by Zoë Mullins
She’s been known to lug her laptop to the baseball fields and keeps a notebook by her bed to jot down the next big story idea in the wee hours of the night.
Daisies in the Outfield
After his professional baseball career crashed and burned, Jamie escaped to the scenic coastal town of Falmouth for a fresh start. With a new career that fit his personality, Jamie lived life on his terms. His terms were simple—fight fires for the adrenaline rush, coaching MLB hopefuls for the love of the game, and spending his nights with one of the many pretty faces that crossed his path. Plenty of women passed through his life but none had tempted him to settle down.
Until a feisty brunette changed all that. Too bad the sexy paramedic had no interest in Jamie or spending the night with him. She carried an attitude as thick as her New York accent and he wanted to coax a smile on her face.Mandy was running from something and Jamie couldn’t help but be intrigued.
Can a sexy little wager convince a confirmed bachelor and a woman running from her past to take a chance on love?
When a terrible injury ended his pro career, Grant knew nothing would ever take the place of his one and only love—baseball. Fighting fires didn’t hold the same kind of excitement as catching a ninety mile an hour fast ball at Fenway Park but he loved every minute of it. Especially when he met the sassy, sexy as hell paramedic that’s as complicated as a three-alarm fire.
Callie had already lived through her fair share of serious. At twenty-eight, her current plans for the future included having a good time and enjoying the MLB hopefuls that showed up on the Cape every May to play in the summer baseball league. College boys were fun but didn’t hold half the appeal as the sexy firefighter that kept showing up when she least expected it.
He wanted her and she wanted absolutely none of it. Or, so she thought. Grant could not only set her body on fire with just a look but with only a few kisses she started to forget that serious was off the table for her life. After hiding so much for so long, can she open her heart up and trust that Grant’s in it for more than just the chase?
An Excerpt from Daisies in the Outfield
“Come on, Sally, when’s dinner gonna be served?” All the guys had a girl name for their night on kitchen duty. Jamie’s was Sally. Grant had been harassing him big time and it was getting way beyond annoying. Every time the door to the house opened, he held his breath hoping Mandy would walk in.
“You’ll get your food when it’s ready,” he snapped, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
“Touchy today, aren’t we. Is it your time of the month, Sally?”
“Go to hell.” Jamie stirred the sauce then poured the five pounds of pasta into the oversized colander to drain it.
“Damn, man. You need to get laid something serious.”
“You might not understand this, but there is more to life than getting laid and getting drunk.”
“Tell that to my liver and my dick. They are pretty feisty little guys and they want what they want when they want it.”
“You really need a life, Grant.”
“I have a great life. A job I like, a twenty four hour grocery store across the street and
plenty of pretty ladies around town with a thing for firefighters.”
“Why don’t you and your dick go tell the guys grub’s on. I need to step outside for some air.”
“Thinking about my parts got you all hot and bothered, does it?” Grant left the kitchen laughing and Jamie stepped out the back door to the little grassy area behind the fire station. Stretching, he let the cool ocean breeze that always accompanied nightfall, wash over him. The smell of sand and salt assaulted his senses. It was a heady combination on a warm summer night. Even better if he had a certain woman in his arms watching the waves crash in over their toes.
“Hey,” a voice called out quietly from the dimness of dusk. A very familiar voice. A voice that made his heart jump around wildly in his chest. Mandy.
He turned around and saw her standing at the corner of the building, peering at him with an amused look on her face. Suddenly feeling a little shy, he replied, “Hey, yourself,” instead of striding over and taking her in his arms like he had ached to do all day long. Mandy giggled and twisted her hands in front of her.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, I came here to meet a guy named Jamie but it looks like I’ve found Betty Crocker instead.”
Oh, shit. The apron!
“You got a problem with a man in an apron?” He grinned and she laughed again, shaking her head.
“No. I don’t suppose I do.”
“Good.” This time he did close the distance between them but he didn’t touch her. She shivered a little and he hoped it was because of his proximity and not the evening breeze. “It’s a house joke. The guy on kitchen duty has to wear one—the frillier, the better—and he gets a girl name. Hazing at its best, I suppose.”
“My what?” It was getting hard to think when all he could focus on was her lips and how badly he wanted to taste them.
Mandy ran a finger lightly up his arm until she reached the place where the full length apron started up around his neck and hooked her finger there. “Your girl name. What is it?”
“Hmmm…I’ve always had this secret fantasy of kissing a girl named Sally. Ever since I heard the song Mustang Sally.”
“You have? Maybe we should do something about that.”
“Maybe we should.” Mandy was more
relaxed than he had seen her over the last few days, flirting with her words and ravaging him with her eyes. He sure liked this side of her.
Jamie bent down and scooped her up in his arms. Mandy wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. She leaned back slightly and murmured, “Oh, Sally. You have the most amazing—eyes.” She ran her tongue over her lips, never once looking him the eyes.
“So do you,” he replied focused only on those now slightly dampened lips. The space between them disappeared as she took his mouth with a passion he wouldn’t have thought her capable of. Worried one of the guys might walk outside and see them, he carried her into a stand of pine trees on the side of the building, never once breaking their contact. She let a tiny little moan escape as she ended the kiss.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself.” She sounded embarrassed.
“I never want you to not do that if you have the urge. Did that even make sense?” He chuckled huskily against her throat as he placed tiny little kisses across the neck line of her top. The thin, silky material was erotic, caressing his chin and cheek as he explored the bare skin of her shoulder with his tongue.
“Yes. It made sense.” She pulled his mouth back up to hers. “I feel like doing it again.”
Jamie dropped to his knees, setting Mandy gently onto the ground. He sat in the cushion of the pine needles and pulled her onto his lap. “Then by all means—”
The second kiss was better than the first as his tongue sought hers. She was as fervent as he was in her desire to get as close as possible. If he weren’t in uniform, twenty feet from ten other guys, he would have given into her every demand. As it was, they were about to go to a place he wouldn’t return from without an ice cold shower so he pulled back reluctantly.
“Did I miss something?” he whispered against her ear.
“This morning I wasn’t sure I would ever see you again. I mean, there was something—”
“I know. I’m sorry. I was having some doubts but then I talked to Callie and worked a few things out.”
“I like when you talk to Callie.” He grinned and pressed a kiss to the side of her neck, behind her ear. “Can you talk to her more often? Preferably on a day when I am not on duty?”
Mandy laughed. “I think that can be arranged.”
“Are you hungry?”
She shook her head. “Not anymore.”
There was no mistaking the meaning in her words. “Yeah, me either. Unfortunately, I have to get back inside. The captain can be a bit of a ball-buster.”
Mandy moved to stand but Jamie pulled her back in, crushing his lips to hers in one last hard kiss. He wanted to remember the feel of her lips all night long. She snaked her arms around his neck and murmured, “I know exactly what you mean.”
His hands slid up her back slowly, slipping under the hem of her top and finding the soft skin of her lower back. A groan rumbled through his chest. Frustration mounted and that ice cold shower was definitely about to become reality.
“I should go,” she whispered. “I don’t want you to get in trouble on my account. I’m thinking you are going to need those balls your captain will want to bust in the near future.”
He groaned again, this time in sweet agony over the image her words had conjured in his mind. They walked out of the stand of trees hand in hand, Jamie cursing his need to be employed.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come in for a bit?”
She shook her head. “No. I don’t want to get in the way.”
“You are never in my way.”
He loved the way all her skin, not just her face, changed colors when she was embarrassed. Half the time he said stuff like that just to make her blush.
“See you for the game tomorrow night?” he asked, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her in for one last kiss.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Coach.” She batted her eyelashes exaggeratedly and gave him a sugary sweet smile.
“Good. I’ll make sure one of my uniforms is clean just for you.”
“You can but you’ll be wasting your time.” Mandy stepped away and gave a little wave. “I never lose a bet. Enjoy the rest of your shift.”
He watched as she walked away, stopping just before she turned the corner and blew him a little kiss.
What the hell was all that?
That was a side to Mandy, he hadn’t expected. All her temperature changes over the past few days hadn’t prepared him for what had just gone down.
The door opened behind him. “Where the hell’d you get off to, man? I was about to call in search and rescue.”
“Nowhere. I’ve been out here the whole time.”
“You’ve got dirt on your knees.”
“I dropped something.”
“And found it by rolling around under the trees?” Grant reached up and pulled a pine needle out of Jamie’s hair.
“I guess so.”
“You look like a freak in that apron.”
“Mandy likes it.”
Grant’s eyes widened as he scanned the area. “She’s here?”
“Was. I invited her for dinner.”
“Well, why didn’t you all come inside then?”
Jamie turned and grinned at his friend. “Because she skipped the meal and filled up on desert.”
“You dog! You didn’t—?”
“No! Not that. I would have but you know, work and all.”
“Always getting in the way of the good stuff,” Grant grumbled as they returned to the kitchen. “If I could get paid for having sex, I would.”
“You can. But, you can also get arrested for it.”
“I meant legally, you ass hat! Maybe I’ll become a porn star.” He gyrated his hips exaggeratedly, making Jamie laugh.
Jamie pulled off his apron and tossed it to Grant. “Sorry, dude. You better stick with fighting fires. You’re on cleanup. I need a shower.”
A very, very cold shower.
Cheryl Low might be an Evil Queen, sipping tea and peeping on everyone from high up in her posh tower—a job she got only after being fired from her gig as Wicked Witch for eating half the gingerbread house.
…Or she might be a relatively mundane human with a love for all things sugary and soap opera slaps.
Find out by following her on social media @cherylwlow or check her webpage, cheryllow.com. The answer might surprise you! But it probably won’t.
Social Media Links: Twitter& Instagram: @cherylwlow Website: cheryllow.com
In the Realm there are whispers. Whispers that the city used to be a different place. That before the Queen ruled there was a sky beyond the clouds and a world beyond their streets.
Vaun Dray Fen never knew that world. Born a prince without a purpose in a Realm ruled by lavish indulgence, unrelenting greed, and vicious hierarchy, he never knew a time before the Queen’s dust drugged the city. From the tea to the pastries, everything is poisoned to distract and dull the senses. And yet, after more than a century, his own magic is beginning to wake. The beautiful veneer of the Realm is cracking. Those who would defy the Queen turn their eyes to Vaun, and the dust saturating the Realm.
From the carnivorous pixies in the shadows to the wolves in the streets, Vaun thought he knew all the dangers of his city. But when whispers of treason bring down the fury of the Queen, he’ll have to race to save the lives and souls of those he loves.
“A deliciously decadent debut that will make you reconsider the world within which we live – because how different are we than Low’s drugged-up citizens of the upper crust?” — Sara Dobie Bauer, author of the Bite Somebody series
A Typical Writing Day
I start early. I think that’s key for me because if I sleep in, I pretty much meander through the rest of the day or find ways of distracting myself rather than getting anything done. I also avoid television and movies on writing days. It’s been my experience that as soon as I turn the Netflix on, all writing comes to a stop. I know that might sound like a given but I used to write with movies on in the background. Somewhere along the way that stopped.
I’m a plotter, so I have an outline when I write. I fell into this a while back and it really suits me. I obsess over a story for a while and keep notes on it, writing down scenes and ideas, and then when I’m ready I flesh that out into a full outline. It can be as detailed as paragraphs and dialogue or as vague as “put something here”.
I pick out a month when I have the least work on my schedule, usually July or August, and then I give myself a word-count-a-day goal. I set it at five-thousand a day, Monday through Friday, and leave the weekend for resting and catching up if I fall behind. It’s been my experience that the first week is the strongest because I’m so eager to get writing—usually coming out over my goal—while the rest of the month is closer to the mark. By the end of the month I have a first draft. It’s rough, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a completed draft and that really works wonders for my motivation.
I use some tricks to keep going, because if you’re writing with a word-count goal then you can’t afford to get stuck. The outline is key. No down time deciding what to do next and inevitably getting distracted by Twitter or Instagram. If I write something I already know isn’t going to work or I don’t like the sound of it but can’t right at that moment come up with something better, I highlight it and move on. Same thing with names or terms I haven’t yet come up with, I leave a gap of underline and move on. Those are all things I can fix later.
I also keep a notebook handy to jot down all those things I realize I need to add or fix or change while writing. Oh, and I write my first draft in Scrivener. It has a little word-count goal meter that I love and I like being able to keep the cue cards of characters or places in the sidebar. But I do all my editing in Word.
And when things get really dire and I’m banging my head on the desk, I put on my business tie. I keep it on my cork board and wear it whenever I need to “get down to business”. I know it sounds silly, but it works! I know that when I wear it, it means things are serious and I need to get my writing done. I’m also in the market for a thinking hat, but I haven’t come across one that calls to me yet.
“Vaun took another deep drag off the cigarette one of his new friends, Gabby, had offered him. She and the man sitting beside her pretended quite comically to be from the High. The prince did not ruin the show by telling them that he knew everyone in the High, to some degree. The quality of their vanity charms indicated they were not, not to mention the state of their clothing. Being rude was only fashionable if one’s victim was up to the challenge and could strike back. Besides, Vaun never discouraged people who tried so hard to amuse him.
The prince exhaled black smoke. It was thick and dramatic, but his skin didn’t hum the way it usually did after a deep breath of dust. In fact, the tingle was more of an agitation, making him shift in his seat and flick his cigarette more angrily than usual. Ash fluttered through the air. How much tea did he have to drink for a decent buzz? He all but dropped his cup back on its chipped saucer in disgust. “I shouldn’t have come,” he muttered.
“You’re leaving?” Gabby’s smile faltered. Her fingers clenched around her teacup. She wore fingerless, black lace gloves like his sister did on occasion and Vaun noticed that her skirts and bodice were also in dark colors with hints of lace sewn in wherever possible, some obviously added as an afterthought and not even matching the lace elsewhere. It would have been easier to try to imitate the High fashion of Belholn but Gabby had aimed even higher, for the princess herself.
“Yes. I’m sure I have a date somewhere.” Some part of him enjoyed the distress of the people around him at the possibility of his departure. It made him want to leave even more.
“Wait!” Gabby grabbed at the man beside her, whose name Vaun had forgotten a while ago, and tugged at the sleeve of his obviously repaired jacket. “Show him,” she whispered urgently.
Vaun took another draw of his disappointing cigarette. The best part about going to a teahouse or club in the thick of the Main was how the people tried so desperately to impress him. The people in the High knew him too well to try so hard. They feared his mockery even more than they desired his attention. But this group had spent the better part of the last hour trying to wow him with their trinkets and knowledge of the High. It was all nonsense read from the paper and mostly outdated. “I truly doubt you have anything to show me that I have not seen.”
The man reached into his jacket a little uncomfortably and took out a small mason jar. Others giggled, recognizing it, but Vaun only blinked at first. Its glass belly was full but not with anything liquid or solid. Light, captured and pulsing, swirled inside the jar. Vaun felt it as much as he saw it. He heard it like a whisper against his senses and found himself leaning forward to see it more clearly: a soul. Vaun had seen them before, but they weren’t common. So uncommon, in fact, that he was surprised they hadn’t led with this in their attempt to impress him. He supposed they might have been afraid he’d take it. Soul capturing was an old craft that most considered barbaric now.
His gaze turned up from the jar to the man holding it. “Who is it?” The soul was a beautiful captive, but the person walking around without it was the real prize—the puppet, someone that could be made to do anything.
“I couldn’t say.” The man smiled. “He wouldn’t be much of a spy if I did.”
A Marshall’s Courage
A Rescue Novella Series; Book 1
Publish Date: August 26, 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Cover Design by: MadHat Books
Danger is a part of life, at least in my line of work. I serve. I protect. I take down the men and women that would endanger the innocent. My Marine training led me to believe this would be an easy job. It was until Elayna Hart was dropped in my lap. After that, it was all up in the air.
Danger struck, and I had no choice but to do whatever I could to keep her safe. The attraction between us made it harder to focus, until I did the only thing I could. I ran away with her. We were off the grid with only two others for back up. If anyone came after her, we’d die to protect her.
Life is full of challenges – ones I have been able to meet head on. My path was straight until him – then it went upside down. Now I’m on the run from a man that wants to do more than crush my heart. My only hope is that the men who have agreed to protect me can do just that.
That moment: You see a face in the crowd. Your head tilts and your eyes go wide when you get a better look at the face. The ice cold feeling of recognition runs through your veins; time seems to move in slow motion before your heart starts to race in your chest.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
That’s the moment when you realize you’re seeing someone from your past that you thought – you hoped – you’d never see again. That’s when your world starts to crumble around you. Breathing becomes a chore. Panic. Fear. Desperation. You start to search for a place to run, to hide in plain sight. The questions start. How did he find me?
That was how it started for me. I’d been walking down the boardwalk in the small park that was minutes from the hustle and bustle of town. I wasn’t alone here, never would I be that lucky. Don’t get me wrong. I loved that I was looked after, but on a few occasions I just wanted space. That wasn’t a luxury I could have. Not now. Right now I had to think, I was far from safe with him this close.
The sun was on my face, and the chatter of the passersby filling the small area where I was walking would usually put me at ease after having a melt down. Today had started out as just a normal day; well, normal for me, someone on the run from a past she had longed to forget. Now with more and more things to add to the “I should give up” pile.
Until a year ago, I’d never been out of the small town I was raised in. Alabama was such a beautiful place… well, where I lived was. I missed it, but not enough to let anyone know I was alive, or where I was hiding from him. That was my sacrifice, my burden to bear. I had been snatched away by the witness protection team and moved in the dead of night into another small town that had so much character… and so much sunlight.
Being a witness to a robbery shouldn’t destroy your entire life, but it certainly wrecked mine. It may not have been so bad if I hadn’t have recognized the man holding the gun. The man who shot an innocent man for no reason other than stupidity and greed. His face had been shielded by a ski mask, but that deep baritone gave him away. The moment “Hurry the fuck up or I’ll blow your head off” left his lips, I gasped, uttering his name in what I thought was a silent rebuke. He looked my way and the man behind the register tried to grab the gun. My world flashed in multiple colors as I watched in horror. The guy’s hand reached out, Jonathan jerked back, and with a twitch of his hand the man’s head blew back, a coating of red spraying against the back wall. He was dead. I screamed and Jonathan attacked me. His hand wrapped around my throat, and I fought unsuccessfully to get out of his grip. Some noise distracted him for a moment, and I was able to hit his arm and slip out of his hold, barely. The sound of the sirens made him think twice about attacking again. He ran off, but not before warning me to stay quiet, or I was dead. Why he didn’t just shoot me right then and there, I don’t know.
Maybe he thought I would stay silent? I should have. My life has been turned upside down and rung out like it was just another piece of dirty laundry. But I couldn’t let that poor man’s killer go, no matter how I’d once felt for the man behind the mask. He was not the man I thought he was. No, he was a monster, and he needed to be behind bars where he could no longer harm anyone.
I guess through the bad, even this messy situation had its good points. Daniel, for one. He was… I had met him after relocating here. He was sorta like my welcoming committee. Now, ten months later, he is the reason I wake up smiling everyday. I need him by my side like I need air to breathe.
I never expected to see Jonathan again, not here, not ever, really. I thought that part of my life was over with, but obviously I was mistaken. How could I get away? That was all my mind could focus on. I had to run. Hopefully he hadn’t seen me yet. I saw him, but God, please let me be lucky, just this once. I slipped past a couple walking down the small path, so very thankful that I had worn jeans and tennis shoes today and not my normal shorts and sandals. I made it around the trickling brook to my left and urged myself to move faster. As I went up onto the main street which lead up to the parking lot – out of sight of the path – I took off running.
I needed to get to some place safe. I had a plan to do just that. They teach it to you when you join. You know, in the event your cover is blown or the ones after you finds you. Get to a phone, call your handler and stay out of sight until the agents arrive. My case was similar, but different at the same time since the boys had me hidden even from the Witsec people.
My feet pounded against the pavement. The sounds of people either moving towards the park or away from it were all I could hear, other than my own harsh breathing. I tuned everything else out, my mind focused on the task at hand. That task was getting to the Old Saw Mill Bar & Grille. It was a block over from the parking lot where my car sat, waiting on me to return. I had a key to the back door. It was where Daniel’s family would be. I’d be safe there. I could only hope like hell that Daniel was there as well. But after earlier, I wasn’t sure.
I turned the corner and something – someone – slammed into me. Hard. My head hit the sidewalk like a falling boulder. I looked up from where I had landed, blinking through the haze that covered my eyes. All I could see was beard and muscles… and the face of the man I thought was out of my life forever….
When my eyes did open again, albeit very slowly, they were foggy. I heard a faint beeping sound and I felt the pressure of someone squeezing my hand. I swallowed and panic set in. He’d found me.
I was going to die.
He’d finally win.
© Barb Shuler 2017
What Other’s Are Saying:
Love this book. There are some amazingly funny scenes, some heartbreaking scenes and some gut-wrenching scenes as well. This book has it all, from loving and passionate to suspenseful and scary. ~ Mindy, Goodreads Reviewer
My Own Nightmare ~ Somewhere I Belong ~ Shatter Me Whole
Genre: Dark Suspense/Thriller ~ Romantic Suspense
Wrangled By Love
Genre: Cowboy Contemporary Romance
**All of the above books are available in KU
~Meet Barb Shuler~
I’m a Carolina Girl by right and a Texan by birth. Best of both worlds. I have the brass sass to keep up with my Texas sized temper. Living and working in both states i’ve learned a lot about hard work, adapting to your surroundings and making the best of the path that you have been led down. My grandma Dollie once told me I would know what I was meant to do when it happened. She was right, as always.
As with most book lovers, I am an avid reader. Reading has always been a hobby – a passion, really and a way to get lost in other people’s lives, their drama and other worlds. It’s a private movie in your imagination that you get to cast and navigate through, at your own pace. Reading helps to expand the perimeters of one’s mind. That is what got me into writing. Writing has been something that I have done since I was a kid. If I had paper, I was writing. Nine out of ten times it made no sense but what are words if they are not to be used to your advantage? Words are a part of us all. Why not use them, right?
During the day I work as a ‘desk jockey’ and help the residents of my county navigate themselves around our little, but not too little country town. By night I am either blogging with my best friends, doing PA work for some of my favorite authors or fighting with the voices in my head. They can be stubborn at times. It’s a blessing and I am cherishing every moment. Tomorrow is never guaranteed so I want to make sure I live the day as fully as possible. For what is my creation, can become someone else’s treasure.
~ Connect with Barb here ~
Want to be a Misfit? Oh yes, you do!
My group will get teasers, excerpts and all the behind the scenes things of my writings before anyone else gets them.