It was a little weird after spending the last three years writing historicals to have finished a contemporary romance I started writing about 12 years ago. No castles, no knights on horses—just modern day with cars, airplanes, cell phones and computers. Pictures for Maddie. It’s set right here in north Alabama where I live. After a false start for a release date (and an apology to my editor for messing up the final manuscript, I finally launched the book in June.
Here’s a blurb and an excerpt:
Kodiak Raines, former cop and now Mayor of Majesta Landing is in the middle of the worst natural disaster in the history of north Alabama. He’s also running for the State Senate and courting a vivacious woman he plans on proposing to. Apart from the flood of the century, his life is perfect, right?
The woman who was too much of a coward to throw the engagement ring in his face, left him a Dear John letter and ran so far away he couldn’t find her. Until the day she suddenly dropped back into his life, offering no explanation for her actions. Working as a freelance photographer, Larke Scott has been hired by a New York publishing company to document the disaster. She desperately needs the money and can’t afford to turn down the assignment. But her return to Alabama has a dual purpose—to do her job and to tell Kody he has a daughter.
Here’s an excerpt from Pictures for Maddie, available in ebook format at most online retailers:
Shivering despite the humid warmth of the room, Larke returned the camera to its case and looked out the window, rubbing her arms lightly with her hands over the spot where Kody’s hands had gripped her. She glanced at Tec. “I’m surprised you haven’t asked me about Maddie.”
Tec licked mayonnaise off his fingers and wiped them on a napkin. “In the first place, it’s none of my business. That’s between you and Kody. But I won’t deny I’m curious. Is there a kid?”
Larke’s eyes softened as she drew the image of Maddie to the front of her mind, picturing the beautiful little girl with Kody’s eyes and hair. “Oh yes,” she said.
“And how old is she, in case I want to do the math?”
Larke tried to smile, but she knew he wasn’t the only one who would be asking questions. “Do you honestly think I’d lie about that?”
“I’ll let you convince me.”
Startled, Larke looked over to see Kody standing in the doorway, disheveled and caked with mud. He was in desperate need of a bath and clean clothes, and the fatigue on his face had only intensified with the passing hours. Still, her heart beat faster. Even days of hard work and mud couldn’t hide the very elements of his physique that first attracted her and tugged at her now.
“I see you kept her corralled,” he said smoothly to his brother, his hard, unforgiving gaze never leaving Larke, sweeping the length of her as if to peel away her very flesh.
“Handcuffs do come in handy now and then,” he said, sliding off the desk and winking at Larke’s scowl.
“That would have been something to see.”
No emotion beyond the rage oozing from every pore, his muscles tight with controlled ferocity, and for a moment, Larke felt fear, the hair on the back of her neck rising. She glanced at Kody, his gaze hard and unyielding, as if wanting her to feel every emotion that had been his life since the day she left.
“Actually, she never tried to leave. I put fresh batteries in your phone charger. Della brought sandwiches and lemonade—coffee, too. Clean clothes are in the bag over there.”
“Thanks.” Turning toward the desk, Kody unclipped his cell phone and plugged it into the charger. “Did you convince the old girl to leave?”
“No more than you did. She’s almost as pigheaded as Dad. Maybe you should give it another try.” Tec looked at Larke. “I guess you won’t be going back to Huntsville tonight.”
Larke shook her head, her voice stuck somewhere between a whisper and silence. “No.”
“You want to go up again tomorrow?”
She nodded. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I’ll be here. There are several good sites I know about. Who knows? You might just get that Pulitzer Prize.”
Larke barely swallowed the lump in her throat. “Thanks for keeping me company.”
He smiled in return. “No problem. Later, Bro.” Tec snapped his fingers and turned back, a mischievous grin on his face. “By the way, the next time you see Bruce, give him a hard time.”
“He wasn’t going to let Larke see you.” He waved and was gone, shutting the office door behind him.
Motionless, both Larke and Kody waited, listening for the door to the outer office to shut. He stood with his back to her—still, as if waiting for something. The silence was painful and she hardly knew what to say, where to begin, or how to answer the thousands of questions he would be throwing at her.
“Kody, I . . .” Larke tried to recall what she intended to say, difficult words to break the frigid quiet—when he moved with lightning speed, his hands wrapping around her head, his mouth closing hungrily over hers. She had been prepared for a tirade of ugly, black rage, but nothing prepared her for the shattering power of his mouth devouring her.
Her heart lurched, a protest on the tip of her tongue, hands flexing, pushing against the solid wall of his chest . . . then fire shafted through her, burning away her protests. One hand slid possessively around her neck, the other around her waist, snapping her against his hard body. No words exchanged, no polite offerings of slow seduction as he opened her mouth, plunging into the hot depths, tasting her like a starving man.
The ferocity of sudden passion startled Larke, and she whimpered against his mouth, “No.”
His tongue skimmed across her bottom lip, teeth capturing her in a tender bite. “Yes,” he breathed against her, his fingers closing around a fistful of braided hair to tilt her head up, kissing her so thoroughly her knees weakened.
With a murmur of vaporous protest, Larke relaxed against him, sliding from sanity to desire, her fingers sinking into his hair as she returned his ravenous kiss, feeding on him, taking as eagerly as she gave. He tasted of coffee. He smelled of wind and rain. His body was hard, muscles tense. It had been so long . . . so long without him—without him and the splintering pleasure only he could give. Dark passion licked through her veins, intense longing and desire pooling low in her body.
And then she was free, spinning wildly, her heart pounding.
Stunned by his actions, Kody looked at her, his eyes filled with smoky lust. His muscles clenched and unclenched, his mind racing, tilting madly as he tried to shake it off. Without a word, his hands closed over her arms and he pulled her toward him. “I didn’t think it was possible, but you and I aren’t finished.”
Breathing hard, Kody’s gaze narrowed and he swung her around, pushing her against the door, pinning her by the shoulders. Leaning against her, he waited, breathing heavily.
“Why did you have to come back?”
Larke searched his face, moaning in protest as his mouth covered hers urgently, burrowing with hot fire, daring her to push him away—or waiting for her to respond. As his tongue probed her mouth, he released her, his hands curving around her waist, but instead of pulling her closer, he jerked her shirt free of her jeans, palming the warm flesh of her sides and lower back. “We—stop,” she tried to object.
“Stop?” he whispered, his hands moving roughly up her soft skin. “I don’t think so.” Skimpy lace covered her breasts, and his hands closed over them, thumbs brushing across tight, puckered nipples.
Her sharp gasp sliced straight through him, his hips pressed against her belly, the bulge in his jeans rigid and needy. He rained kisses over her face, dragging his three-day beard down her throat, feeling her racing pulse, her breathing thready. She wanted him as surely as he knew his own name. His fingers kneaded her stomach, edging into the waistband of her tight jeans, and he muffled a curse in the back of his throat when his hand could go no farther.
Overwhelmed by the force of his passion, Larke abandoned herself to it, wrapping her arms around his neck. Tasting him hungrily, her tongue met his, licking across his lower lip. Need drove them. Five years of desire tore at them, their hands pulling at clothing, seeking skin and the fever of bodies joined together in hot, raw sex . . .