Read an excerpt of “Double Dare”

Liz Renfew’s face hurt from stretching it into a phony smile. How could she hate another human being to the depths of her soul the way she hated Luke Reddington? She felt this way even though they stood in a church together as godparents to her best friend Amy and Luke’s best friend Gray’s twins, Jordan and Jack.

She kept her eyes on Jordan, who she held in her arms. She couldn’t, wouldn’t look at Luke. She thought he was hot, even though she loathed him with every fiber of her being.

And he was her husband.

He’d married her after she had dared him to in Las Vegas. And the worm wouldn’t sign the divorce papers.

Damn Amy for leaving her alone with him and riding off with Gray into the desert moonlight. Her plan was to give Amy a wild girl’s night and convince her not to marry Gray. He had left dear, sweet Amy standing at the altar just months before in a whacked-up retaliation for Amy breaking up with his buddy Smitty.

 

Smitty died soon after—on patrol in Afghanistan, where he, Gray, and Luke were stationed. He had made his relationship with Amy sound much more serious that it was. Amy still had her V-card till she seduced Gray a week before the morning he’d jilted her. And Luke helped him rip Amy’s heart out. He drove the getaway car.

Then Luke had the nerve to show up at Amy’s place a couple months later to beg Amy to go to Gray, who’d gone off the rails, and talk to him. Amy had caved and gone to him, because she blamed herself for what she believed to be her part in Smitty’s death—breaking up with him right be- fore went on his last, fatal patrol, which Amy believed made him reckless or careless. Gray asked her for another chance. And Amy, sweet, loving Amy, did—but not after making him sweat it out.

Liz looked at Amy. She was radiant with her love for Gray and her babies. And Liz had to admit Gray was crazy in love with Amy.

He’d even given her the chance to dump his ass in front of the minister and their family and friends in Vegas like he did to her, but she didn’t.

Liz glared at Luke. He pursed his mouth into a kiss.

She should have shot him when he showed up at Amy’s place that day. Her brothers and dad were sheriffs in Emmett County where Amy used to live, which was in Petoskey, near Lake Michigan. Liz had her twenty-two-caliber pistol in her purse and her permit to carry it. Her brothers and dad had taught her how to shoot after her disastrous senior prom night.

Jordan started fussing. She handed the baby to Amy’s mom Nancy and was surprised that she immediately missed the smell and feel of the infant in her arms. Luke relinquished Jack to Steve, Amy’s dad, and stood next to her. He smelled woodsy.

“How is my darling wife?”
“Shut up. Someone will hear.”
“Ashamed of me, baby cakes?”
“Yes. Just sign the damned divorce papers.” She flashed

Amy a big, fake smile. She hadn’t told Amy about that night in Vegas. There never seemed to be a good time. Then Amy had been a smitten newlywed, then pregnant, then sleep- deprived. Amy was looking at them now and frowning.

Why wouldn’t he sign the damned papers?

Liz had gotten drunk that night and dared him to marry her.

And he did, although she passed out cold in their hotel room promptly after the ceremony, so nothing had happened. And now she could only bring herself to release when she thought of him.

Her scent hit him, vanilla and some spice he couldn’t name, and he went instantly hard. Fuck. He wasn’t signing those damned divorce papers. Not until she gave them a chance. Amy and Gray were with her parents, talking to the priest so he took hold of his wife’s waist and hustled her into a small alcove, keeping her back to him. She’d worn her hair down and he remembered it spread out on the pillow on their wedding night.

“I’ll sign your damned divorce decree but I have a condition,” he whispered in her ear.

She tried to turn to face him but he tightened his hold on her waist so she wouldn’t see his obvious erection.

“Spend one night with me—sober.”

“That makes zero sense. We didn’t consummate it. It’s cut and dried.”

“Take it or leave it.” He nuzzled her neck.

She stood as still as the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the alcove.

Amy called her name and she wrenched herself away from him. “All right. I agree. I just want this over with.”

She stared into his eyes. He lifted a strand of her hair. “Stop that, someone will see.”
He nuzzled her neck again. “When, baby cakes?”
Her brown eyes blazed gold. “Stop calling me that. The sooner the better.”
“Mmmm.” He bit down on her neck. “So eager.” “Hey?” Amy stood at the entrance to the alcove, juggling Jordan and a diaper bag. Her mouth gaped open. “Later,” he said.

 

Luke stroked Jordan’s bonnet as he walked away.
“Holy hell,” Amy said.
“That’s so wrong, saying it here,” Liz said.
Amy handed her the diaper bag. “Do you want to talk about it?

“Later.”

Liz drove back to Amy and Gray’s condo and helped with the babies during brunch. Luke held Jack for a time. Watching him with the infant did odd things to her chest and stomach. Needing to focus on something else, she handed Jordan to Amy’s mom and started to clean up the dishes.

Her heart thudded in her chest when Luke joined her in the kitchen and handed her dishes to rinse. She clenched her jaw.

They worked well together. What was up with that?
“I know, right?”
He flashed her a shit-eating grin. She fought the urge to grin back. She was so not doing this. He was a heartless jerk, just like that asshole on prom night.

She scowled.

He tapped the tip of her nose. “You look so cute when you scrunch your face up like that.”

“Just thinking about Amy’s face when you and Gray left her standing alone at the altar. I have a thing about jerks who hurt innocent people.”

He frowned, filled the sink with soapy water, and started washing the pots, pans, and casseroles. “Smitty was full of shit. I didn’t know that then. Gray told me after.”

 

Just then, Gray hauled a giggling Amy past the kitchen and up the stairs.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got this.” Luke’s lips quirked into a smile. “He’s crazy in love with her, Liz, I mean bat shit crazy. You didn’t see him after he left her. It nearly killed him.”

She saw a speck of food on the casserole dish that Luke had just washed and dumped it back in the water, which pissed him off.

Good.

He sighed. “I didn’t know that Smitty lied. Gray didn’t tell me until after. Hell of it is, I still miss the asshole.” He rewashed the casserole and set it in the drainer. “Amy seems to be happy, wouldn’t you say?”

She picked up the casserole, which was spotless, and dropped it back in the dishwater.

“That was clean, baby cakes.”
“Nu-uh,” she said.

He took the clean casserole out of the dish water and sloshed soapy water down the front of her white, lacy blouse. He smirked. “Oh, sorry.”

He rinsed the dish off and set it in the drainer. She took it out, dunked it in the soapy water, and dumped it over his head.

“You’ll pay for that baby cakes.”

She dunked the dish in the water again and poured it down the front of his pants. “Do. Not. Call. Me. That.”

 

Holy hell. His erection was clearly visible. He followed her stare and laughed. “What do you expect?” He hauled her into his arms like a limp doll.

What was wrong with her? Why did he smell so wonderful?

He traced the outline of her lips with his tongue while he pulled her hard against him.

Did he have any fat at all on his lean, hard frame?

“I’ll scream,” she said, although she bit back a sigh when his hands moved to her back side to lift her onto the kitchen counter. He wrapped her legs around his waist.

“You will scream my name when I make you come.”

He plundered her mouth and his hand slipped under her skirt then under her thong to her slit. She was wet, damn it, and he groaned. He plunged his tongue in and out as he worked his finger inside her. She did scream, but the noise was muffled by his mouth.

Breathing hard, she stared into his impossibly blue eyes. They were triumphant but tender. He rested his damp forehead on hers.

“My darling wife,” he said, smiling.

“Is everything okay?” Amy’s mom stood in the door- way. “The babies are down. Oh—”she said, scurrying away.

Liz let loose a string of expletives. She pushed away from him and off the kitchen counter.

Fuck him. Fuck Gray. “And fuck Amy.”

He took hold of her shoulders. His blue eyes had gone silver and a muscle near his mouth twitched. He was angry. “Fuck Amy?” he said.

 

Shit, had she said the last part out loud?

“There’s plenty of dishwater here to wash out that mouth of yours.” His hands moved to her waist. “I do not like those words on your beautiful lips.”

“Tough shit.”

He backed her up against the sink, dipped his hand in the dishwater, and covered her mouth with it. “They are happy, Liz. You have to see that. Even though you and I did our best to fuck that up.”

She bit his hand hard.
“Fuck.”
“So you’re allowed to say fuck and I’m not. Fuck that.

And I did not try to fuck it up.”
She smiled. She’d said fuck three times in twenty seconds.
“You’re pissed that Amy gave him another chance.

Why?”
He left her and didn’t wait for an answer.

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Book signing

I and fellow Black Opal Books author Becca Johnson will sell and sign copies of our books, Becca’s YA “Dreamer” series and my romance novellas “Under the Riptides” and “Reclaiming Lexi” at the Elf Shelf Arts and Crafts Show at Troy High School at 4777 Northfield Parkway in Troy, Michigan from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 26. #SmallBusinessSaturday. Stop by. There are over 200 booths. Admission cost is $3 and donated to local charities.

Scrapped five thousand words

I loved the characters, but wasn’t working, so I broke up with them. I like them so much, so it was hard. Working on something new I’m really excited about. A grittier  contemporary about an older woman and younger man. New ground for me. All on dry land. Can’t spend all my time underwater. Stay tuned.

Filling in a gap

So I do my first drafts long-hand on legal pads, then type from that (first and second draft done) thanks to a seminar I took with Heather Sellers at Far Field Writer’s Conference at Oakland University a few years back. Then I go back and chapter it out, make final changes and synopsize. I’m working on a new contemporary romance and tossed out a whole legal pad by accident. What are the chances they were they the best words I ever wrote? #firstworldproblems.