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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Smashing Through the Binds of Frustration #Motivation #Inspiration

Hidden on that little island in the river is a gazebo where I retreat from time-to-time. While sitting there surrounded on all sides by rushing water crackling over boulders and rushing across broken ice from the spring thaw, I am reminded of how temporary everything is and how small we are in comparison to Mother Nature.

Sometimes it's easy to put things off because of fear or feeling blocked or whatever the excuse of the moment may be. Writing is a challenging profession and, quite frankly, a competitive one. But when we're feeling discouraged or on that precipice of giving it all up, we need to remember that what's upsetting today may be an amusing story tomorrow. 

I've whittled it down to three things that usually create the feeling of unease in myself when I'm not exactly where I'd like to be in life. 

  • Lack of specificity. I'm a big picture thinker. I like to create broad ideas of where I'd like to be and the things I'd like to accomplish every year, but this creates friction with reality when time keeps rushing forward and I don't feel as if I'm close to achieving that ideal I have in my mind. "If you can dream it, you can achieve it," has always been one of my favorite quotes; however, not being specific about the how creates a constant drumbeat of frustration in my soul. Are you specific about what you want or are you like me...easy to see the big picture but fuzzy on the steps? 
  • Getting stuck in the habits that are no longer working--or perhaps never did. Long ago, back when I first published a novel, I read that online writers' groups were the "only way to get the word out" about your book. I participated in them religiously, jumped on the latest trends, stepped up into leadership roles eager to be a part of something great--but, even though the results really weren't there and group participation became severely lopsided, I hesitated to leave the groups and try something new. The reality was that I sold more books doing my own thing and before jumping on the bandwagon--I have great ideas and a few decades of experience, yet I was allowing "hobbyists" or those with more bravado than accomplishments, make me doubt my instincts. I remained and drove myself crazy with frustration! The insane part is that I couldn't figure out why I was so frustrated for the longest time. I thought because I'd read it somewhere once up a time, that I needed to continue doing things that were creating a hum of dissatisfaction and downright annoyance in my blood. Why did I think that? Why was I so reluctant to let go of something that no longer served any purpose and had become a giant time suck with ungrateful people who knew far less than I did about the business? Habit combined with a need to "belong" ended up dragging me backward in some ways. Being a soloprenuer is lonely--being a writer is challenging--I liked the idea of working with like-minded people, but it turned out that reality fell short of the "idea".  If something is no longer working--or perhaps never did but you keep trying in the hopes that it eventually will solve all your career problems--then it's time to move on. My frustration levels dropped significantly when I finally said, "it's time to let this go" and I cut ties with groups that only brought drama into my life. Ahh...how amazing it feels to let that burden go!
  • Always thinking in terms of "timing". Well, the timing for launching that story isn't right or my personal life is hectic so the timing for this or that would be "too much." Sitting in that gazebo surrounded by churning water is a great reminder that time is never waiting for us to get our shit together. It's either now or never. If you want something, the time is always NOW. Waiting for the stars to align perfectly or to have more money in the bank or for your schedule to slow down, will not work to your advantage. Just when you get that account balance where you want it, who's to say your house won't flood or you won't need something else that prevents you from pursuing your dream right now? If you're not living your dream life because you've been waiting for the right time or the perfect circumstance, then it's TIME for you to act today. Do something specific in the right direction toward making yourself happy. A lot of my frustration has come from holding myself back because of timing--waiting for the kids to grow up, waiting for book twenty to publish, waiting to lose twenty pounds, blah blah blah. While waiting, my heart has been banging against my rib cage sending a SOS to be free to soar! The timing is always right if it's a step toward being true to yourself. Realizing this has also lowered my frustration. 
I'm sure there are other things than what I've listed that have created frustration in my life, but those were the main three that came to mind. If you're frustrated, it's important to take the time to be honest with yourself about why. Frustration can lead to many things--depression, anger, burn-out. Fix the frustration, embrace the peace.

Peace to you!
Amber Lea Easton
http://www.amberleaeaston.com
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Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When Friends Become Enemies and Strangers Become Allies, She Longs for One True Thing #NewRelease #RomanticSuspense

Paperback coming soon

An excerpt...

Kicking off her high heels, Vanessa ducked low against the outside of the building and hoped like hell she wouldn't get caught in the crossfire. Gaze locked on the back of the limousine, she darted in and out of shadows toward her goal. She heard someone calling her name so she ran faster. The sound of blood rushing to her ears blocked out everything else. Vision narrowed to one point—the car and the bag she'd stashed inside. 

She tripped over a dark object on the sidewalk. Falling to her knees, she looked down and saw Clarence's lifeless body across the pavement. 

"Clarence!" She fumbled for his wrist, conscious of how vulnerable she was and the need for speed. A faint thumping assured her that he lived. "Gotta go," she whispered against his ear before scanning his body and seeing the blood. "Why weren't you wearing a protective vest, old man?" 

She shuffled to her feet and kept running. More gunfire. More shouts for her to stop. 


She yanked open the back of the car, locked the door behind her, shimmied on her knees along the floor, and pulled the bag out. She had no idea where the driver was and didn't care as long as no one moved the car with her in it. 

Hurriedly, she pulled jeans on under her dress, tucked the hem into the waistband, yanked on the leather jacket she'd brought, shoved her hair under a hat, yanked on a pair of boots, and looped the bag across her shoulder all within minutes. 

Bullets smashed against the bullet-proof glass, the sound deafening in the empty car. Smash, smash, smash! Cracks formed but the thick glass remained intact. 

Someone pounded on the side of the car. Simon. 

"Damn it, Vanessa, open up!" he shouted. "Ms. Warren, what are you doing? Are you injured?"

She wished she could trust him, wanted to, but didn't dare. 

"Ms. Warren! Damn it!" He ducked low and she heard him calling for back-up. 

Sirens ripped through the night air, drowning out the screams of innocent people running for safety. 

When he ran around to the back of the limo, gun drawn and proceeded to fire on an unknown assailant, she took the opportunity to sneak out the side door, remained low dressed in her dark clothing, and ran as fast as she could into the night. She ran and ran until her lungs ached and the sounds of chaos faded. 

Needing a break, she pressed herself into a darkened doorway and tried to be as invisible as possible. She'd zipped up the black leather jacket to her chin. The leather fedora hat she'd stuffed on her head tilted low over her eyes. 

She held her breath and listened for any sign of pursuit. 

Nothing. 

For now. 

She needed to get to one of the stashed motorcycles she had placed in strategic areas between the hotel and her house without being seen. Or she'd need to get to the train station. She hadn't thought out the transportation portion of this escape very well, she realized with an exasperated sigh. 

Think, think, think! There is no going back.

A silent sob lodged in her throat. 

Deliberately, she put one foot in front of the other and walked toward the hotel as best as she could through the dark street. People — some couples, a few groups — walked past her on their way to a night on the town. She kept her gaze locked straight ahead, determined not to make eye contact with anyone. 

An explosion sounded far off in the distance. Flames shot up over the tops of buildings and cathedral spires. The dull roar caused the people who were walking leisurely on sidewalks to roam to the center of the street, all looking at the golden glow in the distance. 

She had nowhere to go and whoever masterminded this assault knew it.

Who the hell are these people? The idea that Barcelona had fallen under a terrorist attack gnawed at her conscience. 

A pit formed in the center of her stomach. She increased her pace, alternating between speed walking and running, all the while trying not bringing too much attention to herself. 

She doubled-over with agony at the sight in front of her. The top two floors of Dominic's hotel were engulfed in flames and guests flooded out the doors and down the stairs. People screamed. Smoldering embers flitted down like snapping glitter. Sirens cried out through the night. 

She tasted vomit in her mouth. Guilt hammered her mercilessly. Clenching her stomach, she backed up until her bag collided with a wall behind her. All hell had broken loose and she had nowhere to run. 

Aware that the perpetrators were most likely scouring the area for her, she shoved her hair further beneath the hat and double-checked that her jacket had remained zipped to her chin. She felt like a fox hunted by bloodhounds. 

The stashed motorcycle was off limits now that the streets and alleys filled with screaming civilians, anxious government agents, and emergency vehicles. 

They—whoever they were—were forcing her toward the train or bus station. She knew this with absolute certainty. She couldn't fly out, not without tipping her hand and, unfortunately, her delinquent skill set had never included hot wiring a car. 

When her bag vibrated against her back, she remembered stashing her cellphone there earlier. Despite knowing she shouldn't answer, she wanted to know who called. Without removing the bag from her shoulders, she shifted it to the front, unzipped it only enough to dig around for the phone, and looked at the caller i.d.

Clarence.

But that wasn't possible. She'd seen him face down on the pavement, had tripped over his body, had his blood on her hands. 

The phone vibrated again in her shaking fingers. 

She answered but remained silent. 

"Mike's truck in twenty minutes."

Dominic.

She frowned, breathing came in harsh, labored bursts. 

The line disconnected. 

She looked at the phone before realizing she needed to abandon it. With another glance at the flames snapping high into the air, she moved toward the sea and away from the scene. Mike had been working construction on her house, Dominic had said. 

She dropped her phone in the nearest trashcan and walked as quickly as she could away from the chaos. Every inch of her shook with fear. Her mouth had gone dry. Blood rushed through her eardrums creating a white noise effect that amplified the sound of her own breathing in her head. One hand gripped the bag's strap looped across her chest. 

She couldn't trust anyone she'd known before the threats had started arriving. She could only trust Dominic. Each step in the direction of her house was a step toward an uncertain future. What did she really know about him? Until an hour ago, she hadn't known that his late wife had murdered his child. What kind of hell must that have been to experience? She couldn't imagine, but she instinctively knew that trusting women probably wasn't easy for him...or his parents.

Yet here he was — with one of his signature hotels in one of the most beautiful cities in the world literally going up in flames — helping her. 

Careful to walk a block out of the way to avoid crossing the sightlines of her house, she snuck up on the Varga Developments truck, crouching low to the ground and testing the passenger door. When it opened, she climbed into it as slowly as possible, not willing to release the bag or be seen. 

No Mike. No Dominic. 

Hunched in the front seat, she felt around for keys but didn't find anything. Sighing, she rested her forehead against the dash before peeking at her house. Every window was lit up. The front door opened and Cleo ran out flanked by two men she didn't recognize. She stayed low, eyes barely above the steering wheel, and watched Cleo gesturing madly toward the direction of the hotel. 

Pam appeared on the stairs, phone pressed against her face as she ran past Cleo and toward her car. Vanessa assumed she was on her way to the hotel. 

Agents were inside — but who else? If she ran inside, would she be safe or at risk? Dominic's construction crew was there, would they be in danger if she set foot across the threshold? Would it burn, too?

Keep reading!

 From the back cover...

One little lie leads to a whole lot of trouble.

Reclusive international resort developer, Dominic Piazza, needs a date to ward off his matchmaking parents. When he persuades the notorious Vanessa Warren to play his girlfriend for the night, he has no idea he's stepped into the crosshairs of kidnappers who will do anything—destroy everything—to get to her.

Power...it's a heady drug.

Vanessa Warren is America's favorite rebel. Daughter and granddaughter of US Presidents and sister to a future one, her family connections and notoriety are seen as leverage for manipulating the White House—if she's captured.

One true thing...

Trapped in a rapidly escalating international terror plot, Dominic and Vanessa's lie becomes the only real thing in the midst of betrayals, conspiracies, and murder. As their world falls apart, they suddenly only have each other to rely on against ruthless people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Who can they trust? Who is behind the plot—her own family, a political rival of her family's, or a terrorist organization? How far will the kidnappers go—what will they be willing to sacrifice—to control the power of the White House? Is there anywhere in the world where they can find safety?

Paperback coming soon

Monday, March 21, 2016

Knowing Your Value and Demanding the Best for Yourself


I've been a professional writer in one capacity or another for almost twenty years. I love the craft, the power of words, the ornate architecture of stories. But, after two decades and nineteen published books, I'm ready to change careers and explore new paths.

The discount culture is forcing people like me out of the business. Huge media corporations like the Huffington Post, for example, don't pay their writers, did you know that? They expect their writers to allow their work to be published for free because of the "exposure" they'll receive. They aren't alone. I submit to freelance forums daily. This used to be a good way to receive legit work. This past Saturday someone calling themselves a "financial firm" looking for a "staff blogger" called me for an interview. For the grand total of thirty dollars A DAY they wanted me to interview CEOs and other financial personnel, research the nitty-gritty, and write a five hundred word post three times a week---for the grand total of thirty dollars a day.

Readers want free books and complain about paying anything more than $3.99--which nets the author a little over $2 per book--yet I have people looking at my resume, which is stacked full of accomplishments, and question why I'm looking for other jobs to help pay my mortgage and support my family. What do they expect? My bills don't pay themselves with "honor" or "exposure."

My life is one of constant hustle--and I'm not complaining. I like working. I like having a purpose. I enjoy feeling productive. But I really hate feeling like I'm not valued and that my efforts aren't being recognized. Wouldn't you? Would you go to your work as a banker or engineer or whatever you do and expect to work for pennies on the hour--or for free--simply for the privilege of being seen? I doubt it. Who would do that? Well, that's what people expect writers to do.

The plot thickens when your own peer group can't be trusted to unite and demand quality. There are authors who churn out tacky books every month simply to have a constant new release while they lower the quality bar even more. They offer their books for ninety-nine cents or permanently free so they can achieve a false best seller status. They cheat the system by trading reviews with other authors in the Kindle Unlimited program to appear more successful than they are, and--what makes it really sad--is that they are driving good, hard-working, honest authors out of the industry while they dwell in their bubble of delusion. 

My editing business--also based on twenty years of experience--is also becoming too much of a burden to bear. Writers haggle with me over fair prices I've based on knowing how long particular projects will take.  Contracts are ignored and excuses are rampant. There are people out in the world claiming to be editors who don't have my experience or skill set--who think editing consists of proofreading and nothing more, who don't understand the concepts of character development or voice--so they charge a fraction of my price. Cheap doesn't equal better. I'm actually closing the doors on my editing business after April 30 to focus on e-Courses and nonfiction how-to type books. Does this mean I don't love editing? Quite the opposite. I love it--and I love working with authors (those who honor their contracts) and my clients have all loved me in return--it's simply not economically feasible to pursue anymore.

So what does all this mean for the future of quality in this culture of free and easy? It's not pretty. What's scarier is that experience is seen as "baggage" or something to be feared--or even as arrogance simply because there are some of us who have already paid our dues and know a few things.

Can it be changed? Is there a solution? I'm not sure. It appears that some writers are okay with writing for free---perhaps it is their hobby or maybe they have a spouse supporting them? I don't know. I honestly don't understand the culture of "I want you to perform this professional service for free." What's worse is that I don't understand the writers who give in to it, who are okay with volunteering their time--over and over and over again. When is it enough? I have over two hundred and fifty published articles, nineteen books, and am a damn good editor--yet people think I should be honored to work for free or wait for payment on services rendered?

I know it's not just the writing industry--I know other people my age who have to give up the careers they've built because of downsizing or other factors where their "experience" is actually seen as a detriment. I also know women who were stay-at-home mothers whose kids have left home for college who want to reenter the workforce and are encountering ageism bias--employers, it seems, don't want to hire someone who reminds them of their mother or anyone who may actually know more about something than they do.

So what is the solution? What's wrong with being experienced? What's wrong with being good at something and caring about quality? What's wrong with expecting to be paid what you're worth? What's wrong with being older and responsible? In the culture of free, easy, and youth-worshipping, apparently all those things are cardinal sins.

I am standing my ground and saying "no" to working for free. I am saying "no" to being disrespected or expected to downgrade my experience to make someone else feel better. I am disconnecting from authors I see abusing the system and weakening an art form I've loved for the majority of my life. I am boycotting the Huffington Post who is rolling in money from advertisers yet pay their writers nothing. NOTHING! I am owning the fact that I have a lot to offer the world and am not accepting mediocrity as the "new way of doing business." Until enough of us stand up and demand to be recognized as the professionals we are, however, then the culture of free, easy and crappy will continue.







Sunday, March 20, 2016

Second Chance at a Once in a Lifetime #Romance #ScintillatingSunday

She left him for all the wrong reasons that she once believed were right...
A chance reunion sparks the love that never stopped beating in her heart...
But will she get her second chance when everyone in their lives conspires to keep them apart? 
Dancing Barefoot
Excerpt...


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 disappeared.” 

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. “You vanished.”

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


“You let me go without a word.”

“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 home.”

“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'.

From the back cover... 

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. However, to get the full impact of the love story, the author recommends reading book one, In Between.**


A peek at the reviews...
A taste of a few reviews...
4 stars via Avid Reader
"I loved this story.

It was refreshingly honest, brutally tragic, and at times lyrical in it's flow. Their connection was so intense that as I read it, I was like this absolutely cannot survive. Love this intense and in your face has a slow burn to it, and will torch everything in i's path until it is stamped out...There was nothing contrived about it. I felt like I was literally a fly on the wall and this was happening in reality and not fiction land. I liked them both, probably one of the best couples I have ever read

5 stars via ChristophFischerBooks
"Conflicting emotions and insurmountable chemistry cause both of them to reassess the past, their current lives and priorities. Easton shows the magnetic and hypnotic effect of physical and emotional attraction very well and the gradual crumbling of outer facades and deep inner resolve. This is a romantic fantasy written in a convincing and heart warming manner and with enough complications thrown in to make for a very entertaining and gripping read."

5 stars via Sglas, Amazon reader review:
"Excitement, intrigue, twists and turns! Dancing Barefoot has it all. Very hard to put down."

 



 
 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Antagonize Me...Why Should Heroes Get All The Glory? #RomanticSuspense #WriterWednesday


In a suspense novel, the bad guys always get the short straw in publicity. Why do they do what they do? What makes them tick? Today we're interviewing the antagonist pulling the strings in the romantic suspense novel, Reckless Endangerment. 


Q: Who or what are you? 
I'm an upstanding citizen in Denver, Colorado. I have connections that reach far and wide. I have breakfast with the governor, lunch with the mayor. I'm the kind of man every woman hopes her daughter would marry. 

Q: What is your cause about?
I'm an entrepreneur.  Let's face it; there are some people who don't deserve a voice. They're trash. If they're weak, then that's not my problem.  My cause, as you call it, is about creating an underworld empire where those who are deserving get whatever they want, whenever they want it.

Q: What’s the most important thing in your life right now?
Two things are most important to me right now: money and teaching nosy reporters their place. 

Q: What do you like or dislike about the other characters from your book?
Their goodie-two-shoes, holier than thou attitudes about the world. Some people call them heroes, but I scoff at that. Just like morality, everyone bends the term hero to fit their preconceived agendas. Maybe I'm a hero in my own world, did anyone think about that?  

Q: Where do you live? Describe it: Is it messy, neat, avant-garde, sparse, etc.?
I live on an estate in a gated community to keep out the low lives. 

Q: What's the worst thing someone ever did to you?
Told me 'no'.  No one denies me.  I always get what I want. 

Q: What's the worst thing you've done to someone?
Again, this is a matter of perspective. What someone else may see as 'worst thing', I see as business. I've smuggled humans across borders and state lines, killed a few people and am currently using a six year old as a pawn. But, really, who cares? Like I said, I'm an upstanding citizen. I've got power...what else matters in the world? 

Q: What type of places do you hang out in?
I hang out in the finest clubs with the most beautiful women...and in the darkest of alleys with the whores. I go where I want, do what I want.  It's called privilege. 

Q: What annoys you more than anything else?
Weak people and busy bodies.  

Q: What would be the perfect gift for you?
I'm in the market for a new jet so that would be nice.  I could use one. 


An excerpt of Reckless Endangerment...

She needed to force herself to concentrate on the photographs of chained women in front of her on the granite countertop. Her day had been nothing if not nerve rattling between seeing Rourke murdered and enjoying oral sex with her estranged husband. 

Damn, she craved just one thing in her life that wasn’t complicated. One thing. Was that such an impossible task?

“I made a call to the number we think may be Angel’s from our research into Rourke. I can’t help but wonder how many alarms went off when we started poking around in the guy’s background before the police were even at the crime scene this afternoon.” Devon scooped more spinach dip onto her plate before munching away on a chip. 

“You worry too much.”

“You don’t worry enough.”

“Worry is a waste of creative energy.” She grinned and looked up at Devon. “Can you honestly believe the mayor of Denver would be involved in sex parties and human trafficking?”

“He’s a politician, just because he’s charming doesn’t mean he isn’t the scum of the earth.” Devon shrugged, her eyes forever observant as she stared across the counter. “Want to tell me about this Colonel you keep sneaking off to see this week? What’s up with the Marine from Monday?”

“You’ve been dying to ask me that question, haven’t you?”

“Yep, just biding my time until you seemed relaxed.”

“And I seem relaxed now?” She looked at her friend over the rim of her eyeglasses. “We’re discussing human trafficking and murder and I seem relaxed? That’s a problem, Dev.”

Outside thunder rocked the sky. Lightening lit up the room. Late autumn snowstorms came with lightening and thunder as if the atmosphere was confused. Yep, she was definitely back home in the Mile High City.

“It is what it is.” Devon shrugged. “You’re a drama-junkie so this stuff gives you a fix. Whatever. Answer my question.”

She folded the laptop closed and considered what Devon said. She didn’t want to be a drama-junkie, wondered if there was a rehab for such a thing.


 “Seriously? That’s how you think of me?”

“Stop avoiding the question.” Devon closed her laptop, too. “He’s why you’re here, right? He’s the reason you moved to Denver, bought this gigantic loft? He’s the reason you keep dodging Jensen who’s been dying to get you into bed ever since your plane landed at D.I.A. C’mon. ‘Fess up.”

“Seems like you know all the answers. There is nothing left for me to confess.” She refilled her coffee, certain that her blood had illegal caffeine content.  

“You want me to beg? I’m begging.” Devon folded her hands like a prayer and batted her eyes.  “Tell me something juicy.”

She looked at her wedding ring and ached to blurt out the truth. What could it hurt to tell one person? “Can you keep a secret?”

“Not usually, but I’ll try.” Devon looked like an eager puppy about to get a new toy.  

“We’re married. I am technically Hope Cedars.” God, she loved saying that name out loud. “Or at least it would be technically if I file the name change papers but—“

“Wait, wait, wait…” Devon put her hands out in front of her.  “That’s why you asked what name the Marine asked for on Monday. How long have you been married?”

“Eleven months and two weeks.”

Devon stared at her as if blindsided. “Almost a year? You were married to him over there? Isn’t that against some rule or something? How’d you do that? How have you kept it a secret? Wasn’t that dangerous...a married Marine with his wife, and not just any wife but a war correspondent...that can’t be legal, can it?”

“Since when do you care about rules and legalities? Want to see a picture?”

“Do I want to see a picture? Hell, yeah. Are you kidding me? What? A wedding picture?” Devon stopped staring and started laughing. “You should see your face right now. You look like...well, you look happier than I’ve ever seen you. Yes, I want to see wedding pictures of you and your Marine.”

Feeling like a silly teenager, she jogged barefoot into the bedroom to retrieve her copy of the Greek pictures. Laughing, she handed them to Devon.  

“Stunning,” Devon whispered as she examined the photographs. “You all look so happy. Where were you?”

“Mykonos, Greece. He had a week’s leave…we were spontaneous.” She held her left hand to show off the ring. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Devon’s mouth fell open as she looked between the ring and the photograph. “So you’re going public? Why now? After so long? I can’t believe you’re married. You have a husband. God, I’ve got to meet this guy, he must be a saint to put up with you.”

“Over there it would have been dangerous for anyone to know I was his wife—he worried about me being kidnapped or killed. And then…” her smile slipped, “…it became more complicated.”

Devon nodded, understanding in her eyes. “I hope he knows how lucky he is.”

“Yeah, well, we have a long way to go.” Feeling awkward, she sat back on the stool. “I think the note refers to him—my secret and my weakness.”

Devon's gaze locked on the wedding photo. “It’s not too secure at New Horizons. We need to wrap up this story and have a big party. A welcome home, Colonel and Mrs. Cedars party. An anniversary party. Two weeks from now, right? Let me plan it for you two.”

“Let’s take it one day at a time. Right now he doesn’t know what he wants. Maybe I don’t either. What do I know about being anyone’s wife?”

Devon's smile faded. "Don't let this story—"

"It's not just this story, Dev."

"I'd still like to meet him—I'll hold off on the party."

"Probably a good idea." She looked at her cell phone and sighed. Time to go.  

Both lost in their individual thoughts, they left the loft and made their way to the street where Devon had parked her car. Wind howled, thunder clapped and snow swirled beneath street lamps. Hope shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket and wished she’d changed from the dress into jeans.

City Park in a snow storm complete with thunder. Spooky.” Devon maneuvered the car from the curb. “Tell me about your husband.”

“Not much to tell,” she muttered.

“Liar. C’mon. I’ve seen his picture. Yummy.” Devon smacked her lips. “You never tell me any of the juicy stories…and everyone knows there had to be juicy stories.”

She tapped her finger on her iPhone and laughed. “You do know I wasn’t on vacation over there, right?”

“Save the bullshit for someone who doesn’t know you better. Tell me. Was the sex hot with the Colonel?” 

“Michael.” She smiled and relaxed against the seat. “And, yes, the sex was hot. Scorching.”

“I knew it.” Devon tossed back her head and laughed. “Tell me more.”

“He’s the sexiest man on the planet and an arrogant jerk sometimes. He has a little boy named Dalton. Very cute.”

“So you’re a stepmom, too. This keeps getting better. And how is his recovery going?”

 “A conversation for another day, Dev.”

“Gotcha. I wish I knew more about what happened to you over there.” Devon gave her a sidelong glance. “You can confide in people, you know. You have more friends than you think you do. Not all of us think you’re an egotistical hot shot.”

“Gee, thanks.” She laughed and stretched her legs out in front of her. “Good to know, Dev. Really.”

“So he’s hot, huh? How hot?”

“Lava hot. Molten.”

“Mm…and why isn’t he in outpatient therapy then? I know I would want my molten, lava hot husband living with me in my gigantic loft so I could give him some rub downs after a long day of physical therapy.”

Both laughed at the direction their conversation had taken.

“Rub downs?” The idea of her hands moving over his skin again had her squirming in her seat.  
 
“Mm…yes, rub downs.”

“Okay, let’s change the subject.” She hugged her messenger bag against her chest and tried to shake off the memory of his kiss, the feel of his hard body beneath her hands, the sight of his head between her thighs. “So what’s in City Park, do you think? And Fiddlesticks Tavern? That seems like a weird place for money to be trading places for anything except a pool game.”

 “It all screams trouble to me,” Devon said as she pulled into a parking lot in City Park.

“Becky the Downer would be very satisfied to know what I’m up to at this very minute.” She looked at the quiet neighborhood surrounding the park. “The real question is who is leading us around? I don’t like the anonymity. It’s getting old.” 

No other vehicles occupied the lot behind the Museum of Nature and Science where they had been told to meet. The downtown skyline illuminated sparkled through the falling snow.

She tapped her fingers on her knee and stared toward the park. Even though she couldn’t see anyone, her instincts told her to leave, chalk this one up as a waste of time.

“There.” Devon pointed to a man walking from the lake at the center of the park. “Looks like he’s coming our way. Should we—”  

Two men in ski masks tapped a gun against the closed windows.

“Fuck,” Devon said before her door was yanked open and she was hauled out against her will.  

She froze. She couldn’t breathe. 

Hands grabbed her shoulders and dragged her from the car. The butt of a gun slammed into her face. She fell only to be hauled back against the side of the car. Blood trickled into her mouth. Fat spring snowflakes fell into her eyes.  

“You need to find a new job, Ms. Shane.” Hands in her hair, he twisted her neck back until she looked at him. “Mind your own business. Don’t you have a crippled husband to worry about? A stepson about to be taken from the only family he’s ever known? A few nephews who love playing in Washington Park with their babysitter? Maybe family should be your priority instead of sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.”

“You don’t scare me. No way I’m stopping now. No way.” She spit blood into his mask-covered face. “You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”

“Neither do you.” He wore sunglasses over the holes in the ski mask, gloves on his hands. All black. He pressed his knee between her legs. “I can get to you any time I want. I can do whatever I want to you.”

He held the gun to her forehead, caressed it across her face, down her neck, between her breasts, slipped it beneath the hemline of her skirt. 

“Bastard,” she muttered between clenched teeth. “You don’t scare me.”

Blood trickled in front of her eyes.

“I could kill you.” Hot breath warmed her neck where he lingered. “Or rape you. Or both. I could do anything to you, Ms. Shane. Or should I say Mrs. Cedars?”

“My husband could kill you with his bare hands. Remember that.”

“Delusional and beautiful. A shame to waste all that.”  

He licked the side of her face, ripped the neckline down low, and squeezed her breast until she cried out in pain.

"You like that, don't you?" Hot breath licked her ear. "Pain. I think I'd like disciplining you, teaching you some manners."

"Go. To. Hell."

He tossed her to the pavement, kicked her twice in her gut, and laughed when she cried out in agony.

Then he disappeared. 

She spit blood. Every inch of her shook. With all of the will she possessed, she stumbled against the hood of the car. Squinting, she tried to see where they had gone. Empty parking lot. Snow filled the footprints.

“Devon.” She clung to the car for balance and stumbled to the driver’s side. Her friend lay in a heap, blood staining the snow beneath her head. “No, no, Devon. C’mon now.” She held her friend’s face in her lap and stroked her hair back. “You’ll be okay. You’ve got to be okay.”

She shook her head when images of Peter’s head bursting open in front of her filled her mind. She had knelt over him, too, spitting bits of his hair from her mouth, and pushing his skull together while machine gun fire had ripped into the ground at her heels.  

She blinked. That was then. This was now. Devon, not Peter. 

Blood ran down her face from the gash above her eyebrow.  She pressed her fingers to it and fought off the bile that rose in her throat. Weak, almost as if she had no control of her limbs any longer, she crawled back into the car and fumbled for her cellphone.

Her hands shook violently. She dropped the phone twice before managing to hold it steady enough to dial 9-1-1.

  Yes, they definitely had an emergency.


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From the back cover...

Coming home again isn't always easy. Colonel Michael Cedars and reporter Hope Shane fell in love in a warzone, but then the world blew up and splintered their lives in two. 

Sometimes heroes fall and take the ones they love down with them. A Marine accustomed to giving orders, Michael struggles to find his role in civilian life. Wounded, he faces new battles as he learns to walk again, struggles with wartime ghosts, and questions his abilities as a husband.

But theirs is a love worth fighting for—and Hope Shane doesn't surrender. An investigative reporter, she's hot on the trail of a human trafficking ring. Danger intensifies as she gets closer to the truth, but the human traffickers know her weakness.

Will Michael become her Achilles Heel? Will her reckless disregard for rules shatter the fragile bonds of their marriage once and for all? Is he still the hero she married or has he become a liability that could get them both killed?

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A taste of the reviews...

5 stars Extremely talented
By ChristopherFischerBooks

  
Although this book is marketed as romantic suspense it also covers some serious issues, such as people trafficking and post-traumatic stress disorder, adding further depth to a book that is rich in plot and personal conflict already. Nothing prepared me for the literary quality of this novel. Regular romance and suspense fans get more than enough here to be satisfied by the great chemistry between the main characters and the intriguing story lines. However, if you - like myself - want a little bit more out of a book than you will find it in the well-handled and insightful passages about trafficking and PSD, issues that are handled with care rather than in an exploitative or decorative manner.
Easton clearly cares about what she writes and it pays dividends, her book is surprisingly impressive and certainly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Gritty At Times, Realistic, With An Immensely Satisfying Romance and Mystery 
By  J. Faltys. "Joder"

By the end of Reckless Endangerment I can sum it up by saying it's Triple-H......heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heartpounding. It's full of likable and fully fleshed-out characters, realistically depicted issues related to the aftermath of war, and it presented a fast-paced mystery surrounding human trafficking that kept me on the edge of my seat. It shows that atrocities not only occur in faraway lands but outside our front door as well. As two people deal both mentally and physically with the hand war dealt them it's only through love and acceptance that true healing can begin and a HEA can be fully achieved. (Read full review: http://www.amazon.com/Reckless-Endangerment-Amber-Lea-Easton/product-reviews/0615801617/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1)

5.0 out of 5 stars
Great read
By Sglas 

I love this book! The author did a great job of writing a contempary novel with all the twists and turns that make it impossible for you to put the book down!! I am really impressed with the author's use of hard hitting problems facing today's society and intergrating them into the story line. This is not just another cookie cutter, predictable romance!! I highly recommend this book for all who looking for a novel with a little something extra!


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