New Release

Book 1 in my new series is now available!

New Release

Finding Home

Finding Home

What happens when a family loses everything and has no place to go?

Terrance Mack has a wife and two young boys. Never in a million years did he expect to find his family living on the streets, with no home, no jobs, in a position where everything they owned has been taken from them in the cruelest of ways. As the family struggles to stay together, they encounter a hard and unfriendly way of life, having to move from town to town, being harassed by the police and by locals, and confronting danger each day. Living on the streets is nothing as he expected.

All Terrance wants for his family is for someone to give them a chance—a chance for a new beginning, a roof over their heads, the opportunity to once again build a life without constant fear, having to look over their shoulders, feeling as if the rug will continue to be yanked out from under them again and again.

The worst is seeing the light in his wife’s eyes slowly diminish, along with the hope they once had. Terrance carries a constant weight, and every day brings a new challenge as doors close and they’re forced to move on. Even though they’ve stayed together, finding a place to stay has forced the family into survival mode, living one day at a time. The dignity Terrance once took for granted has become something he struggles to hold on to as he dreams of one day being able to have a peaceful night’s sleep.

More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Google Play
Buy from GoodReads

If you’ve read the free preview of this story and wouldn’t mind leaving an honest review at your favorite online retailer, I’d truly appreciate it.  Thank you for your support and consideration!


For My Audible Book Listeners

Audible has given me FREE audiobook codes to pass on to you for select titles in this series!  In turn, please be sure to take a few moments after listening to leave an honest online review.  Click the yellow button below to claim a code. 

*Due to limited availability, codes must be redeemed within 48 hours or will be reassigned to another requester.

If you are not currently an Audible member, you can still sign up and claim a free code without signing up for a membership or subscription. If you have any issues, Audible’s Customer Care team is just one phone call away & are happy to help–you can reach them directly at (888) 283-5051.


Join My Street Team

Are you a super fan of the Friessens, O’Connells, McCabes and more? 
I’m looking for eager readers to join my brand new Facebook street team to provide feedback and share your enthusiasm for my stories via reviews, social media and good ‘ole word-of-mouth.  Interested?  Click the button below to join the team. 

Free icons | Kungfuoctopus's Blog

Additionally, when my group reaches 2,000 members, I’ll be giving away a new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky team member! 

As always, thank you for your consideration and support–I’m truly grateful!

Read More
Box Set Wedneday, New Release

The O’Connells return in audio! 🎧

Now on Audio

“…crammed with action, drama and intrigue…Yet another well written and addictive story…” ★★★★★ Samanthagirl, Amazon UK Reviewer

Narrated by John Mo


$2.99 Boxed Set Sale

“Tears and laughter and lots of tissue. A GREAT READ FOR WEEKEND.” ★★★★★ Lartis, Amazon Reviewer

The Friessens Books 1 – 5

The Friessens Books 1 – 5

In this 5 Book Western Romance Collection follow the strong, sexy Friessen men and the women they love as they stand by their family through thick and thin.

The Reunion (The Friessens, #1)

The Bloodline (The Friessens, #2)

The Promise (The Friessens, #3)

The Business Plan (The Friessens, #4)

The Decision (The Friessens, #5)

Available in digital & audio - listen to audio sample below

More info →

For My Audible Book Listeners

Audible has given me FREE audiobook codes to pass on to you for select titles in this series!  In turn, please be sure to take a few moments after listening to leave an honest online review.  Click the yellow button below to claim a code. 

*Due to limited availability, codes must be redeemed within 48 hours or will be reassigned to another requester.

If you are not currently an Audible member, you can still sign up and claim a free code without signing up for a membership or subscription. If you have any issues, Audible’s Customer Care team is just one phone call away & are happy to help–you can reach them directly at (888) 283-5051.


Join My Street Team

Are you a super fan of the Friessens, O’Connells, McCabes and more? 
I’m looking for eager readers to join my brand new Facebook street team to provide feedback and share your enthusiasm for my stories via reviews, social media and good ‘ole word-of-mouth.  Interested?  Click the button below to join the team. 

Free icons | Kungfuoctopus's Blog

Additionally, when my group reaches 2,000 members, I’ll be giving away a new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky team member! 

As always, thank you for your consideration and support–I’m truly grateful!

Read More
New Release

★★ Special Release Day Sale★★

TODAY ONLY, grab this new release for $2.99!* 
But hurry–sale ends at 11:59pm Pacific Time tonight!

*Also applies to pre-orders

The Children

The Children

She picked up the wrong file, and now everything is falling apart.

 

 

From New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart comes a new Billy Jo McCabe mystery set on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. When social worker Billy Jo McCabe accidentally picks up the wrong file, she discovers a shocking, twisted mystery plotted by a high-ranking social worker in the DCFS.

 

When Billy Jo McCabe accidentally picks up the wrong file, before she realizes her mistake, she discovers a secret no one was supposed to find.

She takes the file to the newly appointed chief of police, Mark Friessen, but he doesn’t believe her—that is, until they discover dozens more files and missing money from vulnerable at-risk children who have aged out of the system and are living on the streets.

As she digs into the files, the system, and the people involved, everything falls apart.

And what Mark and Billy Jo discover is a secret far more shocking than missing money.

More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Google Play

For My Audible Book Listeners

Audible has given me FREE audiobook codes to pass on to you for select titles in this series!  In turn, please be sure to take a few moments after listening to leave an honest online review.  Click the yellow button below to claim a code. 

*Due to limited availability, codes must be redeemed within 48 hours or will be reassigned to another requester.

If you are not currently an Audible member, you can still sign up and claim a free code without signing up for a membership or subscription. If you have any issues, Audible’s Customer Care team is just one phone call away & are happy to help–you can reach them directly at (888) 283-5051.


Join My Street Team

Are you a super fan of the Friessens, O’Connells, McCabes and more? 
I’m looking for eager readers to join my brand new Facebook street team to provide feedback and share your enthusiasm for my stories via reviews, social media and good ‘ole word-of-mouth.  Interested?  Click the button below to join the team. 

Free icons | Kungfuoctopus's Blog

Additionally, when my group reaches 2,000 members, I’ll be giving away a new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky team member! 

As always, thank you for your consideration and support–I’m truly grateful!

Read More
New Release

The newest Billy Jo McCabe Mystery is here!

It’s Release Day

The Stranger at the Door

The Stranger at the Door

She knocked on his door. He never should have answered.

 

As newly appointed chief of police, Mark Friessen is settling into his small-town role when he uncovers the twisted tale of a woman forced to marry the man who killed her family.

 

When the woman goes looking for help, knocking on his door, Mark and Billy Jo are thrust into a web of lies that tests their own complex relationship, as they discover secrets in the couple’s shadowy past that could drive a wedge between them for good.

 

Mark and Billy Jo are continuing to learn the hard way that stepping on the wrong toes could have serious consequences. Thrust into the center of a dangerous and bizarre case, they have to face their own doubts about each other, and soon, they may wish this woman had never knocked on Mark’s door.

More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Google Play

******

Plus, download a FREE bonus short!

Ever want to get into the head of a character and understand why he is the way he is? Read TRUTH AND LIES, a bonus short story on Ash Byrd.


For My Audible Book Listeners

There is a very limited number of US/UK Audible codes available for select Billy Jo McCabe titles!

In turn, please take a few moments after listening to leave an honest online review.  Click the yellow button below to claim a code. 

*Due to limited availability, codes must be redeemed within 48 hours or will be reassigned to another requester.

If you are not currently an Audible member, you can still sign up and claim a free code without signing up for a membership or subscription. If you have any issues, Audible’s Customer Care team is just one phone call away & are happy to help–you can reach them directly at (888) 283-5051.


Join My Street Team

Are you a super fan of the Friessens, O’Connells, McCabes and more? 
I’m looking for eager readers to join my brand new Facebook street team to provide feedback and share your enthusiasm for my stories via reviews, social media and good ‘ole word-of-mouth.  Interested?  Click the button below to join the team. 

Free icons | Kungfuoctopus's Blog

Additionally, when my group reaches 2,000 members, I’ll be giving away a new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky team member! 

As always, thank you for your consideration and support–I’m truly grateful!

Read More
New Release

The newest O’Connells novel is here!

It’s Release Day!

The newest O’Connells Broken Promises is here! 

Available at all Retailers, and audiobook production is also underway.

Broken Promises

Broken Promises

What do you do when a woman shows up on your doorstep, suddenly wanting her daughter back?

More info →

New O’Connell novel now on Pre-Order

I’m happy to announce there will be a new O’Connell novel The Gatekeeper, which is now available on Pre-Order everywhere.

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

Seven years ago, she lost her husband.

Three years ago, her daughter was taken from her.

Today, she’s taking back her life.

More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Google Play
The O'Connells Audio

The Neighbor

Buy now!
The Neighbor

The Third Call

Buy now!
The Third Call

The Secret Husband

Buy now!
The Secret Husband

The Quiet Day

Buy now!
The Quiet Day

The Commitment

Buy now!
The Commitment

The Missing Father

Buy now!
The Missing  Father

The Hometown Hero

Buy now!
The Hometown Hero

Justice Audiobook

Buy now!
Justice Audiobook

The Family Secret Audiobook

Buy now!
The Family Secret Audiobook
The Fallen O’Connell Audiobook

The Return of the O’Connells

Buy now!
The Return of the O’Connells

Broken Promises Audiobook

Buy now!
Broken Promises Audiobook

Join My Street Team

Are you a super fan of the Friessens, O’Connells, McCabes and more? 
I’m looking for eager readers to join my brand new Facebook street team to provide feedback and share your enthusiasm for my stories via reviews, social media and good ‘ole word-of-mouth.  Interested?  Click the button below to join the team. 

Free icons | Kungfuoctopus's Blog

Additionally, when my group reaches 2,000 members, I’ll be giving away a new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky team member! 

As always, thank you for your consideration and support–I’m truly grateful!


For My Audible Book Listeners

Audible has given me more FREE audiobook codes to pass on to you for select titles!  Click the yellow button below to claim yours; first come, first served.  *Due to limited availability, codes must be redeemed within 48 hours or will be reassigned to another requester.
Don’t forget after you’ve listened to the AUDIOBOOK please leave a review!

The McCabe Brothers Audio

Don’t Stop Me

Buy now!
Don’t Stop Me

Don’t Catch Me

Buy now!
Don’t Catch Me

Don’t Run From Me Audiobook

Buy now!
Don’t Run From Me Audiobook

Don’t Hide From Me

Buy now!
Don’t Hide From Me

Don’t Leave Me Audiobook

Buy now!
Don’t Leave Me Audiobook

Out of Time

Buy now!
Out of Time

If you are not currently an Audible member, you can still sign up and claim a free code without signing up for a membership or subscription. If you have any issues, Audible’s Customer Care team is just one phone call away & are happy to help–you can reach them directly at (888) 283-5051.

Read More
New Release

The newest O’Connells novel is here with a FREE short!

It’s release day for Book 15 in The O’Connells romantic suspense series! THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is now available at your favorite eRetailers. Plus, don’t miss your FREE bonus short story below!

The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door

Romance and suspense collide in this haunting romantic thriller. When special forces operator Luke O’Connell meets a woman he never expected to see again, he uncovers the dangerous secret she is hiding and realizes the lengths someone will go to stop him from uncovering the truth.

More info →

Chapter 1

“Why are we here, again?”

Luke pulled his arms over his chest and took in his brother Marcus, who was still wearing his sheriff’s uniform, having just pulled in in his cruiser. The dust settled in the parking lot of the concrete building surrounded by wire fencing. He heard barking from the back.

“Trying to make something right,” he said.

Marcus pulled off his shades and joined Luke beside his old pickup. He’d called Marcus and told him to get his ass down there because he needed his help, and now his brother was staring at him as if he’d lost his mind. He gestured toward the building. “This is an animal shelter. I don’t understand—making what right? Again, why am I here?”

Luke gestured to the front glass doors, but Marcus just stood there as if he had no intention of moving. “I need your help. That I have a sheriff for a brother means they’ll waive the adoption period, so I can walk out of this shelter with a dog today instead of waiting.”

He thought his brother was going to laugh for a moment. Then Marcus shook his head. “What the hell do you want with a dog? You’re never here. You can’t have a dog, because someone else will end up looking after it. And if you tell my kids, they’ll want one. No, seriously. Get in your truck. Let’s get out of here.”

He finally reached out and slapped Marcus on the shoulder. “It’s not for me, it’s for Chloe, so stop worrying. You’ll have no responsibility here.”

His brother fell in beside him as he started walking to the door, but again he was shaking his head. “You’re getting Chloe a dog? Seriously, there are better presents, ones that don’t lift a leg on your furniture.”

He only angled his head to Marcus as they walked into the shelter.

The lady behind the front desk tossed them an easy smile. “What can I do for you?” she said as she stood up. Her cheeks were round and her hair dark and short.

Marcus said nothing, only gestured to Luke with his thumb.

“Can I see the dogs you have up for adoption?” Luke said.

“Sure thing! We have quite a few. They’re all out back. Just head through those doors there and follow the noise. Are you looking for any particular breed of dog?” She dragged her gaze from Luke to Marcus, who just lifted his hands, though at least he hadn’t walked out. Luke knew his brother was still furious over how the Wyoming sheriff had made him look like a fool.

“Nope, just want to see what you have,” Luke said, then tapped the counter and started walking to the back.

He pushed open the door and took in the line of kennels outside. There were so many of them, a little beagle who was sitting, staring up, shaking, and one that looked like a big Malamute back in the shade.

“I thought you were going to take her to dinner?” Marcus said as Luke walked, continuing to look at the dogs.

“I am. I plan on it,” he said. He would show up with a dog and then ask her out that night.

“So why the dog? Seems overkill to me.” Marcus walked behind him as he looked in each kennel. He could hear in his voice that he thought this was a bad idea.

“She had hers taken away in Wyoming over the Randall thing. She had a mutt, some little terrier. I had to Google it to figure out what it was. She loved that dog, and watching her talk about it, I just figured I could try to fix some of what was done to her—what I did, and you too.”

His brother’s smile was gone. He just stared at the cages and dogs before dragging those blue eyes over to Luke. There it was, the guilt. “Look, I feel horrible over what happened when Sheriff Kolter showed up with that warrant. That was the first time I’ve ever had to deal with that kind of underhandedness. I’m still kicking myself, because I know what a legitimate interstate warrant looks like, and I wish I could go back and have a second look now. You can be damn sure that’ll never happen again. If there’s ever a next time, I’ll be picking up the phone and questioning the legality of every dotted i and crossed t.”

Luke could hear the regret in his brother’s voice. He wanted to remind him that even Karen had said someone would have to really look to see the difference. Evidently, Sheriff Kolter had known what he was doing. “Well, that’s the reason you’re here, because you can help make it up to her. I’ll make sure you get some credit so you’re not in the doghouse, so to speak. That you went all official on her, turning from friendly Marcus to the sheriff who saw her as a criminal, it has her feeling about you the way Mom still feels about Harold.”

His brother flinched. Even though Harold had been doing his job, personal was personal, and Luke could see it in the shadows of his mom’s face. She was trying to tell herself she had to forgive him, that he’d done it only so things wouldn’t have been worse for her.

His brother glanced away, then shook his head. “Charlotte went over to see Chloe. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around her not being Misty. Just saying, it seems we as a family attract this. But Charlotte was adamant that we have to have her over to the house with everyone so the family can show her that nothing has changed. Then there’s Suzanne. Harold said she wants Chloe to file a formal complaint about that sheriff.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

Marcus dragged his gaze over to him. “I’ll even help her start the paperwork. If we want anything to change in this country, then people like Sheriff Kolter have to go. It’s all I can think to do to tell her I’m sorry.”

Luke realized Marcus held on to so much frustration and anger, something he suspected he was feeling more and more, having to wade in and deal with the truly ugly parts of humanity, the lying, the cheating, the taking. But not on the level that Luke did, and he hoped his brother never had to.

He made himself look away. “So I heard Suzanne is still giving you the gears about working for the sheriff’s office.” He took another step, walking past each of the cages, seeing all the dogs no one wanted.

Marcus let out a sigh. “She’s not joining. She can push all she wants to, but it’s not happening. Told Harold to figure out a way to steer her in another direction. Planning on moving Therese, too—you know, the lady who took over Charlotte’s job? Well, she’s good, so I plan to send her for some training and give her the open deputy job that used to be Lonnie’s.” Marcus angled his head as they took in a group of little bulldog puppies, four of them yipping away, climbing over each other with their stocky bodies and huge paws.

“So is that your way of giving your wife her job back?”

Marcus dragged his gaze over to him again, unsmiling. “Even though Therese is really good, the way she got the job was wrong, with the council overstepping because Charlotte had a baby. Charlotte swallowed it and didn’t complain because she knew I was having to deal with all the overreach from the council and mayor. Well, not this time. Even though I love that she’s home with Cameron and Eva, and being there for me, her job was a part of herself that she loved. So yeah, she’s getting her job back.” Marcus gestured to the pups. “You should get her the gray one.”

Luke stared at the little bulldog pup, which would grow into a powerhouse. There was something about those eyes, the way it was pawing at the fence where his brother was standing, looking down at it.

“A puppy,” Luke said. “He looks like a scrapper.”

All Marcus did was grunt. “He’s perfect—for you and her.”

Chapter 2

His truck rumbled before he parked and turned off the engine, taking in the bungalow, its curtains drawn and blinds closed. He wondered how long it would be before Chloe felt comfortable again, considering hiding for so long had likely become second nature to her.

The puppy was climbing on the seat, and he lifted the little guy—or, rather, girl.

“Well, too late to take you back, so she’d better like you.”

The puppy licked his face as he closed the door and held the wriggling bundle up the walkway. He pulled open the screen and knocked, then waited one second and then another. There it was, the slight flutter of the curtains, then the footsteps. He listened to the two deadbolts being unlocked, and then the door opened. He took in her wide eyes as she pulled the door open further.

“Luke, what the…?” She gasped as he held the puppy out.

He didn’t have to ask to come in. She just stepped back, and he let the door close behind him as he handed the puppy to her. “She’s yours. I stopped at the pound and picked her up, so if you decide you don’t want her, it’s too late to take her back, so I’ll be stuck with her—and Marcus has already pointed out that I can’t have a dog because I’m gone at a moment’s notice and someone else will end up looking after her.”

She was laughing, and the puppy was licking her face, tail wagging. Her amber eyes reached out to him without the shadow of hurt he realized had likely always been there. “You got me a puppy? Why? How? This is crazy…”

Damn, those dimples of hers eased the tightness in his chest that had been there from the moment he’d walked out of the shelter with the pup, leaving Marcus to deal with the lady and see to it that the waiting period was waived.

“I’ll never forget your face when you talked about BJ, the way he was taken from you. I know she can’t replace your other dog, but…” He shrugged.

She put the puppy down and walked over to Luke, one step, two, then rose on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips. She pulled back slowly, and for a moment he didn’t know what to say, remembering what it was like to have her touch him, kiss him. He watched as the puppy squatted on the floor.

He winced.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Chloe ran after the puppy.

Luke took in the hardwood and the old carpet in the living room, remembering what Marcus had said.

Chloe was already holding the dog, and she strode into the kitchen and tossed him a roll of paper towels. “Clean it up for me, and I’ll take her outside. What’s her name?” She was scratching the puppy, who was licking her face again. She grimaced. “Oh, we’re going to have to work on that.”

Luke ripped off several sheets and tossed them on the ground. “It’s up to you to name her,” he said as he squatted down, wiping up the mess. He stood and walked into the kitchen.

“Garbage is under the sink,” she said. “I guess I’m washing my floor again, aren’t I…Lucy? How about Lucy?”

She strode to the back door as he tossed the paper towel in the garbage and then washed his hands. The back door closed, and he could hear her encouraging the puppy and clapping. Yeah, he’d scored big time there.

He walked to the door, taking in the sparseness of the house and how dark it seemed, all closed up. Looking out the back, he watched as Chloe checked the gate at the side of the fence. The puppy was running around the yard.

“I guess that needs to be secured better,” Luke called out. “I’ll walk the perimeter and find any holes, seal them up for you so Lucy can’t get out.”

“You know, Luke, I’m not really angry with you, if that’s what this is about,” she said.

He didn’t know what to say for a moment. As he took in the redhead, awkwardness lingered. Having been with her on her worst day, he sensed all pretense was gone between them.

“I’m responsible for what happened,” he said. “As has been pointed out to me, I don’t know how to be happy. I’ve been fighting for so long, seeing the bad in everyone, that I see shadows where there aren’t any.”

Chloe pulled in a breath and glanced away, uncomfortable. “You said I was hiding something, and you were right. I was. But it was my secret, and you just wouldn’t let up. So yeah, you pushed when you shouldn’t have, and I’m angry about that, considering you have secrets too, Luke. Should I push with you, or do you have a right to them?”

She didn’t pull her gaze. He didn’t know how to explain to her that she was right to a point.

“Should I apologize?” he said. “Maybe I should, for how I went about it, but I can’t apologize for the outcome. You don’t have to hide anymore. You don’t need to have your blinds and curtains closed so no one can see in. You don’t have a sheriff and a county coming after you anymore just because you did the right thing. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else—and take it from me, that isn’t easy. You’re right about me, though. I went into the special forces to make a difference, and I never know where I’m going to be sent with my team. I’ll be gone at a moment’s notice for months at a time, with no idea when I’ll be home. I’m not the family guy my brothers are. I never will be.”

He wasn’t sure what to make of her expression.

“What are you doing, Luke? Sounds to me if you’re pointing out all the reasons you can’t be, as you said, happy. Is that what you’re doing?” She angled her head.

“No, I’m just…” He stopped talking when she lifted a brow. He remembered the deal with his mom, the fact that his family would never stop trying to find a way for him to have his own kind of happiness. “Sorry, maybe I am. This is unchartered territory for me. There’s something about you, Chloe. Considering we’ve already had a weekend with no strings and I’ve seen you naked, maybe I’m going about this all wrong.”

She rested her hand on his bare arm and slid it up to the sleeve of his navy shirt. “How about dinner here?” she said. “You can help me secure the yard so Lucy can’t get out, and you’ll let me ask you all about the Luke that hides himself from everyone.”

Maybe that was what he feared more than anything. He lifted his gaze and let out a rough laugh, knowing he could walk out the door and keep pushing her away, but he’d never be able to stop thinking of her and wondering what if. And that terrified him.

“You may decide I’m too much, you know. There are some things I can’t share, not even with my family.”

She seemed to consider, then nodded. “Fair enough. So how about this? National security is off the table, but anything else is fair game.”

He wondered whether she had any idea what she was asking. “You may not like what you hear. I’m not a squeaky-clean choir boy.”

She only inclined her head as she picked up the puppy, which was pawing at her. “If I was interested in a choir boy, Luke, I wouldn’t have invited you in.”

Her lips quirked, and he spotted the teasing light he’d seen in her eyes during that weekend he’d spent with her. He couldn’t help himself from leaning in and kissing her.

When the puppy pawed at him and licked his face, he pulled back. At Chloe’s soft laughter as he ran his hand over the puppy, he wanted to thank his family for putting her right in his path.

Chapter 3

“Elaborate,” Suzanne said, “because I’ve known Chloe as Misty for so long, yet I swear I’ve never seen her so happy. We know you’ve been staying over, so does this mean…?”

Luke was pouring a glass of wine for Chloe, and he could hear her laughter from the living room. Suzanne groaned and rested her hand on her lower back as she strode over to him, wearing an oversized yellow sundress, her hair pulled back.

“You okay there?” he said.

“Yeah, just the baby, the joys of being pregnant. Everything hurts. But don’t change the subject. We’re talking about you and Chloe.” She angled her head and then smacked his chest when he laughed softly under his breath.

“Ow! Geez, Suzanne, dial back the aggression. Or is this how you keep Harold in line?”

His sister had always been tomboyish, and he was having trouble picturing her as a mom—which she would soon be, considering how their own mother was fussing over her.

“Harold is fine,” Suzanne said. “You’re the only one I do that to, because you like it.” She shrugged.

“Sure, with guys, when I can hit back, but you’re my sister.” He screwed the cap back on the wine.

“I remember well the black eye you gave me…”

“You were twelve, and I wasn’t much older,” he said. “Besides, isn’t this about you having your nose in my business, spying on me, really?”

Suzanne made a rude noise. “I wasn’t spying. I was doing my due diligence, driving past Owen and Tessa’s, and I just happen to have seen your truck parked there every morning. Combined with the fact that Mom says you haven’t been home, I guess that means I can put you and Chloe down as officially together. You two will continue showing up for family night, and Mom will finally get you out of the house, and we won’t have to find someone else for you, because we rather like Chloe. You’re perfect for each other.”

What was he supposed to say to that? Whenever he was with Chloe, he didn’t want to leave. He couldn’t not touch her, not kiss her, and he thought he could listen to her voice all night. Now it was him checking the windows and pulling the curtains closed again, because he was the one still seeing ghosts. There were just too many bad things out there.

But that was one secret he knew Chloe understood, and he figured she wouldn’t share it. His family had some idea, but if they had only known what haunted him in his head, he wondered whether they still would have put Chloe in his path.

“It’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” he said. “So give yourself a pat on the back and take the win, but you’re not getting a blow by blow, because I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Chloe said you rebuilt the entire back fence in her yard.”

He lifted a brow, as his sister didn’t appear to have heard him. “Lucy needed a safe place that she couldn’t get out of. Considering I gave Chloe the puppy, it was my responsibility to make sure she had a secure yard.”

He could hear the laughter in Marcus’s own yard out back, knowing the puppy was a source of entertainment for the kids and half the family. He’d already heard the kids pleading with Marcus too many times that they needed their own puppy.

“You’re being domesticated, Luke.”

He lifted the glass of wine and reached for his own beer. That was word for word what his mom had said, along with instructions not to blow it.

He heard Chloe, Charlotte, and Jenny talking as they stepped into the kitchen. Luke handed Chloe her glass of wine and couldn’t resist leaning in and kissing her. Everyone was suddenly quiet, and when he pulled back, he could see them all watching.

“Okay, show’s over,” he said. “Who’s barbecuing tonight, anyway, since Owen’s not here?”

Then he heard a car door and voices.

“It’s Owen and Tessa. They’re back!” Jenny said. She was already walking to the front door along with Suzanne and Charlotte.

Chloe suddenly appeared nervous, as she hadn’t moved.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

She flicked her amber eyes up to him. Her peach halter sundress looked stunning on her, and he realized something about being with her centered him. “You know that Owen and Tessa still know me as Misty. They don’t know about anything that happened…”

“Oh, I see. You’re worried about what they’re going to think.”

She only shrugged, a motion he’d seen too many times over the past week. There were so many things she hadn’t been able to shake, and he wondered how long it would take for her not to immediately worry about people thinking the worst of her.

“Did anyone here tell you to get out, or did everyone stand behind you?” he said.

She frowned and furrowed her brow. “So you think I’m silly for worrying.”

He settled his beer on the island, then took her wine from her hand to rest beside it. Out front, his family was laughing. He rested both his hands on her bare arms, running them down and pulling her closer to him.

“No, not me, not ever me, but if I have to keep telling you, I think everyone here has already shown you they’re in your corner. What happened to you in Cody will never happen again.”

He could tell by the flicker of worry in those amber eyes that she was likely trying to convince herself of what he was saying.

“You know what I’ve wondered, Luke?” She settled into his arms, pressing all that softness against him as she looked up to him.

“What’s that?”

“Bessie, the old woman next door. I know you told me she moved to Jackson Hole, where her son is, but you never told me how you found out or how she’s doing. I don’t know. Even after everything that happened, she crosses my mind every now and then.”

Luke pulled in a breath, thinking of the call from Jess the day after they’d gotten back. The old woman had been taken out of her house by the sheriff’s deputies while the bulldozers pulled in, and her son had driven all night to pick her up. She’d been given a court-ordered settlement for her property, only eighty cents on the dollar, and the TX Group had wasted no time in laying down the cement.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine with her family,” Luke said, “just like you are here with us. A new start, a new beginning. Just think: Sometimes bad things have to happen to get you to something good.”

By the way her brows knit, she didn’t agree. She went to pull back when he heard the squeak of the door and the voices of his family.

“So you’re saying everything I went through was a good thing?” Chloe said.

He was treading in dangerous territory. He ran his hands over her arms again. “Well, if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have been in Greece, we wouldn’t have met, and you wouldn’t be standing in my arms right now.”

There were those dimples he loved.

“Well, Mr. O’Connell, that was a good save,” she said.

He couldn’t resist leaning in and kissing her.

Chapter 4

The puppy had fallen asleep about the same time Cameron had, Luke thought.

As he sat outside in Marcus’s backyard, the sun had already set, and he could hear the soft voices of his family drifting from the house. His dad had pulled out a patio chair and sat down beside Owen, who had taken a minute to get his head around what had happened while he was gone on his honeymoon.

Marcus handed Luke another beer and sat in one of the other chairs between Harold and Ryan. As Jack reclined in the padded lounger with Karen leaning against him, Luke could just make out the state trooper standing off by the side.

“So are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?” Owen said. “You’ve had all this time to wrap your heads around what happened and ask questions, yet here I am, trying to understand how I didn’t know Chloe was hiding something. I mean, now, as I look back, the signs are there. First there was the way she reacted when Tessa encouraged her to take that admin job at the high school, which had better pay and was practically being handed to her. And maybe I did wonder about how closed-up her house was, with the double locks, the blinds, the curtains, even when Tessa went over. I called out to her a few times when I saw her at the store, and she didn’t turn around. Now I can see, even though it was—”

“Explained away?” Luke jumped in before Owen could continue down the road of trying to see every clue he’d missed.

“Yeah, I guess that’s it. I just can’t believe it.”

Luke could feel his dad watching him and knew he understood more about everything that had happened, just as he did.

“What about the fire and the family who were killed?” Owen said. “I know you said Dirk Randall got off and won’t be charged, but does that mean the case is…?”

“He can’t be charged, Owen, because he was acquitted,” Karen said, jumping in. “But I guess, like you, I thought it never made sense, why he did it or what happened in that house. I mean, don’t you all want to know? Because I do. A man like Dirk Randall with a company the size of TX behind him, what was he doing, walking into a house and burning it down? That makes no sense. He’d have people to do that for him. Am I not right?” Her head was resting against Jack’s chest, and it wasn’t lost on Luke the way Jack had been fussing over her. The man really loved his sister, and he’d been rather quiet that night.

“I did some digging,” Marcus started as he leaned forward, his forearms on his knees, a beer dangling from his hand. “Sal Miller wasn’t as squeaky clean as people thought. I guess because he died in that fire with his kids and his wife, no one was looking at him, but I did find a sealed juvie record on him. He started a fire when he was thirteen, burned down a barn in the place he grew up outside Dixon. The old man inside died. Then, in his early twenties, Sal became a volunteer firefighter in Plympton, where he met his wife before they moved to Cody. The thing is that when I started looking at the dates and records, it seems Sal Miller lived in four different counties in a six-year period, and each of those counties had unsolved arsons.”

Everyone was staring at Marcus. He’d had no idea his brother had been looking.

“You’re saying Sal Miller burned down his own house and killed himself and his family?” Harold said, looking at Marcus as if he’d lost his mind. “Is that what you’ve been doing for the last week, all this research?”

Marcus only pulled his hand over the back of his neck, exhaled, and sat up. “From the beginning, from the moment this all went sideways, it was on me. The minute Sheriff Kolter called me, I drove him right to Chloe to cuff her and let him take her across state lines. I was angry she’d lied, but I didn’t know there was an entire backstory with a lot of players. I didn’t take the time to vet that warrant or, worse, to think for a moment that she could be innocent.

“That case, as I look at it, had so many holes. There are only three ways to solve a crime: You catch someone in the act, you have a witness, or you find evidence. Unfortunately, in Chloe’s case, as in many, the first thing the defense did was poke holes, destroy the witness’s credibility. So that left no witness. And what was the evidence? An accelerant and a head injury to the wife. No one bothered to look into the fact that Deanna Miller had consulted a divorce lawyer, and she was going after half of everything Sal owned. The sheriff conveniently left out that she had also been seeking a restraining order against Sal. This was not a happy couple.

“Luke, when you told me about the incidents with Sal looking in Chloe’s bedroom window, taking photos, I have to tell you, I wouldn’t have given him a pass just because he owned the house. No, there was a lot of evidence against Sal.”

“You think Sal burned down his own house? That he killed his wife?” Owen said as if on the verge of laughing because of how ridiculous it sounded.

“I think the kids got trapped, and he couldn’t get them out. He had screwed up, so he died with his kids. I do think he killed his wife. It may sound crazy, but think about it. But, at the same time, what was Dirk really doing there, and what did he see? Smoke was spotted shortly after, then a fire. Was he there about buying out Sal, and his timing was just off? Maybe. Or maybe Sal was planning on pointing the finger at him too, and it backfired. I did find that the TX Group made several offers to buy out Sal Miller and the houses he owned on that block. Dirk was turned down six times.”

“You didn’t hear this from me,” Jack started, and Karen only turned her head, resting it against his chest. “Dirk Randall is currently being investigated by the securities commission for fraud. As for the sheriff, a video is going to be leaked this week documenting a bad shooting on the highway, a man who was trying to put down a bull. Sheriff Kolter is on video shooting the man in the back…”

“Bessie’s husband,” Luke said.

Jack looked over to him. He wondered how he’d found out, but then, this was Jack.

“So she gets her justice, does she?” Luke said. “But not her property back.”

Jack said nothing else.

By the way Karen settled against her husband, she knew more. “Nope, that big goliath, the TX Group, gets its development,” she said.

“It’s not my state, Karen,” Jack said, having likely heard an earful from her already.

“So how is it that the securities commission is investigating Dirk Randall?” Ryan asked.

Luke realized Jack had been making more than a few phone calls.

“I suspect they had a tip to point them in the right direction. He’ll have to announce his resignation from the TX Group and will walk away disgraced but not impoverished.”

Raymond stood up and looked down at all of them. “So it seems you made some justice happen,” he said. “Marcus, let yourself off the hook. You’re a good sheriff. Jack, you pulled some strings so Dirk loses the TX Group, but you’re right that the development can’t stop. Sheriff Kolter will likely face some charges, but no one will really know what went on in that house before it burned down. There will always be more goliaths out there, but one thing I know well is having to hide, and Chloe won’t have to do that now. You make me damn proud every

day, every one of you, because each of you in your own way is making a little corner of this world better. That’s what I see. It’s what I know.”

Luke didn’t know what to say. He’d never considered that.

His dad was staring down at Karen, who was still resting against her husband. Jack had wrapped his arms around her and pressed a kiss to her head, and by the way Raymond smiled at the two of them, Luke realized there was something else.

“You know,” his dad said, “we could all use a little more good news. You told your mom and me earlier…”

Karen looked up at them all. “Jack and I are having a baby.”

Jack gave a proud papa’s smile as he kissed Karen’s cheek again, and Luke looked over to his feisty, fiery sister as everyone shouted their congratulations. He stood and strode over, then bent down and kissed her on the cheek before tapping Jack on the shoulder.

“That’s great, you two,” he said. “You know what? I think I’m going to grab Chloe and that sleeping pup and head out.”

As he strode across Marcus’s backyard toward the house, hearing the laughter behind him, he realized his dad was right. In their own ways, they really were trying to make things right.

Read More
The Friessens - Keep Me in Your Heart-Generic
Box Set Wedneday, New Release

The newest Friessens novel is here!

The newest Friessens novel is here! KEEP ME IN YOUR HEART is now available at your favorite eRetailers.  And stay tuned for Friday’s newsletter for a FREE short that follows this story!


99Cents

“I ran the gamut of emotions again, as I always do with this series.” ★★★★★ Peg, Amazon Reviewer

It Was Always You

It Was Always You

Katy and Steven were the loves of each other’s lives until a tragedy and the fallout of Steven’s injuries drove the couple apart.

They share a son, but Katy and Steven have moved on with their lives, dating other people, and neither has seen the other in five long years. But when Steven comes knocking on Katy’s parents’ door after learning she’s back in town, Katy is forced to face her estranged husband and the love that broke her heart, and his intentions regarding their all-but-over marriage are soon made very clear.

The only problem is that as simple as it would be for them to walk away, seeing just what it means to move on and start a new life may not be as easy as they once thought.

More info →

$2.99 Boxed Set

“Captivating…The family is full of surprises, heart ache, and hope. You feel like your family goes through things no one else does but these stories show that we aren’t the only one with troubles.” ★★★★★ l. Smith, Amazon Reviewer

The Friessens Books 1 – 5

The Friessens Books 1 – 5

In this 5 Book Western Romance Collection follow the strong, sexy Friessen men and the women they love as they stand by their family through thick and thin.

The Reunion (The Friessens, #1)

The Bloodline (The Friessens, #2)

The Promise (The Friessens, #3)

The Business Plan (The Friessens, #4)

The Decision (The Friessens, #5)

Available in digital & audio - listen to audio sample below

More info →

Great Giveaways

Enter to win the NEW KINDLE PAPERWHITE WITH AUDIBLE!  Simply click here to vote for your favorite audiobook.  Contest ends April 12, 2021 at 3:00 a.m. PST.  Good luck!

****

Enter the BookSweeps Dark Mysteries & Thrillers giveaway to win HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT plus 50+ titles from great authors…AND a brand new eReader.  Click this link to enter.  Contest ends April 7, 2021.


Free Audio Codes

Get a FREE US or UK Audible code for these Friessens titles. First come, first served. Please take only if you intend to listen as the number of promo codes are limited. Codes are valid for 48 hours only; after this time, the code may be reissued to another requester. Honest reviews are appreciated. Happy listening!

***Before claiming your audiobook code please make sure you are signed into your Audible account. You do not need to have a paid membership to have an Audible account or claim FREE audiobook codes.


Read More
A Billy Jo McCabe Mystery - The Cold Case - Available Now
New Release

The third Billy Jo McCabe mystery is here!

Book 3 in the Billy Jo McCabe mystery series is here!  THE COLD CASE is now available at your favorite eRetailers.  Plus, don’t miss your FREE bonus short story that goes along with this latest release (see below)!  

The Cold Case

The Cold Case

What happens when you stumble across a case that should never have been closed?

Detective Mark Friessen uncovers a disturbing mystery: A little girl was taken, but when evidence disappeared, the case was closed.

More info →

Chapter 1

Billy Jo pulled the keys from her bag and shoved them in her mailbox, hearing the chatter around her and doing her best to ignore everyone. She couldn’t help but look over her shoulder again before looking back to the empty mailbox, though.

When she closed it up and turned, she took in the dark-haired woman opening the box behind hers, wearing a deputy’s uniform. She knew who it was, Carmen, a woman she’d had many reservations about but now understood so much better, as often happened when she took the time to understood what had happened to make a person the way she was and why she did what she did.

She should leave her alone, knowing that was all the woman really wanted, yet Billy Jo found herself waiting for Carmen to close her mailbox. When she turned, her unsmiling dark eyes unnerved her.

“Hi, Carmen. Thought that was you,” she said, though she wasn’t known for being chatty.

Carmen said nothing at first. “Can I help you with something?” she finally replied. Right to the point, something she appreciated, but she figured Carmen was just as likely to walk around her and out the door.

Billy Jo nodded to the postal worker behind the counter, who was looking their way, then turned back to Carmen. “I just wanted to ask you about Brice Martin. Heard he was released the other day. I expected some news about his little girl, Gabriele. I know social services in Astoria had her, but I wonder if Brice is coming back here or…”

She could have asked Mark, but Mark was being Mark again, and she hadn’t seen or heard from him since their coffee at the hotel. She couldn’t shake a feeling that had scared the shit out of her, the feeling that they had suddenly and unexpectedly crossed the line from friendship, shifting into something different. It was nothing she could put her finger on.

“I have no idea,” Carmen said, giving her nothing. She shook her head and started walking to the door, away from her.

Billy Jo took in the postal clerk, who was watching them and likely picking up on what wasn’t being said. She made herself take a step, seeing Carmen already outside, walking away. She was fast, and Billy Jo had to hurry before she crossed the street.

“Carmen, wait!” she called out. She could see the woman wasn’t interested in having personal time with anyone, but she only shook her head when Billy Jo fell in beside her as she started across the street.

“What is it? What do you want?”

“Look, Carmen, I’m not being nosy. I’m just…”

“Yes, you are, so what do you want?”

Just then, Mark drove past them in his Jeep and pulled in front of the station. So much for discretion!

“Mark told you, didn’t he?” Carmen said, her anger spewing.

It took Billy Jo a second to understand what she was saying.

“Mark? No, he told me nothing, and I wasn’t eavesdropping—but I couldn’t help but overhear. I presume we’re talking about your kid, who’s now living with your sister? Mark doesn’t talk about anyone, you know. Of all his faults, that’s not one. Besides, you forget what I do. Seriously, Carmen, if there was a way I could help you extract your pound of flesh for what

happened, what was taken from you, I would. The system screwed up, and you got screwed. If you want help with anything on that front, just ask.”

Carmen dragged her gaze over Billy Jo before making a rude noise under her breath and looking away. “I don’t need or want your help.”

Point taken!

“Fine, I get it,” Billy Jo said. “What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

In response, Carmen froze just as they had crossed the road. She turned and looked down on Billy Jo, who figured Carmen was inches taller than her. Talk about keeping her cards close to her chest. Billy Jo had thought she held the corner on that.

Mark had climbed out of his Jeep and dragged his sunglasses off, not pulling his gaze from them.

“You want to have dinner with me?” Carmen said. Why did it sound like an accusation?

“Unless you have plans or are busy?”

This was generally where someone filled the silence by saying yes, she did have plans. But Billy Jo would’ve been surprised if Carmen did, considering she was more of a loner than anyone she’d ever met.

“What’s going on here?” Mark said, striding over.

Carmen hesitated and then looked up as if trying to think of a way to tell her no. More than likely, she’d just walk away.

“Carmen and I were just making plans for dinner tonight,” Billy Jo said. “I’ll put a casserole in the oven. Why don’t you come over after your shift, say, six?”

Mark dragged his gaze from her to Carmen and back. His expression was priceless.

“Fine,” was all Carmen said before walking away.

Mark actually turned and watched her head inside the sheriff’s office before looking back to her. “Didn’t know you two were friends,” he said. He was kidding, right?

“We’re not, but I figured since I’m staying on the island for now, I’d like to know more about some people here.”

Mark squinted one eye. The sun had peeked from behind a cloud. He was evidently thinking too much, and there was that distance between them again. One step forward, five back. “Listen, I know I’ve been kind of scarce lately…”

She waited for him to say something about the fact that she hadn’t called him and he hadn’t called her, because the way he smiled at her, the way he looked at her, was not the way a friend did.

“We’re not dating, Mark,” she said. “You don’t need to explain something that isn’t my business.” There she went, closing the door completely—and there was that smile, the humor at her expense.

“So why Carmen?” Maybe it was the way he said it that had her wondering whether he thought this was something else.

“Is there something you want to ask me, Mark?”

He stilled and pulled his gaze, gave his head a shake, and went to step back. “Nope, not asking anything, not my business. You have a great day, Billy Jo.”

She didn’t know why, but this felt so much like the door being slammed shut, as if she’d been the one to close it. He took another step back to walk away.

“Before you go, you hear anything about Brice Martin?” she said. “Is he planning on coming back to the island? I know child services in Astoria have Gabriele. Has he said anything about taking her, getting custody of her?”

Mark turned back to her.

“I was just asking Carmen, but Carmen being Carmen, she isn’t too interested,” she continued. “When I reached out to child services in Astoria, they said she’s been placed with a family, and no one has any information on the father.”

They had also told her that it wasn’t in her jurisdiction to ask.

Mark leveled his gaze on her, and it softened even though she could still feel the wall being resurrected between them. He shook his head. “No idea. Not sure he’d want to come back here, considering, and as far as the little girl, she’s not even his.”

“On paper she is, on the birth certificate. Mark, really? If you raise a little girl, even after being separated this long, you can’t turn your feelings off, or I hope you wouldn’t.”

There was something about Mark. When he looked at her with those blue unsmiling eyes, the way he was right now, she didn’t know what was coming. He was not an easy man to read. “So is this more about you, then?”

She fisted her hands and pulled at her cardigan, wondering how Mark could make her feel so on edge at times. “If it is? I just want a happy ending for that little girl, because out of this fucked-up mess, everyone seems to forget about her. She was just a baby, a toddler, when her dad was taken from her. Then she was living with her grandmother, suddenly no longer called Gabriele but a new name, Shauna.

“Now the only woman she’s ever known, the one she’s bonded with, is gone, taken from her, because she was part of that sick mess of faking her death so Brice Martin would be out of the picture. Gabriele is innocent, so yes, maybe I want to know that she’ll have someone and not become another statistic. Because as hard as I fight for them, this system isn’t known for turning out well-adjusted kids. All too often, they become a meal ticket for some adult. So yes, Mark, this is about me and the fact that I’d like to know at least one kid has some chance at normalcy.”

Billy Jo could feel her insides shaking, the passion oozing. She was still thinking, too, of Jay Turner, the little boy she hadn’t been able to find anyone for here on this island. No one would give a damn and just do the right thing for him.

“You ever find someone to take that little boy with the medical condition?” Mark said. How was it that he seemed to know what she was thinking?

She just shrugged and shook her head. “Sometimes I really hate this job.”

He reached over and touched her shoulder. It was kind, the Mark she was familiar with. He sighed and looked over her head. “Why don’t I do some digging and find out what plans Brice has? Let’s say I’ll show up for that casserole you’re planning for Carmen, so make extra.”

It was something she hadn’t expected. Then he was walking away, and he glanced back to her just once before opening the door to the sheriff’s office and walking in.

Damn, there it was again, that awkwardness, that look she didn’t think she could handle when all she wanted was for the line of friendship to stay firmly entrenched, where it was. Because anything more than that with a man like Mark would be a sure-fire way to a broken heart.

Chapter 2

“She knows something,” Carmen said.

Mark hesitated only a second as he poured coffee into his favorite green mug. Carmen stood right there, dumping sugar and milk into hers, and by the way she said it, she was rattled.

No, she was furious.

“Who are we talking about?” Mark slid the coffeepot back on the burner.

Carmen reached for it and poured, slopping a bit over the side onto the counter. Then she slammed it back on the burner with a clatter, not her usual reserved, calm self. “That nosy friend of yours, Billy Jo.”

Huh!

“Maybe you should elaborate, because it seems I missed the first part of this conversation. What are we talking about? She knows something about what? Did she say something to you? I was kind of wondering what that was about out there between you two.”

Her eyes widened, and she stilled, looking at him. He realized he’d missed more than a little. He’d thought it was odd to see Billy Jo and Carmen together as he drove up. Evidently, something was going on behind the scenes.

“I shared some pretty personal stuff with you, which wasn’t an invitation for you to open your mouth,” Carmen said. When he pulled his mug away to reply, she lifted her hand, giving him the flat of it like a punch to the face. “And don’t even start about how you shared nothing with no one.” Her voice was low, but the bite was there.

She glanced once over her shoulder to Gail, who was going through files, reading something, but then lifted her gaze to them. Evidently, she had her eye on them and was likely wondering what they were talking about.

“I’m very well aware that she was listening when I spilled my guts at your house. You think I like having someone dig around in my past, my business?”

There was the hurt. This was something he hadn’t expected from Billy Jo.

“I’ll talk to her,” he said. “I didn’t expect her to say anything. That’s not like her. So why did she bring it up? We’re talking about your kid, right?”

She pulled in a breath, and he was positive he saw her hand shake. “Yeah, and for the record, I don’t need her help.”

Apparently, Billy Jo had treaded into Carmen’s no-go territory. Maybe he would have a talk with her.

“So she offered to help you with…” He let it hang, lifting his mug, keeping his back to Gail as he took a swallow.

“Anything to do with my kid, but I don’t want any more spotlights shining there. And now I’m supposed to show up at her place for dinner?” She made a rude noise.

He could see that Carmen lived in the shadows, hiding from everyone. He wondered whether her unease was more about the fact that Billy Jo was dragging her from that place where she hid from everyone.

“If you don’t want to go for dinner, don’t go. But if Billy Jo offered to help in some way, you have nothing to lose, Carmen. She has the resources, and she wouldn’t go in and do something to hurt you. She has a way about her, and she understands more than you’d think. She has her own experiences of living through the worst kinds of things, things no one should have to. So she knows. You should talk to her. She may surprise you with what an ally she can be.”

Carmen had a way of not smiling when she was looking at him. He could see the hurt that was buried so deep, which kept everyone away from her. “You’re trying to sell me on her, seriously? Don’t. She’s your friend, but whatever’s going on between you two, I don’t want her sticking her nose in my personal life.”

He wasn’t sure what to make of her comment. Carmen was anything but chatty, and it seemed Billy Jo had managed to scrape open a very raw wound, one she wasn’t ready to reveal to anyone.

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to,” Mark said. “Billy Jo and I are only friends. I’m not her keeper, Carmen, so you may want to tell her all that yourself.”

As Carmen stirred her coffee, she gave a shake of her head, and after taking another second to dump her spoon into the sink, she looked up at him. “That is bullshit. You want to keep telling yourself that you two are just friends, fine, but we all see it even though you both try to pretend there isn’t something there. I’m sure you could find another coffee girl to mess around with until you burn that bridge, as well, all the while trying to deny there’s something between you and Billy Jo.”

He should’ve said something to clear the air, like that she wasn’t his type, that it wasn’t that way between them. Except when the rug had been yanked out from under him, and when he found himself with his back against the wall, it had always been Billy Jo who was there.

“You’re mistaking a partner in crime and good friend for something more. She has her stuff she’s dealing with, and I have mine. By the way, about dinner at Billy Jo’s tonight, don’t look so worried. I already invited myself, too. Besides, she wants to know about what happened to that little girl, to make sure her life isn’t suddenly going to be worse because doing the right thing meant taking Gabriele from her grandmother, the only home she’s known, and sticking her somewhere with a bunch of strangers. I told her I would check into it, see what I can find out, check whether Brice plans to take her or leave her in the system.”

Mark found himself looking over his shoulder to Gail, who was writing something in a file.

“You two done gossiping over there?” Gail called over. Evidently, she didn’t miss anything.

“Nope. Just need to cover the weather, the latest dirt on the island…”

The chief’s wife didn’t seem impressed as she looked up. “Well, Tolly is on his way in, so I’ll be leaving soon. Mark, you still need to make sure your reports are finished and turned in. Carmen, you need to get out there and do rounds.”

There were the orders. Carmen took a swallow of her coffee and walked back to her desk, reached for her coat, and shrugged it on. She was quiet, only nodding to Gail as she reached for her keys. So she was just going to walk out.

“See you for dinner tonight, Carmen,” he called out.

She paused at the door, and he didn’t miss the way Gail looked over to him. Good. So apparently she hadn’t heard, by the way she dragged her gaze back and forth between them. Carmen only shook her head as she stepped out and closed the door behind her.

“Didn’t know you and Carmen hung out together,” Gail said. “Thought that was just something you and Billy Jo did.”

He’d just taken a swallow of his coffee, and he choked and coughed. His fisted his hand and pounded his chest, taking in the mischief that appeared in Gail’s expression as she held her mug of coffee between two hands.

“Oh, boy, you really have it bad,” she said.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

She smiled, and for a moment he didn’t think she’d answer. “You and Billy Jo…”

He just shook his head. “There is no me and Billy Jo. Why does everyone keep insisting there’s something between us when there isn’t? We’re friends, that’s all. Actually, we’re more like work buddies. I help her out with a problem and vice versa. We occasionally have coffee. We’re friends, that’s it, nothing more.” He actually gestured, cutting his hand through the air.

“Uh-huh. You know, Mark, you may keep telling yourself that, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. I saw it the first time I met the girl, and I see it every time I see you two together. You know how some couples work and some don’t.”

He couldn’t believe she was still talking about it. He just jabbed his finger at her, at a loss for words.

She put her mug down and lifted her hands. “Just saying, Mark, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing.”

Then the station door opened, and the chief walked in, and Gail started packing up. Great, a change of guards. The conversation about Billy Jo was over. Yet Mark was still stuck on the fact that it seemed everyone was talking about him and Billy Jo when there was nothing between them.

Chapter 3

She didn’t think Carmen wore anything other than a deputy uniform, but there she was in a pair of blue jeans and a baby blue sweater. Her hair was tied back as it always was, though. She was slender, not curvy.

“You sure I can’t get you a drink?” Billy Jo said. “Wine or beer? I picked some up because that’s what Mark likes.”

Carmen just waved her hand in response and pulled out a stool to sit at the island. “I don’t drink,” she said. “Water works for me.”

Billy Jo filled a glass and slid it across the island in front of her, then lifted her own glass of red and took a swallow. “So I made a shepherd’s pie because it’s fast and easy. Hope that’s okay, because I’m not making anything else.”

Carmen only shrugged.

Billy Jo could see how uncomfortable she was, well aware that Mark still wasn’t there. “So I presume Mark is on his way?” she said.

Carmen was staring at her with those dark eyes of hers, and she could see the minute the woman had taken her question the wrong way. “I would think so. He said he was coming over. He also told me to give you the benefit of the doubt, said you’d likely have some understanding of my situation, as if you’ve lived through worse. He didn’t elaborate, but I have to wonder what he meant. You know, you two dance around each other, pretending you’re not involved, but you behave more like a couple than any I’ve ever seen. You know too much about each other. It was like he was trying to smooth over the fact that you stepped into my personal business, which no one ever does.”

She paused before taking a swallow of her wine and resting the glass on the counter. So Mark had defended her. The thought should’ve made her happy. “You’re still angry about what I said. I guess I could have never brought it up. That would probably have been the best option, right? We could both pretend we don’t know anything and continue ignoring each other. You said Mark told you I understand your situation because I’ve lived through worse. Did he really say that? He didn’t share anything?”

Carmen lifted her brow. She was messing with her. “No, apparently, he doesn’t share our personal stories. Whatever he knows about you, he didn’t tell me. Am I curious? Of course, but it’s your business, not mine.” She pulled her arms over her chest as she sat straighter on the stool, the awkward guest.

“He’s right, though,” Billy Jo said. “I know well how fucked up the system is. You said your sister has your kid. So you haven’t seen him, then?”

Carmen only shook her head. “No. He’s no longer mine.”

She wondered what that meant. “You’ve given up your rights to him?”

“So you didn’t go poking around in my file?” Carmen said. “I’m sure it’s there, everything. It happened on this very island.”

She heard a vehicle, Mark’s Jeep. She should’ve been relieved, but instead she felt nervous in a way she couldn’t remember ever feeling before. She wondered if that was why Carmen was watching her so intently.

“As you said, it’s your business, not mine,” Billy Jo said. “I told you before that I know only what I heard you say to Mark. I could have looked, and I suppose anyone else would have, but I had already heard enough. I imagine it would’ve been a hundred times worse, living it. I have my

own past that isn’t anyone’s business, so I’m not about to start sticking my nose in yours. I only offered. You don’t have to take me up on it. I invited you over to dinner because you remind me too much of myself. Being alone isn’t always easy.”

She heard the Jeep door close and knew it would be only seconds before Mark was in her place, and maybe that was why she could feel her heartbeat kicking up.

“My sister and I were taken from our mother when we were kids, pulled from the reservation,” Carmen said. “My mother was taken from her parents, too, and she was never able to be a parent after living in the place they sent her—the place she was taken to have the Indian removed from her. What happened to her…some just never recover from it. She didn’t. You know what I remember of her? Nothing. Drunkenness, empty bottles, and starving.

“I didn’t even know I had a sister until I was trying to get my Native rights, and then I found her. She was adopted to a nice white family, as she said. I wasn’t as lucky. So when everything came down on me the way it did, I knew I wasn’t going to get a fair shake.

“I couldn’t afford to pay for the kind of lawyer who’d have been able to make a difference and straighten out the perceptions of the people I was dealing with. My sister took my son, and it was conditional. I had to sign over my rights to him and stay away. She and her husband adopted him, and I promised never to call again. So no, you can’t help me. No one can.”

She heard the stairs creak, then a knock on the door. “Come in,” she called out without pulling her gaze from Carmen, knowing Mark wouldn’t have known any of what she’d just said.

The door opened, and he stepped inside.

“I picked up wine,” he said. “Dinner smells good.” He was dressed the way he always was, in that ratty jean jacket. She could hear his cowboy boots on the floor as he strode in.

“Thanks for the wine,” she said, then gestured toward the fridge. “I picked you up some beer. It’s in there.”

He rested a really nice bottle of red, which happened to be one of her favorites, on the island before pulling open the fridge behind her and reaching for a beer. Carmen’s brows lifted.

“So I made some calls for you about that little girl,” he said, “and I spoke with Brice. He’s out now.”

Billy Jo turned as he leaned on the island not far from her and popped the top of his beer can. “Oh. And…?”

Carmen dragged her gaze between the two of them, and she didn’t want to analyze that too closely.

“He’s moving back here—to his house, as he put it, the one Nia stole from him. With the charges against her, Dylan, and Harry and Beth, it seems everything will eventually work through the courts. He’ll likely receive a settlement from the state for being wrongly convicted. He’s angry, has every right to be, and said he’s planning on taking Gabriele. He has some hoops to jump through still with the state. I guess once they have a kid in the system, it’s never a matter of just turning her back over. But that’s your department.”

She realized he had done everything she’d asked and then some. “Thanks for digging,” she said.

He only lifted his beer and took a swallow.

Carmen was looking at him before dragging her gaze over to her, a pointed look that only added to her unease. “You know what?” she said. “I’m going to leave you two to have dinner. I have things to do.” Then she slid off the stool and took them in, and Billy Jo was positive an odd smile touched her lips.

“You’re bailing?” Mark called out as Carmen started walking to the door, simply lifting her hand.

Billy Jo started after her in her slippers. She hadn’t worn these blue jeans in a long time, and even the comfortable red shirt she wore was a little on the dressier side than normal. “You know, dinner is almost ready,” she said, “and I invited you for dinner.”

Carmen pulled on her light fleece jacket. Mark was still in the kitchen, and Carmen looked past her to him and shook her head. “Being a third wheel isn’t my thing,” she said. “This thing between you two, the thing you both keep denying, you can tell yourself it’s nothing, but we all see it. So enjoy your dinner together, and since we’re not sticking our noses into each other’s business, you should know that Mark may want everyone to believe he’s not such a great guy, but that’s why he is one. Then there’s the way he looks at you.” Her gaze was imploring for a moment.

Billy Jo had to remind herself to breathe.

Carmen opened the door and glanced past her. “Goodnight, Mark,” she called out, then walked out the door.

Billy Jo closed it and turned to see Mark pulling open her oven and lifting out the casserole dish, making himself at home. She strode back over to the island, where he was resting the dish on potholders.

“So what was that really about, her leaving?” he said. He was perceptive, too.

“Oh, I think Carmen needs smaller steps. Maybe next time she’ll make it through dinner. So are you going to dish up, too?”

He let his gaze linger, and she took in the wine he had brought over. He pulled open the cupboard and reached for two plates. “Well, tell me about your day,” he said as he reached for a large serving spoon. When she laughed softly, he glanced back to her and said, “You should do that more often.” He gestured with the spoon toward her.

“Well, look at us, sitting here, about to have some simple comfort food and converse like normal people.”

“Ah, but that’s the thing, Billy Jo. We’re anything but normal.” He slid her plate on the island and dished up another for himself, and she took in his back.

She didn’t want to like this man, but she could feel her heartbeat kicking up as he backed over, holding his plate and two forks. She reached for one and took in the way he was looking at her, feeling that fear but doing it anyway.

“Mark, just promise me one thing.”

He rested his plate across from her on the island and went to dig in as he looked over to her. “Sure, what is it?”

She jabbed her fork into the casserole and considered it for only a second. Then she nodded. “That no matter what, we’ll always be friends first.”

He said nothing for a second, then nodded as well. “Yeah, I can do that.”


Congrats to Lou C., winner of this month’s giveaway, the NEW WATERPROOF KINDLE PAPERWHITE!  Thanks to all who entered and voted for their favorite O’Connells title.  Stay tuned–another great giveaway is coming soon!


Read More
Box Set Wedneday, New Release

Grab The Parker Sisters box for $2.99 plus more FREE audio codes

$2.99 Boxed Set Sale

Meet the Parker sisters of Wyoming in this spin-off of the Married in Montana series, now on sale for $2.99!  This special set features the first five books in this heartwarming big family romance series including Thrill of the Chase, The Dating Game, Play Hard to Get, What We Can’t Have and Go Your Own Way.  On sale for a limited time.

The Parker Sisters: The Complete Collection
Buy now!

Plus, grab FREE audio codes!

Get FREE AUDIO CODES for THE PARKER SISTERS here!  First come, first served (please take only if you intend to listen as the number of promo codes are limited).  While a review is not necessary, it is always much appreciated.  Thank you and enjoy!


Newly Released

Don’t miss the newest release in The O’Connells series!  Click here to watch the book trailer.

Alison Sweetgrass-O’Connell believes she’s forever a misfit and will never fit in until she meets who she believes is the perfect guy. But when a suspicious turn of events has her fearing she’s being stalked by someone who knows one of her secrets, something no one should know, Alison soon realizes everyone’s seemingly perfect lives have a dark side.

“A riveting, complex read with a surprising turn I didn’t see coming and a silverlining for two kindred spirits make this book hard to put down. Loved it!” ★★★★★ Honest_bookworm, Amazon Reviewer

The Stalker
Buy now!

Audiobooks

Click here to see my titles currently available in audiobook!

And did you know… if you already own one of my eBooks on Kindle, you can pick up the audiobook at a reduced price with Whispersync?  Whispersync allows you to both read and listen, and you can even switch back and forth between reading on Kindle and listening on Audible without losing your place.


Read More
The Monday Blog
New Release, The Monday Blog

It’s the Monday Blog plus THE STALKER is here!

You would think that what is private to you, your thoughts, your feelings, would be yours alone, not to be shared with anyone. So what happens when, suddenly, that privacy is invaded?

Is there any greater violation of your privacy than someone reading the very personal feelings and thoughts you’ve written in a journal? Just think about it: If something you wrote while angry, upset, or disillusioned were read by someone else, a stranger or even someone you knew, could you imagine how that person would see you? Knowing others have an unflattering view of you would have you wanting to retreat even further into yourself.

Everyone goes through rough times in life. A trauma, a loss, an emotional breakup, or anything messy may leave you emotionally gutted for a time. Maybe you hit rock bottom or feel as if the world is out to get you. When the rug is yanked out from under you, you might journal just to get through it. No one has to explain how he or she feels or justify that. How many of you have a journal or keep a diary in which you write down your very personal and private thoughts and feelings? Following that age-old advice not to bottle things up, you might write your thoughts down in a journal, that very private book that no one has a right to read. No one should ever betray that by reading it.

So what would happen if someone read those very private, embarrassing, sacred thoughts? Your privacy would be invaded, and, worse, your thoughts might be shared publicly. That has to be the worst violation, yet it happens. In my new release, The Stalker, this happens to Alison Sweetgrass-O’Connell, a young woman who has carried a dark cloud of doom, believing every bad thing that can happen does happen to her.

One of Alison’s ways of coping has always been to put pen to paper and journal her personal and private dark thoughts, even making a list of names, a hate list, of people who have hurt her. When she suspects someone has been in her apartment and read her journal, it’s a horrific experience for her, because she worries that the revelation of her thoughts might not only destroy the trust she’s built with her family but also have people seeing her differently. This is exactly what happens, and Alison believes this will be the final straw for her family, that they will turn their backs on her.

If we only knew the dark thoughts that linger in most people’s heads. Everyone has dark thoughts sometimes, and I’m not sure anyone would ever want his or her deepest, darkest thoughts shared with anyone, and certainly not put out there for public scrutiny.

Ask yourself this: If you were grieving a loss and angry at a person for what you perceived he or she had done to you, and you put those angry thoughts to paper with no consideration of their consequences, how would those thoughts be viewed by a stranger or someone you know?

That’s why journals are private—and we don’t read anyone’s private journal.


New Release

The newest addition to The O’Connells series is here!  THE STALKER, Book 13, is now available at all online retailers!

Dark secrets are resurrected in this new O’Connell novel.

The Stalker

The Stalker

Alison Sweetgrass-O’Connell believes she’s forever a misfit and will never fit in until she meets who she believes is the perfect guy. But when a suspicious turn of events has her fearing she’s being stalked and worse knows one of her secrets, something no one should know.

More info →

Audiobooks

Click here to see my titles currently available in audiobook!

And did you know… if you already own one of my eBooks on Kindle, you can pick up the audiobook at a reduced price with Whispersync?  Whispersync allows you to both read and listen, and you can even switch back and forth between reading on Kindle and listening on Audible without losing your place.


Read More