Courthouse Connections—a series of steamy romances between larger-than-life heroes and heroines, set in a busy city on Florida’s west coast (my home town).
FRAMED… it’s hot, it’s romantic suspense, it’s look into how three people’s shameful secrets can come back to haunt them, but also of how love can triumph in the end. It’s a book that was a long time coming, a story I’m very excited about! I hope readers will love it, too.
With luck, FRAMED should be released early next month. Look on my website for pre-order and release information and buy links, or keep up with me on Facebook or Twitter.
Here’s a short excerpt from FRAMED. It’s the first time the hero and heroine connect:
Everybody seemed to have paired off after the morning session, most of the lawyers combining a weekend of continuing education at this luxurious beach resort on Key West with a mini-vacation with their families or significant others.
Lanie Winstead sighed. She still had a husband, legally speaking, even though they’d been separated for over a year. That didn’t mean, though, that she’d come down here looking for a new significant other.
The marriage that had begun with her foolish hope that it might grow into a love match had been over long before she’d moved out of Wayne’s house and into her own apartment. Adrift, on the cusp of hitting thirty, she had no immediately pending cases at the Tampa satellite office of Wayne’s firm. She’d signed up for this continuing education seminar primarily to occupy time while fulfilling the Florida Bar’s continuing education requirements.
Over a year ago, Wayne had given his blessing for her to go her own way while he went his, but she hadn’t taken him up on the invitation. Lonely in this subtropical paradise, she envied the couples around her, whose happiness they seemed to take for granted.
Alone. That’s how she felt now, but it wasn’t all that much different from the way she’d been before the separation, envied for being married to the popular state senator. All the time she’d felt trapped, forced to take care that no one would guess they lived separate lives except for the public moments they shared in the limelight of political rallies and other media events.
Restless, she finished the fruity drink she’d been sipping and headed out for a walk along the beach. Unlike some of the unescorted women she’d talked with during breaks in the seminar schedule, she hadn’t come alone to troll for a bedmate. Not that she couldn’t, of course. Even before she’d moved out and asked Wayne for a divorce, they’d both been free to enjoy sex whenever, however and, wherever they chose—as long as they did it discreetly.
When she stepped onto the long pier that jutted out into the Gulf of Mexico, she spotted another solitary soul who’d escaped temporarily from the seminars. She couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was that had attracted her attention to the big, dark-haired lawyer who looked more like an NFL player than the successful attorney he was. For whatever reason, though, he attracted her. Not only had JD Ackerman just given the lecture on torts she’d attended earlier in the day, Lanie had met the partner in the prestigious Tampa firm of Winston, Roe and Associates when they’d been introduced a couple of years ago during a fundraiser for one of Wayne’s reelection campaigns.
Wayne had mentioned the guy being a rainmaker—a torts specialist whose claim to fame was a recent multi-billion-dollar class action settlement he’d exacted from a tire company whose executives had cut too many corners and sold defective products to unfortunate drivers.
She couldn’t deny that an aura of power surrounded Ackerman He even looked the part—very tall and muscular, like a guy nobody would mess with. No one could miss picking him out of a crowd, because he had to be at least six-six, a head taller than most men—and almost all women.
The man exuded competence, but he also had way more than his share of sex appeal. The overall package—dark-brown hair, chiseled features, and the way he’d filled out his obviously custom-tailored suit at the lecture she’d attended earlier—made him a bona fide chick magnet. Lanie had been tempted to walk up to him and run her fingers through that slightly mussed, wavy hair, but of course she hadn’t done it.
What drew her to him most now, though, was the shuttered expression in eyes that reminded her of rich, dark chocolate. She looked with envy at a fringe of eyelashes women would die to have for themselves as she moved closer to the spot where he stood. He drew her as if she were metal and he a magnet too strong to withstand.
It wasn’t just that he looked good enough to devour whole, casually dressed as he was now in khaki shorts and a pale T-shirt. The look of sadness in his eyes made her want to gather him in her arms, comfort him, and wipe away the quiet despair that shadowed his expression.
Lanie stopped beside him at the pier railing and looked out over the calm, aqua water. A few yards away, a pair of bottle-nosed dolphins cavorted in the water, apparently oblivious to the gentle waves, the Gulf tide’s ebb and flow. A pelican swooped across the surface of the water, dived, and came up with a good-sized fish.
Ackerman turned away from the water and looked at her as though he’d just noticed he was no longer alone. “You’re Elaine Winstead, aren’t you? I noticed you at my lecture on torts this morning.”
When he spoke, the deep, compelling tone of his voice made her glance up and meet his gaze. She thought she detected a slight easing of whatever it was that had been making him seem so sad, perhaps even the beginnings of a healthy interest in her as a woman. “Yes. My name is Elaine, but everybody calls me Lanie. You’re JD Ackerman. I believe we met at a political event a while back.”
“You’re right. I’m surprised the senator didn’t join you this weekend. It’s a great place to bring a spouse—almost like a tropical honeymoon paradise.”
Yes, she imagined it was for most couples, but she and Wayne had never teamed up for events that didn’t have political significance. When they’d spent time relaxing together, it had always been to make a point of togetherness for his constituents. “Wayne and I have been separated for over a year now, but don’t apologize for not knowing. We’ve tried to keep the split quiet until the divorce is finalized.”
“I’m sorry. Losing a loved one is difficult, however that loss occurs.” He paused, as though he were trying to decide whether he wanted to continue their conversation. “Would you like to join me for a walk along the beach?” he finally asked, his tone a little hesitant.
“I’d like that.” She glanced at his left hand, saw the telltale pale circle on his finger that said louder than words that he’d worn a ring there for a long time and removed it very recently. “I take it you came here alone, too.”
“I do pretty much everything by myself these days. My wife died a little over a year ago. We weren’t blessed with children.” His expression turned bleak, though he obviously tried to mask the pain that accompanied his comment.
She yearned to reach out and touch him, but she looked up at him instead. “God, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
He turned to her and rested both hands on her shoulders. “Please don’t apologize. When I saw you walking along the pier looking a little bit lost, I felt something other than grief for the first time since Miriam passed away. Before I spotted you, I’d been thinking how it would feel to dive into the water, swim and swim and swim until I couldn’t go any farther—wondering how it would feel to let the Gulf claim me.”
“You were thinking of joining your wife?” Lanie couldn’t believe that. Not really. JD was too strong, too vibrant…
“No. Not that. I don’t believe in resurrection or life after death, not really. I was thinking more about—just ending a life I’d begun to believe was no longer worth living. Does that shock you?”
She’d never known love like he must have lost. To be honest, she’d never known love at all except the silent devotion of the two felines Wayne had always complained that she treated like children. For long moments she held JD’s solemn gaze, trying to formulate an honest reply.
“Yes. No. I don’t know, JD. I’m very glad I came along, though, if me running into you has helped make you want to stick around.” She tried for a light tone as she twisted the engagement and wedding rings Wayne had insisted she keep. The thought hit Lanie that she had nothing other than casual friendship and perhaps the use of her body to drive away the pain that still was evident in the faraway look on JD’s handsome face.
Not now, in any case.
“It did. How about that walk? I’m game if you are.” He dropped his hands off her shoulders and took her right hand in his left as he adjusted his long stride to accommodate her shorter one.