About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stop Making Excuses and Open Yourself to Success #AmWriting

You wrote a book, now what? You start researching cover artists and editors and freak out about the costs. You say things like, "I need to know I'll make back the money before I shell out anything." Well, here's a hard truth for you: no one can promise you that you will make back the investment right away or ever, especially if you don't do your part with marketing (which may cost some money as well).

But the real question is, why do you think this way? If you have a full-time job and writing is your hobby, think of all the other people with hobbies who invest money on memberships, equipment, travel or what-not to participate in them. Do they ski because they want skiing to pay them back at the end of the day? No. Do they spend a day golfing and expect to be paid when they finish eighteen holes? No. Do rock climbers stress out about spending money on ropes and safety harnesses before they tackle the mountain? No. Even runners invest money on the proper shoes so they don't get shin splints, but do they expect to be financially paid back for those shoes just because they want to run? No. Why? Because hobbies reward you with joy, satisfaction, and an escape from your day-to-day life. That's why they are called hobbies. 

Nothing wrong with writing being your hobby--in fact, it's smart. But are you putting too high of expectations on your hobby? It's not a dirty word, you know--hobby. It doesn't mean your novel isn't good or that you aren't committed. Don't let ego sabotage you.
I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding.

Am I suggesting you shouldn't want to make money from your books? No, just the opposite actually. I'm stating that your expectations are a bit whacked and perhaps you need to take a moment to look at them from another perspective.

If writing is your full-time job and you're still bitchy about shelling out for editors, cover artists, and paid advertising, then I ask you: what kind of special snowflake do you think you are? All businesses have operating costs. All businesses invest in themselves to succeed.

The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

If you're not earning enough as a writer to afford normal business operating costs, then you need to find a supplemental job to support you as you get off the ground. There's nothing wrong with that--it is simple common sense.  Many people work multiple jobs while launching their own business and don't quit until they are financially stable. It's called rocking the side gig. If you go to a restaurant in Los Angeles, for example, most of the waiters will tell you that the are actors waiting for their big break. But what are they doing in the meantime? They're working jobs to pay the bills, they're going on auditions, they're investing in head shots, taking acting classes--they are hustling and putting money into their dream! Does that make them less talented? No, it makes them smart.

Writers are the only group of people I have met who expect to make money without spending anything or who think their hobby owes them something. The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers. If you're blessed enough to know how to write, to complete a novel, to have been immersed in creativity, then it's your obligation to that gift to nurture it and invest in it--and to let go of all expectations after that fact.

The key to success in any creative profession is to keep moving forward at all times. Want to make money as a novelist? It's completely possible, but you need to keep writing, keep putting yourself in front of people, keep striving to be the best you can be, keep investing in yourself. You also need to lighten up about it. The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.

C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it. 

I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding. Normally, when confronted with this type of person, I'll ask what they do to market themselves. They usually respond with free things like Facebook groups or tweeting teams, things that are known to have very low return. If I ask about paid advertising, they always screech about wasting money. Same thing when asked if they hired a professional editor or cover artist--nope, they can do it themselves, they respond. But they are not succeeding in the way they want because they are not investing in it--and they won't because they are stubborn and determined to struggle.

Yes, I mean it when I say they are determined to struggle. They are getting some kind of satisfaction--even if subconsciously--from struggling, from complaining about being lost in the mix, from whining about book prices, or making excuses about the ever-changing publishing environment. Perhaps they see it as paying their dues or their curse as a storyteller or maybe struggle gives them permission to be mediocre because why try harder if they aren't making money at it--that's all nonsense.

In my mind, I can think of at least a dozen authors I know who are making over $10,000 a month. Are they famous? Not in the big scheme. What are they doing to separate themselves from the pack? Investing in their career and embracing the joy of being a writer. Not one of them can be heard whining about how hard it is or making excuses as to why they aren't a millionaire yet. They're doing the work, investing in ads, delegating editing and artwork to other professionals so they can keep working on their next novel, automating or hiring out social media marketing, and making money every single month.

Depending on whether writing is your hobby or full-time job, you need to understand that it owes you nothing. You were blessed with the inspiration and dedication to sit down and do the work of storytelling. That's your reward. Want to make money from it? Good, but are you willing to invest like every other artist and business owner in the world does?

The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers.

I'm not sure why writers are unique in this attitude, but they seem to be. I've known musicians who have CDs and play in the band on the weekends at gigs all over Colorado who never complain that they aren't making enough money to do it full-time. They don't stop investing, though. Neither do artists I know who spend money on tables at art shows and use their last dimes to buy supplies knowing that their return on investment will be uncertain. Yet I know far too many authors who cry at the price of an editor or a cover artist and won't spend a dime until they "are making money from their books."

And the irony? Most of those authors are listing their books at .99 or free to "gain exposure" while they lament that they are dirt poor. C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it.

The hard truth is: to make money, you must spend money. Yes, choose wisely on what ads to purchase and where and what editor or cover artist to hire. But if you're one of those who stubbornly refuses to do so, then don't whine about poor book sales or bad reviews. You were chosen by inspiration to tell a story--which is a gift in and of itself--and then you chose to drop the ball. There is no one to blame but you in this scenario.

And if you did hire an artist and an editor but then failed to invest in ads or put the time in with marketing, the blame is also solely on you. Not writing your next book until the first one pays out? That's a crime against creativity.

As we begin a new year, think about what you are willing to invest in your writing career/hobby, make a budget of both time and money, and stick to it. Stop making excuses and start seeing possibilities.

Write on!
Amber Lea Easton

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Never Underestimate the Power of the Cuddle Factor #Pets #Dogs

Sometimes all you need is a good dog hug. You know what I'm talking about--you've had a really bad day, everything that could go wrong did, and your pup leans into you in that way only a dog can that says, "You are the most awesome human being on the planet and I love you."

The past year has been really tough on me. I hit rock bottom. Until this year, I actually never realized what "rock bottom" meant... now I know and it's been a nightmare. My dogs have literally saved my life.

When I felt like giving up, they'd cuddle against me and look at me as if reassuring me that they had faith in me to take care of them, to get us out of this bad situation.

When I'd cry, they'd drop a ball at my feet and wag their tails in anticipation of fun. And you know what? I'd laugh and play.

Pets live in the moment. Their love is unconditional. A simple wag of a tail can lift your spirits. A cuddle can mean the difference between despair and hope.

A few months ago, I broke down. The insanity of 2016 had finally taken a toll and I didn't know what more to do to turn things around. Moose (the dog above with the stuffed animal) came up to me, wrapped her paws around my neck, and leaned hard against me. She's a sensitive soul, an earth angel. I hugged her tight and cried--she felt like the only friend I had at the moment and her affection steadied me.

No one can ever tell me that dogs are "just animals." I refuse to believe it.

I've been blessed with many dogs in my life. The two pictured above are puppies--Willy is two years old and Moose is three. Before them I had a yellow lab named Taz who died at 12 and an Australian Shepherd who died at 11--I'd had them from the time they were a few months old until they died in my arms. They were there when the kids were babies and when my husband died--Taz and Dusty were the dogs who shaped my children's lives. Willy and Moose are the dogs who are part of my empty nest period, the dogs who will see me through the next chapter of my life, who will walk beside me no matter what.

That's the thing with dogs...they hang in there no matter what. A lot of humans can't say the same thing.

RIP Dusty--July 3, 2003 to May 12, 2015

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

No Better Time for a Second Chance than the Holidays #Thanksgiving #Romance Hop

The end of the year, Thanksgiving is already here and we're headed full-speed toward 2017! Whew! I love this time of year for one reason: reflection. How'd it go? Did I succeed at what I wanted to do? Did I laugh enough? Did I cry too much? Did I fuck up? Whatever my answers, I am grateful for the chance to keep trying, to live another day, to decide differently tomorrow, to make a new goal, and to celebrate all that went right.

I've cut out a lot of people from my life this year, but I'm not sad about it. I'm grateful for being clear enough about what I want to make decisions that are best for me. There was a time when I'd settle for being slighted, ignored--a time when I'd hang on to toxic people for the simple reason of not wanting to be alone. Now I'm really happy to have the strength to honor myself enough to say 'no more' and to focus intently on what I want.

So, what am I grateful for? I'm grateful that, at 48, I finally figured things out and have an expansive sensation of contentment running through my veins.

Free at last...thank God almighty, I'm free at last! Ha!

Have a happy holiday!

Here's the blurb and excerpt of my second chance romance, Dancing Barefoot--it's never too late to go after what you really want in this life. 

Naked photographs plastered on a book cover remind Jessica Moriarty that the past isn't as dead as she'd assumed. Her carefully constructed life as an architect on the fast track to partnership is threatened by a love she'd abandoned five years ago when responsibilities had trumped dreams.

World-renowned photographer, Jacques Sinclair, could have chosen anywhere in the world for his book signing and photography exhibit, but he'd come to Boston to shake things up. He wanted answers, but they aren't what he expected.

Reunions aren't always happy—sometimes they stir up unwanted pain and forgotten passion. As Jacques and Jessica stumble their way back to one another for a second chance at love, they're ensnared in a web of conspiracy, manipulation, and sabotage designed to keep them apart. Will they be able to break free of the ties that bind them to seize the love of a lifetime? Or will the pressure to conform rip them apart forever?

**This is the conclusion of the two part Dancing Barefoot series and can be read as a stand-alone.**

An excerpt...

He stalked toward her until her back collided with her easel. His hands gripped the top of the canvas, arms pinned her where she stood. “I haven’t wanted to remember you in a very long time.”

“I suppose not.”

“But I have.”

“Me, too.” 

“Are you happy?”

“What do you mean?” She folded her arms across her chest. 

“Did you make the right choice? Leaving me? Leaving our life together? Tell me you’re happy and I’ll walk out of your life forever.”

“What does it matter?  I can’t undo it.”

“Why is it a difficult question for you to answer? Why can’t you tell me that you have no regrets? I want to hear it.”

“Of course I have regrets, but so what?  What good does that do us?”

“That’s why I came here tonight, to see…”

“See what? I’ve done what I said I would do.” Pride forced her head high. “I’m up for associate partner at my firm. I’m a good—no, great—architect. We both succeeded without each other. Good for us.”

“You’re lying. You’re not happy.” His hand framed the side of her face, forcing her to look at him. “I see it in your face. It’s like you’ve died. You're living in the past, which tells me you're not that thrilled with the present.”

“When did you get so mean?” Too tired to fight, tears blurred her eyes. “Get out. Enough insults for one night. Just go.”

“Why are you still wearing my ring?” His voice was low and powerful in the small room.

“Why do you?”

“My ring.” Dark blond hair covered his left eye when he bent forward, only a breath away from her face. “Why are you wearing it? Does it mean anything to you or do you simply think it’s pretty?”

“Please go.” She flattened her hands against his chest, but wished she hadn’t.  The feel of his hard body beneath her hands liquefied her bones. 

He slammed his hand against the canvas, knocking it to the floor behind her.  “You just left. One day we’re living together, talking about creating a future, and then you walked away without ever looking back.”

“I look back in my own way. Often, too often, I need to grow up like you said.” Her lungs deflated like air from a balloon. Breathing ceased.  I needed to come back here to—”

“To be safe? To do the right thing?” He had her backed against the easel. “I thought you would at least stay in touch with me, the man you supposedly loved, the man you said you wanted to marry, the man you said you needed…but you disappeared.”

“You had my address. I didn’t disappear.” 

“You let me go without a word. Until today, I hadn’t heard from you in years, yet here you are wearing my ring.”

“I said I was sorry.” Every inch of her quaked with restrained emotion.  “Leave now. Go. Good luck with your exhibit, with your life, all of it.  Just get the hell out of my house.”

“Do you know why I brought your address with me? Do you?”

“You wanted to tell me off, right? That’s why you came here, to hurt me.”

“I wanted to show you how much I don’t care.”

“Doesn’t that show me how much you really do care?” She lifted her chin, determined not to cry.

A fraction of an inch separated their bodies. She dragged her gaze over the opened buttons of his shirt, over his neck, over his lips until resting on the deep green of his eyes. Damn, the man rocked the word 'sexy'.

Boldness replaced caution. 

Standing on tiptoes, she smoothed her hands along the front of his chest.  Touching him again was like coming home from a long, exhausting journey.

He shook his head once as if trying to clear his mind.  Only once.  He stared at her lips.  His hands curled around her forearms, but he didn’t push her away. 

“Kiss me,” she whispered against his mouth.

“No."  His hands slid up her arms before cupping the back of her head.

"I dare you."


"I know you want to."

"I don't."

"Now who's the liar?" she asked, her teeth tugging at his lower lip.

Their mouths met in a kiss that melted her skin like candle wax, turning them into one being, one entity consumed by desire. To hell with restraint and regret. She needed this, needed him, here and now.

Passion overrode all other thought or senses. Her hands stroked his back, kneading and searching. Every sense was alive with his touch, with his kiss. The need for him was an ache that burned deep. Hot. Necessary. Urgent. Primal.

God, she had missed this, missed him.

He ripped her tank top in two and tossed the material aside. His hands squeezed her breasts while his mouth devoured her lips. 

She yanked his shirt free from his jeans and shoved it high on his chest, needing his skin against hers more than she'd ever needed anything in life.  Clothes fell away, bread crushed beneath their bodies, wine spilled from an overturned bottle at their feet.

  They fell against the easel, knocking the canvas and paint in every direction. A tangle of limbs, they made eye contact for a moment, chests heaving, breathing labored.

"This is wrong," he muttered against her skin. 

"Right. Always right with us." She sank her fingernails into his shoulders.

"What the lady wants, the lady gets," he said, a predatory gleam in his eyes.

His hands worked at pushing her yoga pants over her hips while his mouth claimed her breast.
She looped her toes in the waistband of his underwear and yanked them over his thighs.  Her hands sought his erection while her back arched with every stroke of his hands and every lick of his tongue.

He ground himself inside her with the intensity of repressed rage. Her legs wrapped around his hips, holding him as close as possible as he plunged deep inside her. 

Sex had never been tame with him, but this was animalistic. This was raw.  Teeth sank into skin. Nails scraped against each other's bodies. They rolled together, locked as one being. Streaks of yellow and red paint lined their faces, stuck in their hair, no one cared.

Waves of pleasure rolled through her veins like a tsunami until all strength left her body. She laughed, breathless, as her mouth sought his again in a kiss filled with satisfaction and surprise.

"Is this what you meant by a do-over?" He shoved his hands through her hair, palms framing her face, and stared into her eyes. His chest rose and fell against hers.

"Not exactly, but it'll do," she whispered, still out of breath, heartbeat slamming like a caged bird's wings inside her chest. 

His mouth sucked on her lower lip, tongue teased hers. "I don't know what to do with you, Jessica Moriarty."

"You've always known exactly what to do with me, Jacques Sinclair." She repeated the words they'd always said to one another. She dipped her finger into the wet yellow paint on the canvas beneath his head before smearing it across his chin and over his mouth. 

He grabbed her hand, linked his fingers with hers and stared into her eyes. Laughter faded. “This shouldn't have happened. I lost control, I always lose control around you.”

He rolled away and stared at the ceiling. Then he stood and pulled a piece of cheese from where it had stuck to his shoulder. Without looking at her, he dressed.

Rattled from the sex and his reaction, she stumbled to standing, grabbed the blanket from the sofa and wrapped it around herself. Man, she was on a roll today with fucking up her life. 

He walked down the stairs without saying a word. 

She returned to the kitchen to find him still waiting. She'd hoped he'd gone. 

Back against the wall, he finished buttoning his shirt. He hadn't bothered to wipe the streaks of paint from his face and hair; then again, neither had she. When he lifted his gaze to hers, he looked agonized. 

"I didn't intend on that. I should go," he said.

“Stay. Don't go. Maybe we should talk or something.” 

She wanted to scream, stomp her foot like a child, fall to her knees …anything to make him stay.

“There is someone else, Jess. Life moved on without you.” His quiet words sliced her heart into a million pieces. “I came here for answers, to understand. I didn't intend to rip your clothes off. I only wanted to understand why you left me. That’s all.”

“And now you understand?”

“No.” He shook his head, a slight grin curving his lips. “But I accept that I will never understand.”

She rubbed the palm of her hand over her face. Of course he had someone else. She had discarded him like a used napkin.

“You're serious with this woman? What you said about the different women all the time was just to hurt me, right?”

“Yes to both questions.”

A chasm ripped through the room, creating a space larger than the ocean that had once separated them. She felt the loss of him again, more powerful, more poignant than before.

“I wish it wasn’t like this between us…”

“I’m still the same man you left in Italy. The reasons you left haven’t changed.  I’m a gypsy at heart, never in one place longer than six months or so.” He looked at the matching ring on his finger and blew out a long breath.

“Please leave. Your girlfriend must be wondering what the hell you’re doing.”  She hugged her arms across her chest and tapped her foot against the floor. “Please leave, Jacques.”

“Am I wrong? Are you happy? Tell me I’m wrong about you. Tell me that you love being an architect. Tell me that you honestly don’t regret leaving me.” With every word, his face mirrored the agony she felt. “Tell me that you have no regrets, that you are happy with your life as it is now.”

“My life is damn near perfect.” She forced a smile. “Partnership is in sight, remember? Corner office here I come. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s a fucking love fest.”

 “It is time I let this go then.” With a quick movement, he pulled the ring from his finger and laid it on the back of the red chair.

She stared at the ring against the faded fabric. “Please don’t leave it. Like you said, it’s yours.”

“Keep it, throw it away, it no longer matters to me. Be well, bella.” Door open, he hesitated at the threshold and looked around the room before meeting her gaze again. 

Bella.  The word hung in the air as they stared at one another, the language of Italy dancing in her memory and tugging at her heart.

Caro…” she whispered.  

Without another look back, he closed the door behind him.

She listened to the fall of his footsteps on the stairs, the outside door opening and closing, and folded his ring into her palm. She pressed the closed fist against lips still swollen from his kiss. Silent tears streaked her face.

"What have I done?" Back against the door, she slid to the floor. The question she asked had no answer. Even she didn't know if she meant the past or the present; conflicting emotions meshed together in her brain like the various paint streaks staining her skin.

Keep reading Dancing Barefoot...be swept away with an epic romance that will make you fall in love all over again...

Keep hopping!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Opinions Not Allowed Shhhh! #bullies

America used to be the land of the free, a safe place for all people to express themselves without fear, a melting pot for the world where diversity was celebrated.

Not anymore.

Now it's a place where we need to feel like we are with like-minded people before voicing our opinions or else fear the wrath of being bullied. Age doesn't matter. At 48 years old, I feel more cautious about expressing myself than I did as a teenager. In fact, it's worse than I can recall it ever being in my lifetime.

Have an opinion online? Be prepared for the attacks, often by very abusive people who will tell you to kill yourself, leave the country of your birth, insult your intellect (even though they don't know you  at all), and threaten your sense of security. God forbid you work in the public eye because your very livliehood could be in jeopardy with a barrage of online attacks. Why? Because you voiced an opinion that you genuinely feel is valid.

Oh, the horror! You should be stoned in the street! How dare you?

America, what the hell is wrong with you? I grew up in an America where diversity was appreciated, where we were taught to graciously accept other points of view and to respect one another. Now people are unfriending each other, threatening each other...the divide widens further each day and no one seems to care.

There may not be a civil war, per se, but it certainly feels like we're reaching that point. No one is looking for common ground. No one is willing to have a civil discussion. It's either "you're a bad, bad person for thinking the way you do" or "you're brilliant because you agree with me." There is no give and take anymore. There is no, "giving the benefit of the doubt" let alone compassion or empathy.

Extremists have taken over. Compromise has become a dirty word. Experience has suddenly become a negative rather than an asset. The word "American" has been tainted.

With the increase in hostility comes a decrease in tolerance. People are learning to live secret lives, form secret groups with "safe" people who will "get you." People are scared, not just out in the street, but in their own homes on their computers. Social media sites that used to be fun like Facebook are now filled with opportunities to see the ugliness of the world right in your own timeline.

I've disconnected from Facebook for awhile because it got too ugly. I had to increase my privacy settings so severely that most of my "friends" list is now on restricted and only a handful of people have access to my true thoughts--even if it is a meme of an alligator crossing the street with some silliness attached. Who knows? Someone may read some hidden meaning into that alligator and then next thing you know I'll be in the middle of some stupid argument where I'm called a liar or passive agressive--God forbid the alligator just be an alligator! My head spins at the thin skin of people these days--and how quickly their minds go to a dark place of conspiracy and distrust.

I'm not alone. I talk to people who feel the same--scared to voice their opinions or even to share hard won knowledge for fear of being attacked.

Who would have thought that in the United States of America, the land of the free, the land of diversity, we'd all be so afraid of each other? The greatest threat to our nation isn't from ISIS or Russia; our greatest threat to our freedom is fear. Fear of each other. Fear of the truth. Fear of someone else's point of view. Fear of standing up to bullies. Fear of being ourselves.

I am not optimistic about the near future. I see the hatred growing and it makes me sad. Any solutions that could have been offered up have now been dashed because the bully culture is taking over. I can only hope that we fail to bend, that we don't flee, that we find our voice and raise it loudly despite the fear that makes us quiver.

It's hard to argue with people who view lies as truth. It's hard to stand up to those who are intimidating with their threats. But we must.

And we must because it's the right thing to do.

Sometimes the hardest thing is the necessary thing.

I hope that my future grandchildren live in a country where they are free to be themselves without fear, that they know the true meaning of freedom. For that dream, I will stand up and speak up.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Snow, Secrets, and Seduction #RomanticSuspense #LaborDay

Excerpt of the romantic suspense novel, WhiteOut...

Fog hovered over the river and clung to the staggered pools of hot springs lining the mountainside. Snow-covered banks were lined with giant boulders and spruce trees. The après ski crowd filled the pools of natural spring water, their laughter and low voices carrying across stone paths shrouded with steam from the cold air colliding with heat of the water. Ryan had already settled into one of the upper, more private pools with her flask tucked near him beneath the towels.

Lyle would hate that she was exposing so much of herself—because of the tattoos she'd refused to laser off—but, at the moment, she didn't care for rules or limitations.

Shivering with the bite of the cool air and thankful for the dim light of twilight that stretched across the sky, she shuffled barefoot over the stone steps and slid into the soaking pool. Hot water eased her weary bones, steam slid across her face, and reckless energy snapped through her veins. It had literally been years since she'd spent time alone like this with a man who wasn't carrying a badge of some type. An untamed beat hammered in her heart, reminding her of what it felt like to be free.

Sighing, she closed her eyes, floated her legs in front of her, stretched her arms across the wall at her back, and slid her foot against Ryan's thigh. She liked the way his hard body felt against hers.

"You've got tattoos, I see." He cleared his throat and shifted away from the contact. "Is that a shark? It's a beautiful blue...nice craftsmanship with the flowers."

"The shark is the sign of the warrior for some Pacific Island tribes," she answered without opening her eyes.

"You confuse the hell out of me."

Smiling, she opened her eyes, lifted her foot from the water, and held it close to his face. "Stardust."

He shook his head, grabbed her heel, and looked at the gold stars tattooed on her foot. He met her gaze and smiled. "Careful, Brandi...you're flirting with someone who isn't afraid to go for it."

She pulled her foot free and narrowed her gaze. "Know what I want to do?"

"Me?" He grabbed the flask, opened it, and took a long sip without breaking eye contact.

She pushed away from her side of the pool, waded toward him, staying submerged up to her chin in warmth, used her hands to push his thighs apart, and slipped between them. If he wanted to have his mind blown, she could do that.

Without looking away from his gaze, she snagged the flask from his fingers and took a long sip without flinching.

His focus dropped to the curve of her breasts that floated above the surface and pressed against his chest. He dropped his hands to her hips and grinned. "And here I thought you were shy."

"Why? Because I didn't drop to my knees the first time you said hello?" She slid a wet finger down his face and traced it across his lips.

"I've enjoyed my fair share of après ski soaks," his fingers trailed up her spine before untying the strings of her bikini, "but this isn't a hook-up. I want more than one night with you."

"Why?" She tilted her head to the side so she could see his eyes more clearly in the twilight and steam.

"Because it's taken me months to get to this point and I'm not going back to square one." He rubbed his knuckles along the shark tattoo on her left ribcage. "I like you and your special brand of crazy."

Her smiled faded. He liked her in a way that no one had in a very long time. Fame had found her at sixteen and she'd spent half her life in a glittery bubble filled with beautiful people saying all the right things to feed her ego. But this—being here with Ryan in the half-light with moisture beading their faces and large snow flakes falling against solar lights while his fingers caressed her skin and his eyes looked into hers—this felt like a dream.

"I had you all wrong, Ryan." She didn't move when her bikini top floated up, connected only by the strings around her neck and his hands covered her breasts while he looked at her with a dare in his eyes.

"Yeah? I thought you checked me out on the internet and knew all about my bad boy ways?" His smile turned wicked in an instant. "All you need to do is tell me to back off—something I know you're not afraid to do—and I will."

"You're a choir boy compared to my old crowd." She liked teasing him, but the reality is they probably missed each other at a few of the same parties back in their glory days. They'd both lived fast and hard, wearing their notoriety with ease.

"I'm older now," he kissed her chin, "tamer."

"How disappointing." She held his face between the palms of her hands and kissed him with a slow intensity that had him moaning into the deep recesses of her mouth.

He squeezed her breast with one hand while the other moved to her ass. His legs wrapped around the back of hers, pulling her closer. Water sloshed between their bodies, fog wrapped them in privacy.

She curled one arm around his neck while sliding her other hand down his chest. Their mouths clung to each other while their hands explored. Animalistic need pulsated through her veins. It had been so long since she'd been touched...or done any touching.

His thumb moved over her nipple. He dragged his mouth from hers and kissed her neck.

She reached between their bodies and found his erection. "Damn, you're full of surprises."

"You like?" He sucked on her bottom lip.

"Oh, yeah, I like a lot."  She ground her hips against his hard-on while her fingers teased the tip.

"We're going to get arrested." He smiled, not looking too worried.

"I've got connections you don't know about...I'm sure they'll bail us out." She laughed at the audacity of the moment, trapped in their little world of steam, snow, and spring water. 

He put both of his hands on her breasts, lifted them high in the water, and dipped his head to the curve of her neck. He lightly bit her shoulder while she rubbed herself against his erection. His ankles linked behind her knees, holding her in a tight circle.

Their mouths met in a kiss that melted her bones. She wrapped both arms around his neck and held still, knowing that they were dangerously close to crossing a line.

He gasped against her mouth, hands flat against her back, and eyes open. "You taste like whiskey and feel like heaven."

"Such a poet." She grinned, chest heaving against him while she struggled to regain control of her libido.

"Such a smartass." He nipped her chin.

Sounds of the river bubbled inches away from their heads. They kissed—slowly—eyes wide open.

An abrupt sound of music slashed through the quiet. The après ski crowd laughed somewhere further down in the mist.

Her song, her music.

"Laurel..." a man's voice from somewhere in the mist called. "Laurel!"

She broke away from him and twisted in the water looking for the source. Heartbeat slammed in her throat.

The music grew louder.

She bit her lip and sunk to her chin. Having a panic attack could get her killed, how many times had she been coached about how to act?

"What's the matter?" Ryan asked.

"That song..." She shook her head when it turned off as abruptly as it had begun.

"What song?" He pulled her back against him.

She stared at the swirling mist that competed with the flurries wafting down through the darkness. Night encroached fast this time of year. It wasn't even five o'clock, yet the twilight glow had become black sky. Solar lights around the property showed an increasing amount of people in the lower pools, all half-hidden in shadow.

"Didn't you hear that song?" she whispered against his ear. "Or hear that voice?"

"I was a little preoccupied." He retied the strings of her bikini and adjusted the fabric over her breasts. "Do you have a thing against music?"

"It startled me." Damn it, for a rebel I'm acting like a scared little mouse.

"Maybe we should eat. It's getting crowded and I did promise you a decent meal. I believe you gave me a curfew, too, so I had better keep the evening rolling." He shifted his weight so that her butt sat on the low bench in the water, grabbed her knees to open her legs, and slipped his body between her thighs. Hands pressed against the stones above her shoulders, he grinned before kissing her again.

"We could stay here...I don't mind."

"If we stay here," he whispered against her ear, "we're going to have sex, which would be good, I have no doubt, but I'm trying very hard to be a gentleman."

"Did I say I wanted a gentleman?"

"You're one dangerous woman, aren't you, Brandi Simms?" He nibbled her ear before sliding free of her grasp and fading into the steam. "We're going to move on to phase two of our date...after that, anything goes."


"Ask and you shall receive." He stepped from the pool, his silhouette illuminated by the solar lights, giving her enough of a glimpse of the wet swim trunks molding his hard ass and long thighs to make her moan with longing. She wanted nothing more than to peel those trunks off of him with her teeth and let the night play out like a scene from a porn film. "I'll meet you at the jeep. You okay with that?"

"Yes," she managed to say from a throat swollen with longing.

"Sexiest voice I've ever heard," he said before wrapping himself in a towel.

She smiled and grabbed her own towel before stepping toward the bag she'd left on the table just out of view. Humming to herself out of habit, she maneuvered over the stone steps to the changing area. Inside, she ignored a few twenty-something's and a mother struggling with young kids and walked into the shower to erase the strong smell of sulfur.

Music. She heard it again. Her song—one of her songs—that she'd won a Grammy Award for several years ago called Bittersweet. Shutting off the shower, she listened hard over the sound of her drumming heartbeat and the chattering of the other women. As if in a trance, she walked into the room, toweling herself dry as she moved. The sound came from outside.

Tucking the towel securely around her body, she stepped out and looked around at the soft glow of lights illuminating a beautiful landscape.


"I'm driving myself insane," she whispered before stepping back inside to change. She reached for her bra and panties only to stop at the sight of the magazine article that had been dropped inside the bag.

Laurel Lassiter, rock diva, dead at 31.

A large question mark had been scrawled over the headline in red.

She sank to the bench, rested her elbows on her knees, and struggled to catch her breath.

"Are you okay, ma'am?" One of the twenty-something's asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

Get yourself together, someone is probably watching for your reaction. Stand up. Get dressed. Act as if nothing has happened. Tell Lyle about it later when no one is studying your every move.

With a shake of her head, she changed into her clothes, brushed out her hair, fixed her make-up, and coached herself to breathe.

Images of that last day flashed in her mind...laughing in the dressing room, joking with her band mates...The brush fell from her trembling hands. When she bent to pick it up, more memories assaulted her...the roar of the crowd chanting her name, their signature pump-me-up song playing while they waited backstage, the sight of her sister giving her the thumbs up.

"Fuck it, not now," she whispered to herself and forced herself to stand on trembling legs. Some memories were meant to never surface. She jammed the brush into her bag, gritted her teeth at the sight of the article, and reminded herself to stay in control because this could all be a test of some kind.

And Lyle had suggested the trespassers were a coincidence? Moron.

She walked from the changing area and through the night with her head held high. If someone watched, she wanted them to think she really was Brandi Simms.

And Brandi Simms wouldn't care one bit about a two-year old article about a dead rock star.

Seeing Ryan lounging against his jeep and talking on his cell phone, she fought the urge to sprint the rest of the way.  Snowflakes dotted his black hair like sprinkles. He wore his lined leather coat and Levis with an ease that would make any male model green with envy. His laugh carried to her across the parking lot and made her long for simplicity.

I need to walk away from him before he's sucked into this chaos I call my life. If she had truly been found, then she was putting a target on his back. The knowledge burned a hole in her heart.

From the back cover...

She's been erased.

As a protected witness, Brandi Simms has given up everything that made her unique to start over in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Blending into the background isn't easy, but it's vital for survival. When her handsome yet incorrigible neighbor—former Olympic skier turned cowboy—decides her aloof attitude is a challenge rather than a deterrent, she knows the only right thing to do is resist.

The secrets she hides are deadly.

Ryan Landry isn't accustomed to rejection. Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, he's the local hero who came home to run a ranch and be near his family. The mysterious neighbor who seems content to hang out with dogs rather than humans haunts his fantasies and ignites that competitive drive that led him to the world stage.

He's not one to give up.

When her dangerous past catches up to Brandi, Ryan is determined to break through her secrets to find the truth no matter what the cost. Trapped in a whiteout blizzard with unseen threats lurking in the snow, will they get a chance to create a new beginning or will Brandi's past be the death of them?

Start reading it now and get lost in a world of snow, secrets, and seduction.