Sadie’s Doggie Nervous Breakdown 

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People ask how I ended up with so many dogs, especially since for many years we were a one dog/one cat household. We had our beagle named Trooper (adopted from a shelter in Louisiana) and a tabby cat Cooper (adopted from a shelter in Ohio. Once Trooper was around 13, we adopted a shelter pup […]

Shelter Me – Available Now! 

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Shelter Me is available now! Buy it in both print or digital – available at your local store or any online bookseller! Amazon Barnes and Noble And congratulations to Judy Filipcic on winning the grand prize drawing this week for a bag of book. Many thanks to all who stopped by to comment. I’ll be […]

Join Catherine Mann’s Street Team 

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Hey there! Are you interested in becoming a member of the Catherine Mann Street Team? Curious about just what the heck a street team is? If so, here’s the scoop! The street team term came from rock group fans who spread the word to help their favorite groups make bestseller charts. Over time, other types […]

My Pup Featured on Vet Tech Blog! 

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My sweet, goofy puppy Faith is famous! Read all about her journey back to health on Vet Tech Rachel’s blog – “My Kid Has Paws” – where Rachel gives pet tips and discusses various pet owner concerns. It’s an awesome blog and well worth your time to peruse at length.  A big thanks to Rachel for sharing about Faith’s battle with […]

Rich Man’s Fake Fiancee – 2-in-1 reissue w/Brenda Jackson 

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CHAPTER ONE

Only one thing sucked worse than wearing boring white cotton underwear on the night she finally landed in bed with her secret fantasy man.

Having him walk out on her before daylight.

Ashley Carson tensed under her downy comforter. Through the veil of her eyelashes, she watched her new lover quietly zip his custom fit pants. She’d taken a bold step – unusual for her – by falling into bed with Matthew Landis the night before. Her still-tingly sated body cheered the risk. Her good sense, however, told her she’d made a whopper mistake with none other than South Carolina ’s most high profile Senatorial candidate.

Moonlight streaked through the dormer window, glinting off his dark hair trimmed short but still mussed from her fingers. Broad shoulders showcased his beacon white shirt, crisp even though she’d stripped it from him just hours ago when their planning session for his fundraiser dinner at her restaurant/home had taken an unexpected turn down the hall to her bedroom.

Matthew may have been dream material, but safely so since she’d always thought there wasn’t a chance they could actually end up together. She preferred a sedentary, quiet life running her business, with simple pleasures she never took for granted after her foster child upbringing. He worked in the spotlight as a powerful member of the House of Representatives just as adept at negotiating high profile legislation as swinging a hammer at a Habitat for Humanity site.

People gravitated to his natural charisma and sense of purpose.

Matthew reached for his suit jacket draped over the back of a corner chair. Would he say goodbye or simply walk away? She wanted to think he would speak to her, but couldn’t bear to find out otherwise so she sat up, floral sheet clutched to her chest.

“That floorboard by the door creaks, Matthew. You might want to sidestep it or I’ll hear you sneaking out.”

He stopped, wide shoulders stiffening before he turned slowly. He hadn’t shaved, his five o’clock shadow having thickened into something much darker – just below the guilty glint in his jewel green eyes that had helped win him a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Five months from now, come November, he could well be the handsome sexy-eyed Senator Landis if he won the seat to be vacated by his mother.

With one quick blink, Matthew masked the hint of emotion. “Excuse me? I haven’t snuck anywhere since I was twelve, trying to steal my cousin’s magazines from under his mattress.” He stuffed his tie in his pocket. “I was getting dressed.”

“Oh, my mistake.” She slid from the bed, keeping the sheet tucked around her naked body. The room smelled of potpourri and musk, but she wouldn’t let either distract her. “Since yesterday, you’ve just developed a light step and a penchant for walking around in your socks.”

Ashley nodded toward his Gucci loafers dangling from two fingers.

“You were sleeping soundly,” he stated simply.

A lot of great sex tended to wear a woman out. Apparently she hadn’t accomplished the same for him, not that she intended to voice her vulnerability to him. “How polite of you.”

He dropped the shoes to the floor and toed them on one after the other. Seeing his expensive loafers on her worn hardwood floors with a cotton rag rug, she couldn’t miss the hints that this polished, soon-to-be Senator wasn’t at home in her world. Too bad those reminders didn’t stop her from wanting to drag him back onto her bed.

“Ashley, last night was amazing–”

“Stop right there. I don’t need platitudes or explanations. We’re both single adults, not dating each other or anyone else.” She snagged a terrycloth robe off a brass hook by the bathroom door and ducked inside to swap the sheet for the robe. “We’re not even really friends for that matter. More like business acquaintances who happened to indulge in a momentary attraction.”

Okay, momentary for him maybe. But she’d been salivating over him during the few times they’d met to plan social functions at her Beachcombers Restaurant and Bar.

Ashley stepped back into the bedroom, tugging the robe tie tight around her waist.

“Right, we’re on the same page then.” He braced a hand on the doorframe, his gold cufflinks glinting.

“You should get going if you plan to make it home in time to change.”

He hesitated for three long thumps of her heart before pivoting away on his heel. Ashley followed him down the hall of her Southern antebellum home/turned restaurant she ran with her two foster sisters. She’d recently taken up residence in the back room off her office, watching over the accounting books as well as the building since her recently married sisters had moved out.

Sure enough, more than one floorboard creaked under his confident strides as they made their way past the gift shop and into the lobby. She unlocked the towering front door, avoiding his eyes. “I’ll send copies of the signed contract for the fundraising dinner to your campaign manager.”

The night before, Matthew had stayed late after the business dinner to pass along some last minute paperwork. She never could have guessed how combustible a simple brush of their bodies against each other could become. Her fantasies about this man had always revolved around far more exotic scenarios.

But they were just that. Fantasies. As much as he tried to hide his emotions, she couldn’t miss how fast he’d made tracks out of her room. She’d been rejected often enough as a kid by her parents and even classmates. These days, pride starched her spine far better than any back brace she’d been forced to wear to combat scoliosis.

Matthew flattened a palm to the mahogany door. “I will call you later.”

Sure. Right. “No calls.” She didn’t even want the possibility of waiting by the phone, or worse yet, succumbing to the humiliating urge to dial him up, only to get stuck in voicejail as she navigated his answering service. “Let’s end this encounter on the same note it started. Business.”

She extended her hand. He eyed her warily. She pasted her poise in place through pride alone. Matthew enfolded her hand in his, not shaking after all, rather holding as he leaned forward to press a kiss…

On her cheek.

Damn.

He slipped out into the muggy summer night. “It’s still dark. You should go back to sleep.”

Sleep? He had to be freaking kidding.

Thank goodness she had plenty to keep her busy now that Matthew had left, because she was fairly certain she wouldn’t be sleeping again. She watched his brisk pace down the steps and into the shadowy parking lot which held only his Lexus sedan and her tiny KIA Rio. What was she doing, staring after him? She shoved the door closed with a heavy click.

All her poise melted. She still had her pride but her ability to stand was sorely in question. Ashley sagged against the counter by the antique cash register in the foyer.

She couldn’t even blame him. She’d been a willing participant all night long. They’d been in the kitchen where she’d planned to give him a taste of the dessert pastries her sister added to the menu for his fundraiser. Standing near each other in the close confines of the open refrigerator, they had brushed against each other, once, twice.

His hand had slowly raised to thumb away cream filling at the corner of her mouth…

She’d forgotten all about her white cotton underwear until he’d peeled it from her body on the way back to her bedroom. Then she hadn’t been able to think of much else for hours to come.

Her bruised emotions needed some serious indulging. She gazed into the gift shop, her eyes locking on a rack of vintage-style lingerie. She padded on bare feet straight toward the pale pink satin nightgown dangling on the end. Her fingers gravitated to the wide bands of peek-a-boo lace crisscrossing over the bodice, rimming the hem, outlining the vee slit in the front of the 1920’s look garment.

How she’d ached for whispery soft underthings during her childhood, but had always been forced to opt for the more practical cotton, a sturdier fabric not so easily snagged by her back brace. She didn’t need the brace any longer. Just a slight lift to her left shoulder remained, only noticeable if someone knew to check. But while she’d ditched the brace once it finished the job, she still felt each striation on her heart.

Ashley snatched the hanger from the rack and dashed past the shelved volumes of poetry, around a bubble bath display to the public powder room. Too bad she hadn’t worn this yesterday. Her night with Matthew might not have ended any differently, but at least she would have had the satisfaction of stamping a helluva sexier imprint on his memory.

A quick shrug landed her robe on the floor around her feet.

Ashley avoided the mirror, a habit long ingrained. She focused instead on the nightgown’s beauty. One bridal shower after another, she’d gifted her two foster sisters with the same style.

Satin slid along her skin like a cool shower over a body still flushed from the joys of heated sex with Matthew. She sunk onto the tapestry chaise, a French Restoration piece she’d bargained for at an estate auction. She lit the candle next to her to complete the sensory saturation. The flame flickered shadows across the faded wallpaper, wafting relaxing hints of lavender.

A deep breath at a time she willed her anger to roll free as she drifted into the pillowy cloud of sensation. She tugged a decorative afghan over her. Maybe she could snag a nano nap after all.

Timeless relaxing moments later, Ashley inhaled again, deeper. And coughed. She sat up bolt right, sniffing not lavender, but…

Smoke….

March Newsletter – PROTECTOR on Shelves Now! 

~*~*~Find Me Online Celebrating PROTECTOR! Books for Doorprizes!~*~*~*~ Wed., March 7 at 9 p.m. ET – One hour online chat, live at Romance Reviews Today! http://www.romrevtoday.com/ Thurs., March 8 at 9 p.m. ET – One hour live chat at Writerspace http://writerspace.com/ Tues., March 13 – Just Romantic Suspense Interview (I’ll be around all day to […]

My Work Has Been Plagiarized 

Ever heard of the story A SOLDIER’S VALENTINE?  Well, apparently it’s a plagiarized version of a short story I wrote for Harlequin called AN EVENING TO REMEMBER. I learned about this on Friday, but honestly, I was too stunned to wrap my brain around it enough to speak on the subject.  I’ve moved from stunned […]

More Than Words: Stories of Hope 

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Chapter One

Librarian Anna Bonneau was well on her way to landing in the pokey. And that’s exactly where she wanted to be.

Handcuffed to a park bench in protest all afternoon while reading hadn’t been a great hardship since books were her life. However waiting for the police to take notice was starting to give her fanny fatigue.

Finally, a cop cruiser squealed to a stop by the curb.

She should have realized they wouldn’t actually have a problem with her sit-down protest until closing time – five p.m. The recreation area was empty but for autumn trees awash with colors, swings twisting in the wind by Lake Huron , the place her mother had taken her for tea parties.

Losing her mother at twelve had been the most difficult time in her life, and this park represented a living tribute to the warm woman whose time on earth had been cut short by a car accident. Her father – a local retired judge – had tried to continue the picnic tradition, but their differences in opinion during her teenage years made things difficult.

All in the past. Now, Anna did her best to focus on her book while keeping a peripheral check on the police officer stretching out of his cruiser. Finally, progress in her cause.

She’d always wanted to be a librarian. However, landing a job in her sleepy hometown of Oscoda , Michigan was a dream come true. She’d waited three years working in a library in the Detroit area for this position to come open.

Two weeks from now, she would start her job. And not a chance did she plan to let the short-sighted members of the town planning commission rip up this park to plop a “Gentlemen’s Club” restaurant and bar right beside her library.

She shifted her numb tush off the metal bench growing cooler by the second in the autumn temps, all the while keeping her eyes firmly focused on rereading a Suzanne Brockmann reissue. Yes, Anna adored her romance novels as much as the long ago classics.

A scream pierced the air. A child.

Anna jolted up from her seat only to be yanked back down by the handcuff – ouch. Her book fell to the ground as she took in the sight of a parked truck and second male carrying a kid gaining ground on the police officer. She peeked around a tree, angling for a better view. Howling shrieks echoed, closer, fuller, tugging at her heart until she saw someone she’d hoped never to lay eyes on again after he had broken her heart in high school.

Forest Jameson.

As he crossed the lawn toward her, Anna’s tummy back flipped as it had when she’d first seen him bat one over the fence on the baseball field. He was a hunk, no doubt, however too uptight back during their teenage dating days. She’d heard he’d returned about four months ago to set up a legal practice, but she hadn’t seen him since her return a week ago.

Why was he at the park, and why was he hauling along a child? They could be here to play – not that the kid sounded happy. More likely, Forest was here because her father, his long ago mentor, had called and asked him to save her numb tush.

The cop, old Officer Smitty, stopped short of her bench. Closely following, Forest Jameson juggled the boy, a briefcase and a tote bag stuffed with toys dangling from his shoulder.

“Anna.” He nodded a greeting. “You still look the same.”

She wasn’t sure how to take that and before she could answer, he’d turned back to the child.

Forest jostled the wailing, magenta-faced kid wearing sunglasses. “Hang on, Joey. Just a few minutes and we’ll be through here. I promise, son.”

A son? Her eyes zipped to Forest’s ring finger. Bare. She didn’t want to think about the relief.

Forest met her gaze. “Divorced and the nanny quit.”

His tight lipped answer engendered sympathy along with embarrassment over being caught checking.

Forest strode over to the cop. “I’m here to represent the interests of Miss Bonneau.”

Well sheesh. Wasn’t that convenient? “Uh, hello? Miss Bonneau has something to say about that.”

The child – around four, maybe? – arched his back, pumping his feet. “I want to go home!”

“Well, you’re going anywhere if you don’t settle down.” Forest’s unwavering parental tone of calmly stated boundaries was betrayed by his harried composure.

Officer Smitty jumped in with the universal key and unlocked the handcuffs confining her to the bench. “H’lo Miss Bonneau. How about you take care of this little stinker and I’ll have a conversation with the lawyer?”

Click. The handcuffs fell away, ending her latest protest and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. Maybe she would ride this one out and see what Forest had to say – in the interest of being entertained. Right?

She snagged her book from the ground, placed it on the bench and reached for little Joey. He didn’t even loosen the lock hold on his dad’s neck. Single parent Forest was clearly overwhelmed.

Hmmm. It seemed she needed to bail him out as well and clearly the men would talk more if they thought she was out of the way. She may have wanted her standard quick stop in jail, but her father said Forest never lost his cases so she would simply stay near enough to listen until she came up with plan B.

And the kid surely was a heart-tugger. “Could I take him for you while you work your attorney magic?”

Forest hesitated, which irked her to no end. Finally, he nodded and eased the boy’s arms from around his neck, speaking the whole time. “It’s okay, son. This is Miss Anna. She’s going to play with you while I talk business. Okay?”

Joey hiccupped. “Kay.” His chocolate colored curls stuck to his head with tantrum-induced sweat. “Can I go swing?”

Of course. He passed Joey over. “Anna? You’re sure you don’t mind?”

If he’d been surprised that she guessed his reason for showing up, he sure didn’t show it.

“Not at all.”

She took the child, a solid weight. The scent of baby shampoo and sweat soothed her with the sweet innocence of childhood. Gracious, he was cute in his striped overalls, conductor’s cap and Thomas the Train sunglasses.

Forest opened his mouth as if to speak further, but Anna turned away. Her nerves were on edge and resisting the temptation to stare at the grown up Forest was almost irresistible. His gentleness with the child could well draw her, just as it had when she’d seen him volunteering with little leaguers in high school.

She headed toward the swings offering soothing words both for herself and Joey.

“Can you sit in the swing and hold me, please?” Joey asked.

“Of course, sweetie.”

This was easier than she thought. She could hold the child, keep him happy and listen to the two men decide her fate as if she wasn’t even there. Grrr. She tickled Joey’s chin with the tail of her braid until he chortled. His cool guy sunglasses the cutest little things she’d ever seen.

Unable to resist gloating since that usually riled Counselor Uptight in the past, Anna glanced past Joey to his father. Bummer. Forest hadn’t even noticed. He was too busy unloading baby gear. As he placed the toy bag and briefcase on the bench, his suit coat gaped open to reveal a broad chest covered by his crisp white shirt. She swallowed hard.

He whipped off his steel rimmed glasses and snatched a tissue from the briefcase to clean away evening mist. Anna’s breath hitched. Forest’s blue eyes glittered like a shaken bottle of soda water. Wasn’t she supposed to be the one who delivered surprises?

Darn it, she wouldn’t let him trounce her heart again the way he had when he left town without so much as a farewell.

“Miss Anna, higher!” Joey squealed, yanking her braid. “Miss Anna, want to swing higher.”

She blinked twice to clear her mind. Joey’s tug helped. The kid had the strength of a fifth grader. She welcomed the wake-up call.

Why couldn’t her father understand she believed in justice as strongly as he did? She merely approached it from a different angle with her protests she’d been organizing since passing a petition in the second grade for new monkey bars on the playground.

Forest finished his discussion with Smitty and the older cop ambled off to his patrol car. Forest strode toward her with determined steps and held his arms out for his son, tapping the boy on the shoulder. “Time to go, Joey.”

The little fella pivoted in her lap and launched at his dad with obvious affection. This time, however, he squirmed down to walk, holding his dad’s hand.

Anna eased up from the swing. “What’s the verdict?”

“Since we made it out of here before closing, you got off with a simple ticket, but no jail time.”
“I guess that will have to do, but I was hoping we could squeeze some news coverage.”

A tight smile crooked his perfectly sculpted mouth as he mimicked her voice. “Why thank you, Forest , for keeping me from paying an expensive fine. And heaven forbid I might have actually had to go to jail and eat their fine cuisine. It’s great to see you again.”

She slumped in the swing. He had gone to a lot of trouble for her and she was being brattier than a two year old. “Thank you for your time and help. It’s, uh, good to see you too.”

Even if it had cost her the short stint in jail and a much coveted feature in the weekly newspaper that she’d been hoping for.

Still, heaven knew she needed to put distance between herself and his too-enticing blue eyes. The sparkle in those charmers rivaled any giggles from Joey.