one, in fact.

“Hannah, I won’t jeopardize your safety. Surely there is someone else.” Ethan’s breath fluttered across her cheek with each word. He was too close and yet not close enough.

She stepped away from him, from her traitorous thoughts. “No. There is no one else. Father is right, it must be me.”

Maxim watched her with those eyes that gave nothing away, but that she’d learned years ago to decipher. He was using her as bait. Again. “Tomorrow night, then.” He dipped his head in the odd way he had of dismissal. Before she turned, she caught the smallest movement of his lips. A frown, perhaps? Did Maxim Drake have some humanity after all?

She almost laughed at the thought. Of course he didn’t. Any man who could offer his daughter to someone like Roarke . . .  she stopped herself. That was the past. Since returning from the governor, Maxim had been making an effort. It was a start.

They passed the two guards on their way out. Each stared ahead, but saw everything that happened around them. The briefest of nods passed between them. A silent acknowledgement between comrades.

“Hannah?” Ethan’s silken voice wrapped around her, “Are you well?” He took her elbow as they walked down the long corridor to the elevator.

“Fine, thanks.” She moved her arm out of his grip and jabbed at the button.

“You don’t seem fine. If tomorrow night is too difficult for you, we can get someone else. Rori, perhaps.”

The idea of Rori going anywhere near the monster ate at Hannah. He’d love her. She was perfect for him, which meant Rori might be better bait than herself. Except, she couldn’t do that to the girl. “You don’t know what you’re offering, Ethan. Keep your sister far from the governor, if you want her to stay alive.”

They were silent the rest of the way through the complex. When they reached the car, Ethan slid into the front passenger seat. His proximity unnerved her. “What are you doing?”

“What if I want you to stay alive? I know what the governor is doing, Hannah and I’ve a good suspicion why you didn’t turn up in any of the files on Maxim. I’m not really here to work out a truce, as I suspect you know. How can I protect you while accomplishing my task?”

“I’m fairly adept at protecting myself.”

A wicked smile crooked up his lips. “Yes, you are. But this is different. Let me take Rori tomorrow night. You can tell us about Roarke, things only you could know. I can’t risk sending you back there.”

Hannah’s stomach spasmed out of fear or desire, she wasn’t sure. “You don’t know what you’re asking, Ethan. He’ll want Rori and what Roarke wants, he gets. If you knew the horror of that man,” she pushed aside the images that swirled in her mind, “you wouldn’t be offering up your sister so casually.” The bitterness in her tone cut through her words to her anger at her father.

“Rori knows the risks. That’s why she’s here, Hannah.” His warm hand cupped her cheek and she stiffened lest she melt into it. His thumb stroked along her jaw. “We’ll talk at the hotel and you can decide after you’ve heard our plan.”

“What plan?” Perhaps he really was there to kill Roarke. Possibly her father as well.

“Not now. We have an audience.” His glance flicked to the doorway where one of Maxim’s guards stood watching them. Ethan settled back against the seat, leaving her skin cold where his hand had been.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted more, for him to tell her the plan, or to kiss her.

Now it’s your turn. Is Ethan there to kill Roarke? Maxim? Will Rori stand in for Hannah at the governor’s party? What happens next?