May I introduce: Elizabeth Belyeu "Secondhand Shadow"

Secondhand Shadow
by Elizabeth Belyeu
1 - What was it like to see your first release in the 'book stores' ?
Well, I haven't been in stores technically, but seeing my book show up on Amazon was definitely a surreal experience. I would search my own name every day just to see it show up! The really insane part was actually holding my book for the first time. I started crying -- completely surprised myself. I mean, it was only my lifelong dream come true, right??

2 - The blurb for "Secondhand Shadow" sounds interesting. How did you come up with the idea?
I've always been fascinated by the mind-linked-animal idea -- the dragons of Pern and things like that. One day I wondered what it would be like if the mind-linked animal was (essentially) human. The rest is history.

3 - Tell us about your latest project.
Right now I'm alternating between a YA fantasy with dragons (and fairies and mermaids and unicorns and a princess!), and the first stages of a sequel to Secondhand Shadow!

It's supposed to be a symbiotic relationship: the Shadow serves and protects the human Lumi, the Lumi feeds and cares for the Shadow. But when Damon’s Lumi died young and severed the bond between them, he declined to go with her like a good little Shadow. Yes, it hurts. Yes, he's cold and hungry all the time. And yes, his own people call him an abomination. But for the first time, Damon's life is his own, and he’s never going back.

Or so he thinks, until he meets Naomi, a pregnant college student… and bonds to her as his new Lumi. Which has never happened to a Shadow before.
Naomi has enough problems on her plate, juggling college and a crappy survival job, preparing for a baby, and getting over her cheating ex-husband. The last thing she needs is a dark, brooding fellow like Damon depending on her physically and emotionally, and hating her for it. But a vigilante among Damon's people has his sights set on Naomi – and they both know Damon is her only chance for survival.



Elizabeth Belyeu is 29 years old and lives in Alabama, where she supports herself, her cat, and her steadily growing TBR pile as a library assistant. She graduated from Troy University in 2008 with a bachelorʹs in English (Creative Writing minor). This is her first novel, but she has been writing since she could hold a pencil, and plans to continue until she is too senile to type. 


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 “So, who do I look like?” I said.

            He jumped, as if he hadn’t expected me to have the power of speech. “What?”

            “Either I look like someone you never wanted to see again, or I smell bad. Since you got in an elevator with me, I’m going with Option A.”

            He continued staring a moment, then opened his mouth to speak.

            And the elevator shuddered to a halt.

            No. I closed my eyes. No, this cannot be. These things don’t really happen. I leaned my head back against the wall with a thunk. Then, to my own dismay, I started to laugh.

            “I’m sorry,” I gasped when I saw Damon’s stare turn from mysterious to confused. “It’s just such a cliché. The pregnant lady trapped in the elevator. If I give birth in an elevator—” Confusion became alarm. “Oh, no, I’m fine,” I said quickly. “Still two months to go, thank goodness. It’s just the idea.”

            I was able to stop laughing after a minute, because it stopped being funny. There was a help button in the wall, which I would be calm enough to push, eventually. But it could be hours before we got out of here. Hours during which I was supposed to be at work. I fumbled my cell phone out of my bookbag. No signal.

            Damon began to pace, which was a nice trick in an elevator that size, especially when he refused to come anywhere close to me. Yeah, well, I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole, either.

            “I can’t be here,” he muttered under his breath, and ran a hand through his hair, which very unexpectedly made my breath catch. So I have a thing for long-haired guys. Why else would I have the Lord of the Rings movies memorized?

            “Hit the help button,” I said. It was on his side.

            He paused, looked at the button a moment, then resumed pacing. “You should do it.”

Bossy much? I considered suggesting an anatomically unlikely new location for the help button, but then I remembered that just because he hadn’t pulled a knife on me yet didn’t mean he wouldn’t. I stepped toward the help button, wondering what he’d do when I crossed the orbit of his pacing.

            What he did was stop dead with a sharp breath, back up against the wall, and close his eyes.

            For the first time, I was truly afraid to turn my back on him. I froze, not breathing, and waited.

            He kept his eyes closed, breath coming faster, hands half-raised as if to ward me off. They were shaking.

            Seconds passed. A minute. Maybe more. My fear began to ebb, just a bit, to make room for pity. He was in pain. I had no idea why or how, or what I could do to help, but surely I ought to try.


            The word was tiny and feather-edged, but it broke something. Suddenly I was pinned between him and the wall, my upraised hands trapped against his chest, too stunned to push him away.

            “I won’t hurt you,” he said, pressing his face into my hair. “I won’t hurt you. I hate you too much to ever hurt you. I’m sorry.”

            I felt a hand against my cheek.

            And I was alone in the elevator.


May I introduce: Susanne Bellamy "Engaging the Enemy"


Engaging the Enemy
by Susanne Bellamy

Reading through Susanne's bio is like reading through a copy of "Lonely Planet" ... dreaming of the next big holiday.

Equally interesting is the blurb of her latest release "Engaging the Enemy". A must on my TBR list!

1- Tell us a little bit how you came up with the idea for "Engaging the Enemy"
Engaging the Enemy
was born on a tram ride along Swanston Street in Melbourne. It was my first tram ride in the city. While my husband and daughter counted coins that were never going to be enough for our fares, I noticed an old red brick building, and idly wondered about its history. Who would have lived and worked there? Why was it now abandoned? What was its fate? Suddenly the premise of a story hit; what would happen if not one, but two people really wanted this old building? The opening scene jumped into my head and off I went!

2 - There's something about an Irish Charmer, right? Why did you choose Matt to be "Irish"?
There’s no particular reason I can think of except that I ‘heard’ his accent right from the beginning. Matt was an Irishman, full of blarney and who was I to disagree! As it turned out, that was a good choice when it came to exploring his social justice attitudes. The Irish have plenty of experience of injustice and this helped me to layer his internal conflict.

3 - Tell us about your current project.
My next release is a free Christmas anthology, written with three other south east Queensland writers and titled A Season to Remember. Christmases in Australia often focus on the beach (it’s the southern summer) so we wrote stories of Christmas past, present and future. I decided to venture into previously unexplored territory and set mine in 2525 AD.  Given that the sea was a common element to all four stories, I had a bit of fun. My ship is a starship in planetary orbit but they do make it to the beach!

4 - Okay ... let's talk travel J. Have you always had the travel bug and what was your favourite destination / adventure so far?
The travel bug bit me early. I was seven when my family sailed to England and back to Australia. After that, I wanted to learn lots of languages and travel everywhere! I’ve been to many countries, mostly with my husband and children. We’ve had so many adventures along the way that it’s nearly impossible to choose just one, although I love anything with boats or mountains! Perhaps one of the more unusual was sailing on an old-fashioned junk in Ha Long Bay. Lying on the upper deck at night and seeing a myriad of stars so big and bright in the sky was pure magic. France, Scotland, Italy, Vietnam—they’re so different and I loved them all. My son and I counted up the countries we’ve visited so far; I think we got to eighteen, with many more still on our respective bucket lists.  

One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.
 Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
 But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
 But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?
Susanne’s heroes have to be pretty special to live up to the real life one she married. He saved her life then married her. They live on the edge of bush land on a mountain in beautiful sunny Queensland, Australia with two children and their dog. She writes contemporary romance and historical suspense novels set in exciting and often exotic locations.

nullParis will always be one of her top spots, and she fell in love with Scotland when they visited the west coast (nothing to do with fine single malts!), and recently had her first real trip to Italy--tick off one Bucket List item!  She has enjoyed New Year in Kathmandu and trekked in the Annapurnas, sailed in Ha Long Bay on a junk, and stayed on a floating hotel beside a tethered elephant in Thailand. The Peak in Hong Kong and Mt Faber cable car ride in Singapore are favourite spots. Susanne loves travelling to new places and exploring the culture and history, and meeting new people. These experiences are gradually being incorporated into her stories.
Her as yet unrealised dream is a trip into Earth’s orbit.

Susanne is a member of RWA and enjoys mentoring new authors. She is published with Escape Publishing, and will be a 2015 release author with Entangled Publishing.

White Ginger

One Night in Sorrento

Engaging the Enemy (Escape Publishing)

Coming 28 November 2014 -- A Season to Remember (FREE Christmas anthology)

Coming 2015 – Emerald Quest: Winning the Heiress’s Heart (Entangled Publishing)


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 Andrea de Villiers couldn’t have orchestrated the accident better if she’d planned for a year instead of just one night.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were almost finished as she edged closer to the group of Melbourne’s wealthy charity patrons and supporters and lined up her tray of drinks with Matt Mahoney’s chest.

One second to launch.

She took a deep, steadying breath and stepped forward.

His blonde companion’s arms drew a giant circle in the air, collided with the edge of her tray and Mr. Mahoney, corporate developer and all round jerk, was instantly wearing expensive champagne as an accessory to his Armani dinner jacket.

Round one to Andie.

Served him right for refusing to meet her. He brushed futilely at his shiny lapels and a thrill raced through her.

I did it.

Andie-never-puts-a-foot-wrong-de Villiers had done the unthinkable. If only she could tell him who she was, her triumph would have been complete. 

Review: Robyn Carr "The Wanderer" (Thunder Point #1)

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
ISBN: 9780778314479
My rating: 4/5
Nestled on the Oregon coast is a small town of rocky beaches and rugged charm. Locals love the land's unspoiled beauty. Developers see it as a potential gold mine. When newcomer Hank Cooper learns he's been left an old friend's entire beachfront property, he finds himself with a community's destiny in his hands.

Cooper has never been a man to settle in one place, and Thunder Point was supposed to be just another quick stop. But Cooper finds himself getting involved with the town. And with Sarah Dupre, a woman as complicated as she is beautiful.

With the whole town watching for his next move, Cooper has to choose between his old life and a place full of new possibilities. A place that just might be home.
My thoughts
The main reason why I picked up the book was the location - Oregon. Since my visit there last year, it's been one of my favourite travel destinations.
Hank Cooper's old friend Ben's left him a beachfront property in Thunder Point, a small remote community on the Oregon coast. While he tries to find out what happened to his friend and fixes up the old run-down bar shack, he gets involved in the life of the community... and meets Sarah Dupre, a helicopter pilot raising her brother.
I loved the book, the characters were quirky, laid back and "real". Although commitment shy, Cooper was the guy of dreams. I loved his humour, and his ability to be serious when he needed to be. Sarah only appears in the story about half way through the book, and I have to admit it took me a little bit to warm up to her... once finding out about the reasons, I understood, and liked how the character was developed.
Having said all that, there were pages and pages of dialogue, and the introduction of characters (I assume for future Thunder Point books) where I felt it was too long.
Definitely want to read the next Thunder Point #2, which tells Roger "Mac" McCain and Gina's story.

May I introduce: Mary Cope "Beautiful One"

Beautiful One
by Mary Cope

It's an absolute delight having Mary Cope as my guest today to tell us a bit about herself and her latest release "Beautiful One", published by Astraea Presa.

1 – I love the blurb of your story “Beautiful One”. Tell us a little how you came up with the idea.
Beautiful One came to me while I was in the process of trying to shed a few pounds. I was walking my dog Maggie and began to think about how difficult it is to lose weight. At the time, my daughter was a senior in high school, my thoughts shifted to being an overweight teen and what that must be like. Then I added in an overweight teen opposite her perfect twin brother and Elizabeth was born. As a side note, Maggie graces the cover of my book and is woven throughout the pages of Beautiful One.

2 – It’s the first book in a trilogy. What can reader expect in the next two books?
Beautiful Mess will follow Aidan as he struggles through the challenges of life at college. Finding love and coming to terms with his anger issues. Beautiful Life will highlight the ups and downs as the group, Random Plan, rises to stardom.

3 – Tell us a little about your current project.
I am currently writing Beautiful Mess, Aidan's story. In Beautiful One Aidan shares with Elizabeth about his dysfunctional childhood, mother addicted to drugs, and womanizing father. In the sequel, I will delve into the issues Aidan is trying to overcome so he can be the person he wants to be and fine the love he has been searching for. 

Elizabeth Ryan is a beautiful, shy, naïve high school senior. Having never dated she meets the boy of her dreams, Aidan Mitchell. Despite his history of womanizing Liz is drawn to him. Soon Liz becomes the envy of all the girls on campus, when they become a couple and her dream boyfriend sweeps her off her feet and into the dating world that is all too new and strange for her. When other guys start to take notice of Liz, Aidan is troubled with fits of jealousy.

Elizabeth then meets the ruggedly handsome, Spencer Hayes and they quickly bond over their passion for music. Liz begins to struggle with the feelings that spark between them.

In the end Elizabeth finds herself torn between helping Aidan overcome his jealousy and anger and giving into what her heart truly wants.


Mary Cope is a freelance writer of romance. Her book, Beautiful One, is the first in a planned trilogy. She enjoys spending time with her family, baking gourmet cookies, listening to music and taking long walks with her yellow Labrador, Maggie. 





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 Chapter One

     The faint sounds of a guitar drifted through the walls of my bathroom as I savored the last of the hot water before it became lukewarm. Stepping away from the spray, I turned the shower knob and watched the droplets trickle down the drain. Inhaling a deep breath my mind focused on one thing. Aidan Mitchell.

     Hearing Mason’s band practicing meant he would be here. I was ninety-nine percent sure Aidan wouldn’t blow off their practice. He knew how serious my brother was about the band, but he also had been avoiding me for days.

     The past week had been awful. I was determined to talk to him. All I wanted was a few answers. My emotions had run the gamut from confusion, frustration, regret, and sadness… sadness consumed me most of all, at night usually, and I was exhausted from it. But at this moment all I felt was anger. Anger was good. It was certainly better than pain.

     As I rushed down the hallway, the floorboards creaked beneath my feet and the walls began to vibrate with the beat of Derek pounding on the drums. When I entered my room the music was deafening, but today I didn’t mind. I untwisted the blue-and-white-polka-dot towel from my head and tossed it to the floor.

     The deep conditioner I used helped my fingers glide through my long damp curls. If I was going to confront Aidan, I wanted to look my best. No Frizzy Lizzie for me. That nickname, coupled with my big butt, had tormented me, growing up in a beach town surrounded by beautiful people. I had longed to look like a typical California girl: tall, blond, perfect. But, with dark hair and bordering on five feet three inches, that was never going to be me.

     After I blow-dried and flat-ironed my hair, I took off my purple robe and draped it over my desk chair. I slipped on a pair of jeans… yes, slipped them on. I didn’t have to tug, pull, or jiggle my butt to get in my pants anymore. When I easily pushed the button through the top of my jeans, it still made me smile. I couldn’t even count how many times I had to lie on my bed and suck in my stomach so I could zip up a pair of pants. Every time I slipped them on, I never took it for granted. I had worked my butt off… literally. I put on my bra and a green sweater before I pulled on my boots.

     I rushed downstairs to the door that led to the garage. Thinking about confronting Aidan and having to stare into those piercing blue eyes started to intimidate me. But this was my chance. I knew he was a few feet behind the door, and I needed to deal with him. Before I completely lost my nerve, I inhaled a deep breath and exhaled then pushed open the door.

     The stream of sunlight coming in through the open garage door blinded me for a moment. With squinted eyes, I made a beeline to the old brown sofa in the corner. My heart was beating so fast it almost seemed in tempo with Derek pounding the drums. I scooted over our yellow Labrador, Maggie, and wedged myself between her and the arm of the couch. Finally, I looked up to focus my attention on Aidan.

     He didn’t show.

     I sunk my head back into the cushions, exhaling a deep, long sigh, trying to rid the tension from my body. The guys were practicing their newest song. Indie-Alternative was their style, and they called themselves Random Plan. I glanced at Mason and could tell he was angry. I mouthed the word “Aidan?”

Mason just shook his head.

     “Derek!” The tone in my brother’s voice made me sit up straight. “Derek!” Mason snapped again.

     Finally Derek stopped and silenced his cymbals.

     “What?” He lifted the front of his black t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his forehead, exposing his six-pack. His brown eyes bored into Mason’s. “Hey! Just ‘cuz you’re ticked off at the pretty boy, don’t take it out on me.”

     Derek reached back and grabbed a water from an old bookcase that held a few water bottles, electrical cords, an old CD player, and a collection of CDs. “Hey, Kyle, ya want one?”

     Kyle nodded and Derek tossed one across the garage to where he stood behind the keyboard.


     “Yeah, I’ll take one… Sorry, Derek.”

     Derek gave Mason a head nod and tossed him a bottle. He took a sip while Derek chugged his down.

     “Okay, start again.” Mason commanded.

     Derek picked up his sticks and began tapping.

     I leaned my head back, closed my eyes and listened to the music. Funny, I’d come into the garage so fearless it almost made me laugh. Who would have thought the once-overweight Elizabeth Ryan would stand up to the likes of Aidan Mitchell? I smiled to myself, allowing my mind to drift back to the time when I’d found it hard to even look at him...

May I introduce: Zanna Mackenzie "The Love Programme"


The Love Programme
by Zanna Mackenzie

Reading through the blurb, reminds me of how much I loved my time in Scotland, so this book is definitely a "must read" for me ... and I'm sure as soon as you've read through this post, it'll be on your TBR list as well. :-)
1 – What gave you the idea for “The Love Programme”

Many years ago there was a comedy drama series on TV in the UK called Monarch of the Glen. It was about a reluctant laird who had to take on the running of a Scottish country estate complete with castle, lochs and thousands of acres of land. The estate had financial problems so he was forced to come up with all these different ways to generate money to try to save it from bankruptcy. There were lots of twists and turns as well as plenty of romance during the seven series the programme ran for. I loved the series and my husband and I even visited all the filming locations in and around the Highlands of Scotland for our holiday one year. All of which inspired the setting for The Love Programme.
In the book the fictitious country estate I created is home to a reality TV series which is being filmed in the castle. Lucy, desperately in need of some advice when it comes to her disastrous love life, finds herself becoming a last minute replacement on the series which, thankfully, even has its own relationship psychologist!
Unfortunately things end up getting more, not less, confusing for Lucy – as if having her childhood sweetheart (now ex-boyfriend) pursuing her across the country and the TV series ‘love interest’ Isaac taking her on tailor made dates isn’t enough to contend with! When, strolling by the loch, she meets the estate’s owner, the laird, Paul, she finds herself drawn to spending time with him - even though the TV people have made it clear he’s firmly ‘off limits’ to the reality show contestants.
As I wrote the book I got to conjure up all those amazing Scottish landscapes in my head and I got to enjoy the holiday photos again too – all in the name of book research!

2 – You say you love the great outdoors - especially Scotland, the Lake District and Derbyshire's Peak district. What is it that draws you to those places?
Oh, so many things. I love the scenery of the great outdoors especially dramatic mountain landscapes. I adore going on long walks outdoors where you can just soak up the nature, the weather, the views and all of that wonderful peace and quiet all around you. I feel at home when I’m outdoors – whether that’s in wellington boots digging up and redesigning the garden at home, walking our four Labrador dogs with my husband every day or hiking up hills with a rucksack and waterproofs on!
3 – Tell us a little bit about your current project.
I’m soon to launch a series of romantic comedy mysteries. Book 1 is written and out with beta readers for feedback and book 2 is half written. I have plot outlines in place for books three and four in the series. I’ve found I really enjoy writing romantic comedy (often called ‘cozy’) murder mysteries though I have to admit the plotting aspect is a huge challenge! It’s simple enough coming up with a setting, a murder and a ‘how’ but the piecing together of the various clues and red herrings on the way to Charlie and Amber solving the crime has been known to give me brain ache!

What do you do when your childhood sweetheart and now ex-boyfriend won’t accept it’s over?
Lucy’s life is a mess. With her ex pursuing her across the country, she flees to Scotland and finds herself part of a reality TV show about love… will she find some answers or end up even more confused in matters of the heart?


Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.
Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on.
She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!
Zanna has written three novels, The Love Programme, How Do You Spell Love? and If You Only Knew. 


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 “Just sit on this suitcase, will you, Fi? I can’t get the stupid thing shut!”
Fiona, obligingly perching her bottom on the bulging case so Lucy could tug the zipper to close it up, said, “I can’t believe you’ve agreed to do this. You’re going to be on a TV show about love! Won’t you be embarrassed having everyone know all your business?”
Her face red from doing battle with the suitcase and, thankfully, managing to win, Lucy shook her head. “No. Where else could I get a few extra weeks off work and live the life of luxury whilst a man tries to impress me with extravagant dates? Plus, I’ll be getting relationship coaching from a top expert.”
Lucy checked around the room to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. “Do you think I’ve packed the right clothes?”
Fiona lay back on the bed, stretching and spreading her arms out around her as though she was making the duvet version of a snow angel. “How should I know?”
“Mel said the programme is being recorded at the home of some Scottish laird. It’s a real mansion with a spa and acres and acres of land.”
Fiona pushed herself into an upright position, suddenly all attentive. “A laird, eh? Sounds interesting. What else do you know about him?”
“He’s not going to be one of the dates so don’t get all excited. He’s just rented his home out to the TV production company. Apparently he’ll be away on business most of the time we’re there, so we probably won’t even get to meet him.”
Fiona shook her head. “Shame, how exciting would it have been? Meeting a real life laird would be amazing.”
“He’s probably about sixty, balding, as round as he is tall and arrogant to boot.”
Fiona slapped Lucy on the arm. “Don’t spoil it for me. I was just picturing him as about our age, the classic tall, dark and handsome type. Big brown eyes…” She sighed happily. “Is it just me or do you find all those green wellies and Barbour jackets the country gents wear incredibly sexy?”
“No, it’s definitely just you!” Lucy shook her head despairingly.
As Fiona stared into space, no doubt continuing her little country gent fantasy, Lucy flopped down onto the bed. “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”
“Of course you are. This could be a life-changing opportunity.”
“I’d like to be able to go on dates without feeling guilty about Marcus all the time.” Sighing, Lucy added, “I want to be free to have relationships like everyone else does.”
“I know you do. So, how can you doubt if you’re doing the right thing? You have to go to Scotland. You know you do.”
“I suppose so but will you be okay? I hate leaving you with your wedding just weeks away. There’s still some preparations to do and I am chief bridesmaid. Maybe I shouldn’t go. This is all crazy, I won’t go. I must be mad even contemplating it.”
“You’re going! End of story! The wedding is being perfectly managed by my mum and by Luke’s mum, so no worries there.” Fiona hauled Lucy to her feet. “What time’s your train?”
“I’m getting the overnight sleeper up to Inverness and then Craig, the TV guy, is going to meet me at the station and drive me to the country estate.”
“I’m so envious.” Fiona sulked, folding and unfolding the corner of the duvet around her fingers.
“I thought you were happy with your Mr-Not-So-Perfect?”
“I am.” Fiona sighed. “But a girl can dream, can’t she?”

Fresh Beginnings - #Excerpt and #Giveaway


The small town of Hobart in Tasmania has witnessed many beginnings in recent years. At yet one more beginning, the wedding of a friend, Jared Fraser decides it’s time for some fresh beginnings to come his way… And he sets out for a holiday to the US to travel along the Route 66 in a motorhome.
Ivy Bennett thought leaving her boyfriend would be the hard part. It doesn’t take long to figure out how wrong she was. As she struggles with making a new start in her life, the last person she expects to lead her to happiness is a laid-back Australian on holiday.
Then the arrival of family friend Mia Levesque and her boyfriend, Josh, turns Jared’s holidays upside-down when he’s forced to play arbitrator between the two teenagers.


It bugged Jared a little bit, that Ivy was holding back on something that was obviously occupying her mind. And that something had something to do with him, otherwise she would've told him. But then again, there were so many other things she was holding back, and again he reminded himself that it wasn't really any of his business. It didn't make it any easier though because, with every minute he spent with her, he became fonder of the girl driving him along the roads of America. There was no doubt he really enjoyed her company, their banter, her humour, even her cooking skills. He'd become very fond of them as well.

"Gonna tell me?" He tried again.

"There's nothing. Really."

Her smile didn't reach her eyes, and he knew she wasn't honest with him, but he let it go. He didn't want to ruin a perfect day.

When they arrived at their destination, they made a quick dash through the shopping centre before heading towards the campground. The site looked a lot more like what Jared was used to from Australia. The sites were located amongst grass with only a small spot of concrete for the motorhome and the table with two benches. There were trees around in all shapes and sizes, swaying in the breeze. Even at this late hour of the day, he was still able to hear birds chatting in the trees and insects humming between the flowers that dotted the grass. Jagged, snow-capped mountains were all around them and, as on the previous night, he took his time to take some photos. It was an amazing sight, and he had to pinch himself again that he was there.

He turned when he heard Ivy approaching.

"There's a little pool over in the small building next to the showers. I'd give anything for a little dip."

Slowly he raised his eyebrow.

She gently slapped his chest. "What? Aren't you Australians lovers of the water? Wouldn't you like to go swimming?"

He shook his head. "Nope."

A sigh escaped her lips.

"What's holdin' ya back?" he asked.

Her eyebrows shot up. "What's holding me back?"

He simply nodded.

"I've got no bathers."

Then he shrugged. It didn't make sense to him. "Anybody else in there?"

"No." She looked around. "Which doesn't surprise me, because there're not too many people camping here tonight, it seems."

"No one will notice that ya swimmin' in ya bra and knickers."

"Knickers?" She giggled.

Not sure whether this was a language thing or whether he'd offended her, Jared decided to stay quiet.

"Honey, I don't wear knickers. I don't have much money, but enough to buy decent underwear, which we call panties."

Heat rolled over his body and pooled in his groin. He knew! There weren't too many secrets in a small motorhome, and when she'd changed into her clothes that morning, he took a sneak peak. Of course he did. After all, he was only human.

"Wear the panties."

"I can't do that."

Putting some distance between them, he moved back a bit. The conversation rang a bell with him as he remembered this kind of argument between Mark and Sophie. It was the female logic that seemed to defy him.

"Well, in that case, I s'pose you won't go swimmin'."

Hands on hips she came closer. "You're not helping."

"Happy to give ya some of my panties."

She rolled her eyes. "Forget it."

The words weren't even spoken when she turned and stepped into the motorhome. He followed her in.


With no chance to hold back, he had to grin when he saw her in the back of the motorhome half-naked.

"Do you mind?"

His grin got wider. "Actually, no I don't."

"Out," she screamed.

Bursting into laughter, he stepped out.

"Haven't you heard of knocking?"

"Honey blossom, how was I supposed to know ya goin' to strip in there?"

"I said I'd go for a swim."

He shook his head, still laughing, when he sat outside enjoying the scenery. There were a few noises coming from the inside, and he decided he'd be better off not knowing. A few minutes later, she stood in front of him with only a small towel wrapped around her body. At that moment, he was considering the idea that a swim wouldn't be that bad after all.

"If anybody approaches me inappropriately, it's your fault."

"Want me to come with and guard ya from all the bad Americans around?"

But all he heard was a humpf as she stomped away towards the pool. Watching her small body swaying, he thought how bad he could be if he were in there with her.




Ivy slid into the water and swam to the centre of the pool. The water was a perfect temperature, and she relished the cool feel of it over her body. Her gaze went to the pool entrance door a couple of times, although she told herself that was to see whether anybody else was coming in, but deep inside she knew, she was waiting for Jared. Leaning back, she lowered her head under water up to her mouth before she dunked her head under water. Hoping to clear her mind, she stayed like that for a few seconds. Jared was in her head and playing havoc with her emotions. She didn't like it. Okay, truth was, she did like it. She had liked his gaze when she'd undressed to only her underwear. And she had liked it the way he’d stared at her when she'd walked towards the pool. Thanks to the office window, she'd seen his open mouth before he'd rubbed his face with both hands.

The thought of the expression on his face spread warmth through her body, when she suddenly felt a hand on her thigh. She shrieked and whipped around, only to stare into Jared's eyes. His eyelashes were spiked from the water, his hair was plastered to his head, and a big grin spread across his face. He was only inches away, and she curled her arms around his neck as she snuggled into his embrace.

"Will ya keep it down," he said with a laugh.

"You scared me."

He leaned in, angling his head, and nuzzled just beneath her ear. Her body instantly came alive.

"I like American panties," he said as his hands moved further down her body.

Ivy choked back a giggle. "I'm sure they have them in Australia as well."

"Hmm. Can't say I've noticed."

"Liar!" She laughed.

Then he was still, and she tilted her head to meet his gaze. His face had become serious, and his eyes expressed more than fun in his eyes. Something different. Something she would have loved to explore. But it was the would have that made the difference to the situation. They were close to Salt Lake City, and their time together was drawing to an end. She sighed and became aware that she was having the time of her life with this stranger, who always carried a smile on his face. The Australian mate, who laughed at her silly jokes, or even laughed at life's simple pleasures. Her heart ached as part of her wanted this to never end. However, her heart was still bruised, and she knew that she didn't want sleep with Jared. Not out of regret. She was certain, she wouldn't regret a single second with him, but her heart would not cope with the beating afterwards. It would shatter into a thousand pieces the moment she had to say goodbye. This way, it'd be only a few hundred pieces—enough, she told herself, to pick up and put together again over time.

"We shouldn't do this," she heard herself whisper to him. It was like someone else was using her voice, it felt so distant and unreal.

"I know," he replied as he buried his face in the vulnerable spot beneath her ear to place another kiss.

As if on auto pilot, she angled her head again for him. How did he make her feel so good? She sighed, thinking how easily he made her feel attractive like no man had before.


He gently bit her in the shoulder before he moved to look at her. "I know." All of his disappointment was put into the two words.

"Another time, another place—"

"This could've been somethin' really good?" he finished.

She simply nodded. Not sure whether her tears were obvious on her wet face, she didn't make an effort to hold them back.

And she was awarded with another one of those kisses that went straight to her toes.

Yet, he only spoilt her for a brief moment. Jared placed his hands on her hips, and in one smooth motion lifted her up and threw her back into the water. Initially, she wasn't sure what was happening, but when she came back to the surface, she saw his typical grin.

With a pretend pout, she swam away. As expected, Jared came towards her and, as soon as he was close enough, she tried her best to dunk him. It was a fruitless attempt though. He was much stronger than she was. Even though, she had the time of her life being immature for a while, she had fun like she hadn't had in a long time.


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