Wednesday, June 27, 2018

On Deck for Love: Chapter One


When the knock sounded, Meg Summers glanced from her laptop screen to her watch. Was it time already? "Why did I let her talk me into this?" she muttered under her breath as she trudged to the front door of her sparsely decorated condo.

Shayla, her best friend since high school, stood there with a much too big smile and wide, excited eyes. "Do you have all your stuff?"

"I guess."

Shayla stepped inside, then brushed her naturally red curly hair off her shoulders. "It is one hot, humid day. Even for Houston." She fanned herself with her hand. "This is going to be the best vacation of all vacations. Ever."

While shaking her head, Meg shut the front door. Shayla had always been the perky, upbeat part of their duo. Sometimes it was more annoying than others. "If you say so."

Shayla pointed at Meg. With a serious expression she said, "You may not be Debbie Downer about this. I forbid it. We are going to have a blast."

"Because going on a singles cruise screams blast." Meg couldn’t think of a worse way to spend the next week. All she could envision was a bunch of loser guys trying to hit on her. Not what I want or need right now.

"This is going to be super fun!" Shayla’s green eyes danced.

Meg walked into the small kitchen and Shayla followed closely behind her. "I should've said no when you first brought up this crazy idea," Meg said, reaching for a glass. She filled it with some ice.

"It isn't crazy!” Shayla perched her hands on her hips. “People meet their significant others on cruises all the time."

"They do?" Meg gave her too-enthusiastic BFF a look of disbelief.

"Eighty-two percent of all those who go on singles cruises leave with the beginning of a relationship." Shayla said it with such conviction, Meg almost believed her. Almost.

"You just pulled that stat out of your—"

"I did not. It's totally true. And even if it isn't, why not take a chance?" Shayla grabbed the glass from Meg and added some water to it.

"For one, I have a ton of work to do if I want to launch my online business in less than three weeks." 

There was still so much to do before her website would be ready. Then there was all the social media marketing to schedule. And editing all the videos. She’d invested too much money to not meet her deadline.

Shayla waved her hand. "You can leave that for a week."

"Uh, uh. I'm taking my laptop with me and working. I need to upload my meal plans and exercise videos to my website, integrate the software so customers can sign up for my weight training program, and I have to test it to make sure there aren’t any bugs." Shayla didn’t understand all the work it entailed to get this business going. Sure, she was supportive, and had even encouraged Meg to pursue it last year when it was only a kernel of an idea, but there was a long list of tasks that had to be completed if Meg wanted this to be successful.

Shayla drew in a deep breath. "Meg!"


"You promised you'd go on the cruise with a good attitude." Shayla wagged her finger at Meg.

Meg leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "No, no. I said I'd come because you said it was all you wanted for your birthday—your birthday wish—last month. I never agreed to have a good attitude about a bunch of weirdos who have no concept of a real relationship." A vision of some old, bald guy with a hairy back and leering eyes popped into her head and she shuddered.

"Okay. Then for my next birthday wish,” Shayla raised her eyebrows, “I want you to be open to meeting someone."

"Uhh, that's blackmail." Meg wasn’t about to be manipulated.

"Come on.” Shayla gave a dramatic sigh. “You never know what might happen."

Meg stepped past Shayla and flopped on the couch. "Based alone on my last four first dates, I'm pretty sure I have an idea. Dating and relationships are totally overrated.”

Shayla sat next to Meg. "Well, maybe your soul mate will be on this cruise."

Meg started laughing. "Actually, you're right."

"I am?" Shayla blinked.

Meg picked up her romance novel from the table and said, "Yep, here he is. I'll bring him with me. His name is Rolf."

Shayla threw her hands in the air. “I don’t know what to do with you.”

“Let me work while we’re on the cruise. You go meet people and I work. Win-win.” Seemed to make perfect sense to Meg.

“No way. You are going to be social. And you’re going to like it.” Shayla stood, then walked over to her bag and pulled something out. “And to make that happen, I bought you this.”

“Bought me what?” Meg was afraid to ask.

Shayla held a blue dress in her hands. “Isn’t it adorable? And you will be stunning. It’ll totally bring out the blue in your eyes. And you can wear your hair up in a twist.”

“Uhh, I’m not sure. It seems a little too much for me.” Meg eyed it. “Make that a little too little for me.” The dress would show way more of Meg than she wanted.

“You’ve worked so hard and for so long for your rockin’ hot body, and you need to show it off.”

It was true that Meg had transformed her body. Once she was a chubby kid with lots of extra padding and rolls. Now she had well-defined, lean muscles, and less than 18% body fat.  Still, it was hard to ignore the nickname that still rang in her ears. Megaton, Megaton, Megaton. It had been coined by AJ, a rude, obnoxious boy she knew in middle school. It was hard to forget about all the body shaming she endured through the years for being overweight. “I don’t know.”

“My third birthday wish is that you wear this dress on the cruise and you like it. You’ll look amazing. I promise.” Shayla held the dress out to Meg.

Meg snatched it.  Maybe Shayla was right. “Fine. But only because you’re my bestie.”

“Admit it. You think the dress is cute.”

Meg held up the dress. “In an over-the-top kind of way, sure.”

“You need to loosen up and have some fun.” Shayla did some dance moves to an imaginary song.

Meg couldn’t help but smile at Shayla’s excitement. Maybe this cruise wouldn’t be as bad as she thought. Maybe.

“You’re all packed, right? Where are your bags?” Shayla glanced around the room.

“I’ll get them.”

“Well, get to it.” Shayla tapped her wrist. “Time is wasting. And we need to be there early to board the ship.”

“Galveston is a little over an hour from here. We have plenty of time.” Meg grabbed her laptop so she could log out and shut it down.

“Nope. We want to be there so we can find the hottest men first.”

Meg let out a long breath. They had plenty of time, but she knew Shayla would continue to badger her, so she gave in and went back to her bedroom to get her suitcases. “I think we’re leaving way too early. We can’t even get on the boat until after two o’clock,” she said while she rolled her suitcase into the living room.

“Better early than late.” Shayla clapped her hands. “This is going to be so awesome.”

Meg hefted her suitcase and a couple smaller bags into the back of Shayla’s silver Toyota, then took her seat in the front.

Shayla blasted some music and they joined in the chorus of Katy Perry’s “Firework” while they mounted the 45 Freeway headed south to Galveston. Over the music Shayla shouted, “Within a few hours, we might meet our Mr. Rights.”

Meg was certain that if she met anyone, it’d be Mr. Wrong, but she didn’t want to keep raining on Shayla’s parade by saying it out loud. Humoring her BFF was a better choice. Besides, going on a singles cruise wouldn’t kill her. She’d have plenty to eat, lots of sunshine, and if she was lucky, Shayla would meet someone and leave Meg alone to focus on her business.


“I think the shuttle will meet us over here,” Shayla said, pointing to an area next to the parking lot.

Meg rolled her suitcase behind her. Perspiration formed around her hairline and at the back of her neck, making her wish she’d put her hair in a ponytail instead of leaving it down. Mid-July in southern Texas was typically hot and humid—emphasis on humid. She tried to fan herself with her hand once they reached the shuttle stop, but it didn’t matter. “I’m planning to jump in the pool before we even get to our room.”

“In your clothes?” Shayla said, crinkling her nose.

“Would it matter?” Meg pulled at her damp shirt and looked forward to some air conditioning on the shuttle bus.

They boarded the bus and headed down the street. As they neared the pristine white, several-story ship, Meg was struck by how immense it was. “Wow, that is one big boat.”

“Isn’t it awesome? There’s like eleven decks or something. And a couple of pools, a waterslide, a casino, restaurants, dance clubs. This is going to be the best ever.” Shayla nodded and her hoop earrings swayed.

Despite her vow to not enjoy this cruise, Meg’s excitement coursed through her. Maybe it would actually be fun to go on a cruise.

“Oh, did I tell you I saw Kirsten Shupe?” Shayla said as they walked into the check-in area.

Meg pulled her wallet out of her purse and fished her driver’s license out of it. “Where did you see her?”

“I was coming out of Jimmy Choo at The Galleria.”

“You and your shoe obsession.”

“A girl can never have too many shoes.” Shayla waved her hand. “Anyway, I almost walked right into Kirsten. I haven’t seen her since high school.”

Meg handed her ID to the Hispanic woman at the counter who looked it over, then tapped some keys on her computer.

“That’s good, I guess.” Kirsten Shupe was not someone Meg ever wanted to see again.

Shayla arched an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you still hate her.”

Meg blew out a breath. The agony of being in class with Kirsten was still seared into her memory. 
 “She was totally rude to me in our yearbook class.”

The woman at the counter handed Meg back her ID. “Here is your cruise card. It will allow you to board the ship at the ports. Please hang onto it. You can now walk over there.” The woman pointed to her left.

“Thank you,” Meg said and collected her card. She started walking toward a long hallway tugging her suitcase behind her.

“I can’t remember what Kirsten even did,” Shayla said as she came up behind Meg.

“Oh, I remember it vividly.” The memories heated Meg’s cheeks. “It started when she read my copy for the theater department out loud and made fun of it. She told me I should never write anything, even a grocery list. Everyone thought she was so hilarious. Then she made snide remarks to me for the rest of the year.”

“But that was a long time ago.” Shayla shrugged. “I’m sure we’ve all changed since then.”

“Some people never change. And Kirsten Shupe is one of them.” Meg had plenty of proof to back up her claim.

“Are you going to carry your grudge against her forever?”

The way Shayla said it, it sounded foolish to still hang onto the memories, but Meg remembered how 
Kirsten made her feel. Why should she forget that? “Maybe.”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Astros Game

We live near Houston, Texas and last summer we were right in the middle of Hurricane Harvey. Our home didn't flood, but less than two miles away homes had up to four feet of water. Some homes had this much water standing in them for more than a week. There was so much devastation and it was heartbreaking.

Joining the Mormon Helping Hands, we donned yellow t-shirts and went to work helping as many people as we could. My husband spent time rescuing people in canoes and boats, then we helped muck out houses, tear out sheetrock and carpeting, and move furniture and belongings.

The sea of yellow Mormon Helping Hands t-shirts was very evident throughout Houston. As a result, the Houston Astros wanted to recognize the thousands and thousands of hours we put into helping others after the hurricane. They designated the other night as Mormon Helping Hands night. We took our kids and attended the game.

And what a game!! The Astros, the 2017 World Series champions, trailed the Tampa Bay Rays all evening. I didn't think they'd pull it off. I was hoping the Astros would win, but by the ninth inning, I was a little worried. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. Astros were behind the Rays 4-3. Alex Bregman came up to bat with the bases loaded. I was biting my fingernails. He hit a foul ball. The next pitch, he hit a double and sent in two runners, giving the Astros the win  5-4. We all went crazy yelling, screaming, chanting. It. Was. Awesome!!

Watching baseball on TV is bo-ring. But watching it in person was amazing! I loved it. I love the Astros. And they are on a winning streak.

Astros 2018 World Series!!!!!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Wedding Weekend: First Chapter


Eden Brooks exited the plane and walked across Valley International Airport with her rolling suitcase trailing behind her. Stepping outside into the warm afternoon Texas air was a stark contrast to the cooler temperatures she’d left behind in Oregon. At the curb, she located the shuttle to South Padre Island.

“I’m going to the Diamond Resort,” she said to the driver, who wore his dark hair in a single ponytail.

“First time to the island?” he said over his shoulder.

“No, I came here once for spring break back in college. My old roommate, and best friend, is getting married Saturday on the beach. At sunset.” As the words left her mouth, she couldn’t help but envy the romance of it. Exchanging vows with the ocean and the setting sun in the background, how much more romantic could it get? Sophie was beyond lucky, especially because finding a good man was nearly impossible. But Sophie had found a great one in Antonio.

The drive took over an hour, which gave her plenty of time to catch her breath and relax. She hadn’t seen Sophie in a year, but they’d kept in touch on social media and through phone calls and texts. Sophie had met Antonio during their junior year at UT in Austin, and six years later, they were finally tying the knot near Sophie’s hometown of Brownsville, Texas.

“I forgot about that huge bridge,” Eden said as they approached the island with the massive structure ahead of them.

“The resort is the tallest building over there.” He pointed across the bridge.

“Oh, I see it.” The white building was easy to spot against the deep blue sky.

“It’s a popular destination. Right on the beach. Large pool with a restaurant and bar next to the water,” he said. “You’ll like it.”

“We’re all coming in today for a long weekend.” She was excited to spend time with Sophie, then witness her marriage.

“You should check out the dolphin trips or the snorkeling. There’s also a dinner cruise and a pirate ship.”

“Pirate ship?” They hadn’t seen that during spring break. Eden hoped they’d have some time to explore the island.

“Appeals to the kids.” He laughed. “Took my son there a few weeks ago.”

“Sounds interesting.” She tried to imagine what it might look like inside a pirate ship.

“We also have concerts.” He gestured with his hand. “I think the Goo Goo Dolls are here Friday Night at Fisherman Jack’s Outdoor Bar.”

“There’s a lot to do here.” Eden was sure Sophie had everything already planned out.

The shuttle bus pulled up to the hotel. “Here we are,” the driver said.

“Thank you. And thanks for the information about things to do here. I’m hoping to have some down time and relax.” Relaxing would be a welcome change to her hectic, stressful schedule back in Oregon.

“I hope you enjoy it here. Maybe you will find some romance at the wedding?” He winked.

“Uh, I don’t think so.” Eden wasn’t here to meet a man.

He handed her the suitcase. “Never discount what can happen at a weekend wedding, especially here on the island.” He said it in such a mystical way Eden had to do a double take. Was he serious? This weekend was all about Sophie. Her wedding. Her weekend.

Eden checked into her room. It was spacious and looked out over the Gulf. The salty sea air floated around her room. She kicked off her wedges and collapsed onto the bed.

A knock sounded, so she got up and opened the door.

“Sophie,” she screamed. The two friends hugged each other and took turns squealing.

“You look fabulous,” Sophie said. “What did you do to your hair?”

“It’s called bronde. Do you like it?”

“Oh, I love it. The blonde ends are so beautiful.” Sophie said, her dark brown eyes wide. “And you look like Blake Lively’s twin.”

Eden laughed. She could only wish she looked like a glamorous celebrity. “Enough about me.” She waved her hand. “You are going to be a gorgeous bride. You look so fit.”

Sophie flexed her bicep. “I’ve faithfully gone to the gym every day for a year.”

“Every day? That’s impressive. I’m happy if I ever make to the gym.” She wanted to go, but the kids she placed in homes had to take precedence over trips to the gym.

“Okay, not every single day, but close. My dress is strapless and I want to look good.” Sophie smoothed her long dark hair.

“You definitely will.” Eden gave Sophie another hug. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too. I’m so happy you’re here.” Sophie squeezed Eden.

Eden stepped back and peered at her best friend since college. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. You’ve been planning it forever.”

“I know, right?” Sophie chuckled. “It’s about time we finally got married.”

Feeling exhausted, Eden sat on the edge of the bed. “Did Antonio’s grandparents make it?”

“Yes.” Sophie sat in the gray upholstered chair by the window.

“I remember him talking about them. I bet he’s glad they’re here.” Dozens of memories shot through Eden’s mind.

“He is. I think his dad might show up, but who knows? I’m not going to let him ruin the weekend.” Sophie slung her legs over the arm of the chair.

“What are the plans?” Eden pulled her hair up into a messy bun on the top of her head. It felt good to relax with Sophie. It had been too long since they’d been together.

Sophie’s eyes lit up and she clasped her hands together. “Tonight, the bridal party is having dinner.”

“The rehearsal dinner?” Eden leaned back on her elbows. If she had her way, she and Sophie would stay in her room and talk all night like they used to back in school.

“Not the rehearsal dinner. It’s a casual one with the groomsmen and the bridesmaids.” Sophie gave a sly smile.

“No.” Eden shook her head.

“What? I didn’t even say anything,” Sophie said, feigning innocence, but Eden could see right through her.

“I know what’s going on in that head of yours.” Eden sat up.

With mocked indignation, Sophie said, “You do?”

“Remember, I told you—” Eden held her hand up “—I don’t want you to try to fix me up.”

“Why not?” Sophie blinked a few times.

“Because I’m not into flings.” That kind of thing wasn’t at all enticing to Eden.

Sophie pointed at her. “I know that. I’m not talking about a fling.”

“Your relationship with Antonio is awesome, but it’s rare. Definitely not the norm. After what I’ve seen with my job, I’m a little . . .”

“Cynical?” Sophie said with a tilt of her head.

“That sounds pretty harsh.” Eden paused for a moment. “Maybe doubtful. Extremely doubtful.”

“But Antonio and I have something amazing.”

“You do, but I’ve seen so many broken women and destroyed relationships, I think—”

“I get that. But you can’t give up on love.” Sophie smiled. “And Jeremy is so great. He’s sweet and fun. And so handsome. Not as handsome as Antonio, of course.” She laughed. “I just want you to find someone and be as happy as I am.”

“I think the two of you sucked all the happiness out of the atmosphere for the next several years.” 
Eden stood and walked over to her suitcase.

“Antonio is so wonderful.” Sophie gave a dramatic sigh.

Eden hefted her suitcase onto the bed and unzipped it. “Who knew the guy in your anatomy class would end up being your husband.”

“I did.” Sophie giggled. “The moment I saw him I knew. Remember?”

Eden smiled at the memory of that day when Sophie was so sure she’d found her Mr. Right. “Yeah, But I didn’t think you would really marry him.”

“It was love at first sight for me.” Sophie fanned herself.

Eden shook her head. She believed in attraction at first sight, but love was something you developed over time and through experiences. “That’s not a thing.”

“But it is. I’m proof of it.” Sophie patted her chest.

Eden wasn’t going to argue. “Well, I’m very happy for you. And I’m glad you’re getting married.”

“Me, too.” Sophie jumped to her feet. “Now let’s go to dinner.”

“Can I change my clothes? I’m not used to warmer temperatures. It was cold and drizzly when I left Portland.”

“Sure.” Sophie glanced at her phone. “Meet us down in the lobby in thirty minutes?”

“Yep,” Eden said as she opened the door for Sophie.

After Sophie left, Eden decided to take a quick shower. She put on a light floral dress and found her strappy sandals—a perfect combination for dinner on South Padre Island. She brushed through her hair, put on some lip gloss, and dabbed some perfume on her neck.

Eden took the elevator down to the lobby. When the doors opened she saw Sophie surrounded by a group of people. She walked over to the group. Sophie spotted her and slung her arm around her. 

“You look beautiful, as usual.”

Eden smiled. Sophie always made her feel good.

A man with his back to her turned around and it made Eden take a sudden breath. His bronzed skin, thick dark hair, and chocolate brown eyes made her pulse quicken. He. Was. Gorgeous.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Who's Ready for Summer?

Just like that, another school year has come and gone. I can't believe it. Time flies by so, so fast. It seems like I was just putting my first child in school and now, 26 years later, I have finished up with elementary school. Yep, that's right. 26 years of elementary school and now it's over.

I love summer break. I love to hang out with my kids, Swim. Go to the beach (I can say that now that I live in Texas). Go to splash pads. Eat ice cream and popsicles. Have BBQs. It's a great time to just have fun with the kids. This week, two of my kids and my hubby have been at camps.

Summer is full of fun. And this summer I hope to get my kids to the newly reopened (flooded after Hurricane Harvey) Barbara Bush Library regularly so we can read books. I also want to take them to the community pool so my youngest can meet kids he'll attend school with in the fall when he goes to middle school. And I want to take them to splash pads or other water activities (because everything is bigger in Texas, including the hot temperatures and the humidity).

Are you ready for summer?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Looking for Princely Summer Reads?

Do you love to read romances that include royalty? Here are two new books, both only $.99 right now. They're both clean and wholesome sweet romances.

The Captivating Prince by Julie Keanini

A prince who won't commit, the woman who has always evaded him, and the city of love--what could go wrong?

Prince Tristan Kane has a good life. Awesome friends, supportive family, a career that keeps him on his toes, and a new woman on his arm every weekend. But when he finally secures a date with the one who has always kept him at bay, Tristan begins to question if he's been wrong about love all along.

Jewel Huber is the only woman in the world to say no to Tristan Kane. And she isn't keeping him at arm's length because she dislikes him; in fact, it's the opposite. She knows as soon as she gives in to one date, he'll be gone in the wind and she'll be nursing a broken heart.

But when their paths collide in the city of love, Jewel is swept off her feet and Tristan is left wondering what he should do--continue the way he always has or treasure the heart he's been gifted?

The second book in the sweet and wholesome Princes of Valdoria series.

Dancing with the Prince by Kennedy Larsen

The only thing Lindy wanted on her Mediterranean cruise was to enjoy the sights and get away from the memories of her ex. She brought her cousin along as a deterrent for all the men, but when he ends up sea sick and stays in the cabin, Lindy is left to her own devices. 
When a handsome stranger with a sexy Spanish accent runs into her one night, she’s surprised he’s not as overbearing as some of the other men she’s met so far. He asks to see her the next day she actually agrees. 
Carlos is on the cruise for one purpose, to convince the spoiled son of a rich investor to bring his business to Carlos’s home country of Aragonia. As the second son of the royal family, Carlos doesn’t have much time to play around, and meeting the beautiful American tourist is just a fun diversion. Yet the more time he spends with her, the more he wants to push his princely duties aside and just enjoy the fascinating woman’s company. 
After the news leaks out that Prince Carlos is seeing an American commoner, Lindy is shocked to learn that she’s the subject of tabloid gossip around the world. 
Lindy knows Prince Carlos is too far out of her league and Carlos knows he should follow the rules of his title, but are either of them brave enough to see where things could lead if they just give it a chance?


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wedding Weekend

Here's my newest release:

Eden Brooks, a cynical social worker who’s seen far too many broken relationships, flies to South Padre Island, Texas for her best friend’s weekend wedding. Content to be the dutiful maid of honor, the last thing she expects is to meet a man—especially a good one.

Jeremy Rivera, the best man, is a cowboy-turned-software-developer from Dallas who’s been too busy building his career to worry about a relationship.

When Eden and Jeremy meet, they’re instantly drawn to each other. Unfortunately, one of the bridesmaids—who happens to be the bride’s cousin—has set her sights on Jeremy and is determined to maneuver Eden out of the way any way she can. And Jeremy doesn’t seem to mind.

Will the weekend end in a love connection between Eden and Jeremy or will it simply prove to Eden that there are no decent men out there?

You can purchase it here.