Winter Love…Chapter One…#mgtab @Natalieann121

WINTERLOVE(1)

This is the last little teaser of Winter Love before the release. If you haven’t read the prologue yet, you can catch up.

One For The Books

Seven Months Later

Kendall shut her door and got out, then looked around the parking lot. There was more snow here than in Albany when she’d left this morning.

The wind was brisk and cutting right through to her neck, so she zipped her parka up higher and fought back the shiver.

Going to the back of her SUV, she pulled out one large piece of luggage and set it on the ground, thankful the pavement was clear and it would wheel easily enough to the front door of the lodge. The rest of her luggage could stay put for now.

She opened the front door and was just amazed by her surroundings. She’d been traveling for six months and she was wondering why she went to the tropical warm places in the summer and now, in the middle of the winter, she was in one of the coldest places on earth.

She knew why, but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Not even internally.

Probably not the coldest place on earth either, but Lake Placid sure felt that way. There had to be at least three feet of snow piled in places. She’d spent her six months out of the country like she’d told herself she was going to, and the next six were going to be a road trip.

One for the books.

One in honor of her parents.

This wasn’t really a lodge. Not like she’d thought, even though their website should have prepared her. The front lobby was massive with easily fifteen-foot ceilings. There was a roaring fire going in a fireplace surrounded by multiple pieces of leather furniture that were currently occupied by several people. Some drinking beverages in mugs, others in beer glasses. Both would be welcome right now.

“Can I help you?” the young woman behind the counter Kendall had stopped at asked. She’d just briefly glanced at the entrance of a shop and a restaurant on the other side of the building. She’d check them out soon enough. At least the restaurant since she was starving.

“Kendall Hendricks. I’m checking in.”

“Ah. So glad you made it,” the young clerk said. Shelly, her nametag said.

Check-in was at three, but since she was a day late, she figured they’d have no problem checking her in at noon. She’d left New York City while it was flurrying at nine yesterday morning. By the time she reached Albany, it was coming down harder and her lack of driving ability in anything other than rain made her stop for the day and grab a hotel.

“It seems you got a lot more snow here than in Albany,” she said.

Shelly waved her hand. “We got about ten inches yesterday but that’s nothing. It’s the wind that is the killer at times.”

“I’m glad I stayed back then.”

Ten inches was normal? What the heck was she doing coming here in the middle of the winter and staying for weeks on end? It was bad enough she had to buy an entire wardrobe to come East and start her trip at this end of the US.

“Shelly, I’m running—oh sorry, I’ll wait until you’re done.”

“Not a problem, Zeke. I’ll just be a minute.”

Kendall looked at the guy that had walked out a door behind the counter talking without looking. He was standing there fully dressed in winter bib overalls with an open parka and a helmet in his hand.

Shelly turned back to her. “You’re in Room 210. The elevator is to the left just past the stairs.”

There were only two floors with rooms. Fifteen rooms on each floor. But the property held several single-room cabins with efficiencies and a few multi-room cottages. She would have loved to reserve a cabin, but by the time she decided to come here, there were no vacancies for anything other than a room at the main lodge for her length of stay. She had no desire to move around once she checked in.

All her searches told her this was the place to be for the winter. Not only did they boast a highly rated restaurant and banquet hall, but the grounds were huge, spreading out, filled with cross country ski and snowshoe trails, along with snowmobile trails during the winter. There were horses on the property if someone was brave enough to battle the cold for horseback riding in the winter, but that seemed to be more sought after in the warmer months when the hiking trails opened up too.

She was going to be brave and do it all. She was going to channel her parents’ inner adventure skills.

“If you have any questions or concerns with your room, there is a directory by the phone to call the front desk, room service, housekeeping, or maintenance.”

“Thanks,” she said, looking at the man called Zeke some more. He was tall, but with his bulky winter garb she had no clue of the type of body he had underneath. His light hair was longer, shoulder length, but pushed off his forehead. He didn’t look to be the type to secure it back with anything other than a bandana or a hat.

Hopefully. Man buns never did anything for her. She didn’t care for a guy who styled his hair the same way she could. Call it sexist, but there it was. Long hair was fine on a man, as long as he still looked like a man.

She turned to grab the handle on her suitcase, glancing back at Zeke. He’d been watching her, then he grinned and sent her a wink. She smiled and nodded, then moved past him toward the elevators, hearing him say to Shelly, “I’m heading out on the trails to look for any damage from the wind. I’ll be back in a few hours. You know how to reach me if you need anything.”

“Will do, Zeke.”

Kendall got in the elevator and gave one more sidelong glance at Zeke. His name even fit him. He looked like a ski bum, one that might be a lot of fun to get to know while she was here, if he was single. This was actually the longest she’d planned on staying in one place: three weeks.

She was friendly and had no problem chatting up the locals, employees and businessmen alike. It helped her with her work for the moment.

Or what she was calling work for the past several months. Not like she was getting paid for it, but it was occupying her time and that was the point.

When the elevator dinged, she got out and turned down the hall to her room, slid the keycard through and pushed the door open when the light flashed green.

It was a pretty spacious room. The downstairs looked like a lodge with large light-colored logs making up the walls and ceiling, but the upstairs looked more like a hotel.

Her room had a nice queen-sized bed in the center, a flat screen TV on the wall above a large dresser. She unzipped her parka and took it off, then hung it up in a small closet. Looked big enough for winter clothes and skis to be stored in there. That was a nice bonus. Not that she had any equipment. She’d be renting it when the time came.

She popped her head into the bathroom, standard and good enough for her. There were a small fridge and a coffee maker on a counter against another wall, so that was a side benefit too.

She covered a yawn, sitting on the bed. She’d planned on unpacking, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to lie down for a bit and rest. It was just nice knowing she’d be in one spot for a few weeks and she could take advantage of actually trying to relax…finally.

Winter Love #mgtab @Natalieann121

WINTERLOVE(1)

Kendall Hendricks spent the first decade of her life as a modern-day gypsy, until her parents finally planted themselves in Las Vegas. She loved it there. She made a name for herself. She was happy… or so she always thought. Then tragedy struck and her parents were gone, leaving her a note asking her to scratch those itchy feet she’d inherited before she settled down.

Zeke Collins has never known anything other than working at the family lodge his whole life. Now he and his sister own and operate it and he’d have it no other way. Lake Placid is where he wants to be. It’s where his heart is and nothing could make him move. Not even the bewitching stranger with sorrowful eyes and adventure driving her course. The question is…can he change her mind?

Holiday Love…Chapter One #mgtab

Holidaylove(1)

If you haven’t read the Prologue, now is your chance to catch up. Here is Chapter One.

The Routine

Six Months Later

“How is my favorite return six-month patient doing today?” Jill asked Kathy Wick.

“Doing good as always. Or as good as I can feel coming in here for my screenings every six months for the past five years.”

Jill laughed. Kathy was only thirty, but she had the BRCA gene and had been having preventative screening since she found out about her gene mutation six years ago. Once a year she’d have a mammogram, then six months later have an MRI. Each of those visits she’d have an ultrasound of both breasts too. All three of those tests were providing the best screenings possible for Kathy as a high risk patient. If there was something to be found, they’d find it. Fingers crossed it’d never happen.

“You’re going to hurt my feelings if you act like you don’t want to be here. I look forward to your visits,” Jill said. “You know the routine. Lie back and open up the front of your gown and we’ll start with your right side.”

Kathy giggled and parted her gown, then lay back down and put her right arm over her head. Jill squirted the warm lubricant over Kathy’s small breast and started to move it around, looking over every inch of the tissue she could.

“You aren’t as red today,” Jill said. Kathy had had her mammogram first and her skin was normally bright red afterward from being squeezed between the metal plates. Technology was a great thing, but it came with a price at times.

“No. Your new tech seemed to get a better placement today and it didn’t hurt nearly as much. Though I’ve got to say her hands were pretty cold.”

“Cold hands, warm heart,” Jill said.

“Your hands are always warm,” Kathy said back, smiling. “What’s that on the screen?”

Jill grinned. “I’m an extra sweet person, so my body is warm all over. And those are just your ribs. You ask me every time you come in here.”

“Sorry. It’s always so huge on the screen.”

“Which it’s meant to be so I can see what is going on,” she said.

She didn’t mind the questions during an exam, but she was always careful what she said. After all, she was only a tech.

Jill finished up the right side and then instructed Kathy to switch sides and lift her left arm up and proceeded to examine that side just as diligently. Kathy didn’t ask any questions this time, with Jill trying to distract her as best she could, talking about the weather, of all stupid mundane topics.

“Why don’t you cover up and relax,” Jill said. “I’m just going to go check with the radiologist and see if there is anything else to be looked at before we call it a day.”

“The old cranky woman again?” Kathy asked.

“Dr. Mills is no longer with us. She retired two months ago. Dr. Taylor is her replacement and my guess is he’ll be in shortly. He does like to examine patients the first time he is seeing their charts.”

Kathy nodded and Jill left the room, then walked down the hall and knocked on Dr. Taylor’s open door. “Kathy Wick is in exam room four. She just had her mammo and I uploaded her ultrasound results.”

“I’m looking at the mammo now,” Dr. Taylor said, his deep voice vibrating in the room, like picking at an extra tight guitar string. He’d been nothing but professional and private in the two months he’d been here. No one could get a read on him at all, and many had tried. Herself included.

“Would you like me to wait in the other room until you’re done?” she asked.

Dr. Mills hated the technician standing in her office while she looked over films. Normally Jill could go get another patient and set them up while she waited for Kathy’s films to be looked over, but Kathy was her last patient of the day.

“No, come on in.”

He was zooming in and taking measurements right now on what looked like the right breast. Jill was glad she was able to stay because she wanted to see if anything turned up on the left.

“What’s that?” she asked. “They look like calcifications.”

“That’s exactly what they are. I’m pulling up her mammo from last year and comparing the two. See, these two areas,” he said, pointing them out on the screen.

“Yes,” she said. This was the first time he’d ever talked this much to her. He sure did smell nice when she got closer. Fresh and musky with a hint of being all male.

“They’re the same size, so in the past year, nothing has changed. I’m not concerned with that at the moment and nothing on the MRI showed up six months ago when she was here either, proving nothing worrisome.”

“What about the left side?” Jill asked when he switched over.

She loved that he was letting her look at this with him. Secretly she’d love to go back to school for radiology, but time and money had never been her friend, so that boat sailed right along with her marriage. A radiology and ultrasound tech was what she was and she’d find a way to be content with it.

“I’m not concerned. Like I said, there wasn’t anything on the MRI six months ago and there doesn’t appear to be anything on the mammo.”

“That can’t be right,” Jill said, frowning.

“Why?” Dr. Taylor asked, turning to look at her.

“Can you pull up her ultrasound now?”

He clicked a few buttons and pulled up the left breast. She leaned forward and pointed to what she’d marked and measured.

“Interesting,” he said, then pulled the mammo and zoomed in on the same area on another screen, and did the same with the MRI. “There’s nothing on the mammo or the MRI, but clearly something on the ultrasound.”

He pushed back from his chair and stood next to her. He was a good eight inches taller than her five foot five, she was guessing. “Are you going to examine her?”

“Of course. I had planned on it anyway, but now even more than ever.”

“I hope I didn’t make a mistake.” She didn’t think she did. She was good at what she did and looked over that area multiple times. “Follow me,” she said.

She was trying not to show any anxiety and wanted to ask what he thought, but knew better than to do that. She was guessing a biopsy would be ordered and felt a pang of sympathy for Kathy who was the same age as she was. Jill tried not to picture herself in Kathy’s shoes but it was hard not to.

“I doubt you made a mistake,” he said before he opened the exam room and walked forward, then extended his hand. “Ms. Wick, I’m Dr. Taylor and I’m going to give you a quick look over myself.”

Jill was watching Kathy as Dr. Taylor turned to walk to the sink and wash his hands. Jill bit back the giggle when Kathy mouthed “wow” to her. She knew the feeling well, as all the women were giggling over the new radiologist in the building. Six feet of deliciousness, he’d been described as with dark hair and golden eyes. Too bad his robotic personality hadn’t followed suit with his massive good looks. At least until today.

For Kathy’s sake, she was hoping Dr. Taylor wasn’t so controlled.

The exam was quiet, which was unlike Kathy, and Jill was wondering if Kathy felt the underlying tension in the room. As if she knew something wasn’t right.

When Dr. Taylor got to the spot that Jill had pointed out before, he zoomed in and started marking the measurements. “What’s that?” Kathy asked.

“I’m not quite sure yet,” Dr. Taylor said, softly. It was probably the softest Jill had ever heard him talk. “It’s not showing up on your mammogram, and wasn’t on your MRI when you were here six months ago.”

“Do I need to have another mammogram?”

“I don’t believe so. We have both tests because not everything can be seen individually, but I’m seeing it now.”

“So whatever it is, it’s growing. Was it on the ultrasound six months ago?” Kathy asked with a catch in her voice.

“No, it wasn’t,” he said.

“How big is it?” Kathy asked her, but she wasn’t going to answer. This was Dr. Taylor’s exam now and in the past, Dr. Mills would have ripped any tech’s head off if they spoke during her exams.

“Not very big. Two millimeters by three millimeters. Smaller than a pea, but I’m still going to recommend a biopsy.”

Kathy’s eyes started to fill and before Jill could say anything, Dr. Taylor was placing his hand on hers. “Relax. Whatever it is—if it’s anything—it’s very tiny and very early.”

Kathy was taking a few deep breaths and Jill rushed to the opposite side, then grabbed her other hand. “You just want to come back and visit with me.”

Kathy laughed. “I do like spending time with you, but I was hoping not like this. I don’t even know where to have a biopsy done.”

“I can do it right here,” Dr. Taylor said. “I’m going to recommended another MRI and if it shows up there, I’ll do an MRI guided biopsy since it’s too deep to be felt. Of course, you’re welcome to consult a surgeon of your choice too and all your reports would be sent to them then.”

“Will you be in here with me?” Kathy asked her.

Jill looked at Dr. Taylor. “That’s not my position. If it gets changed to an ultrasound-guided one, then I’ll be right there with you.”

Dr. Taylor nodded. “Again, I’m going to send my findings to your doctor, who will contact you. Once the two of you have discussed everything, then we’ll move forward.”

“What’s there to discuss?” Kathy asked.

Dr. Taylor pulled over a chair and sat down to get comfortable like he was going to give Kathy all the time she needed to question him.

“It’s your choice to watch and wait because it’s so small, but I don’t recommend that. My recommendation is only that though, a recommendation. You’re young and high risk. I tend to be on the conservative side when I see someone in that situation.”

“No. I knew at some point in my life I would need something looked at closer. If this is growing inside of me, I want to know. I want it done right away too. I need to know what it is.”

Dr. Taylor patted her hand. “Then I’ll get these sent to your doctor’s office before I leave today. By Monday someone will contact you and we’ll get you scheduled.”

“Can I schedule it right now? I don’t want to wait for my doctor to see it.”

Dr. Taylor looked at her. “We can do that too. I’ll get someone on the phone with the insurance company now to get the process started for the MRI approval. I’ll be seeing you soon, so try to relax this weekend. There’s nothing you can do right now other than work yourself up. I always tell my patients to not waste their time stressing when you’ve got no control. One step at a time.”

“Thank you, Dr. Taylor,” Kathy said. Jill watched him leave and told Kathy she was all set, then gave her a brief hug when she was standing. She walked Kathy back to the changing room and then left to go to Dr. Taylor’s office.

“Thank you,” she told him.

He turned in his chair where he was typing up notes. “No reason to thank me. She was scared and I’m afraid she may have reason to be.”

“Do you really think it’s cancer?”

She never wanted to guess, but she could read the doctors well and they always seemed to know more often than not.

“We won’t know anything until the biopsy is completed, but I’ve seen this a few times and it has all the characteristics of a carcinoma. My guess is you had a hunch too. You seem to have a good eye.”

Jill nodded and kept her smile back. It wasn’t the time or place to be thrilled he had confidence in her. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

She turned to leave, but he stopped her. “Jill. Nice catch.”

She didn’t even know he knew her name. “That’s my job.”

“And you’re good at it,” he said. Then she walked away. She wasn’t sure what to think of Dr. Taylor now. Not only was it the first time he’d really spoken more than a few words to her, but his whole demeanor was different.

There was definitely more to Dr. Taylor than met the eye.

Holiday Love…Prologue #mgtab

Holidaylove(1)

Prologue

“Dr. Taylor.”

Owen turned to see the young tech in the doorway. “Yes.”

“The results of the MRI have been loaded. I’ve got the patient waiting to see if anything needs to be retaken or if more tests are required.”

“Thanks,” Owen said, turning back to the multiple screens on his desk. He was getting ready to bring up the results of the MRI when his cell phone rang.

Pulling it out of his lab coat, he saw it was his ex calling him again. At least once a week, if he was lucky, because other times it was more.

Ashley was always calling and trying to start something. And by something…that meant trouble. Since it was his weekend with Luke, he figured she was at it again.

There was no way he was answering. He was working and it would only annoy him if it was some frivolous reason or excuse.

Ashley and he had never married no matter how much she hinted in the beginning; then she’d purposely gotten pregnant hoping for that proposal.

How did he know she had purposely gotten pregnant? Because she’d told him. Her hints for marriage weren’t giving her the results she was looking for so she’d taken matters into her own hands.

He even remembered when she’d told him she was pregnant and then immediately had said, “So we can get married now, right?”

He’d explained that having a child wasn’t reason enough to marry. At that point, he’d actually been pulling away, telling her they needed space. She decided his space was a sign for a drastic measure.

It would be the first and only time he’d take a woman’s word for being protected against pregnancy.

They’d stayed together through the pregnancy as a couple, he tried to make it work, but all the things that weren’t working for him before were just magnified. Her insecurity and mood swings were difficult to handle. He gave her the benefit of the doubt that it was hormones, but she’d flat out given him an ultimatum when Luke was born. Get married or go their separate ways.

She guessed he wouldn’t have gone his separate way. She was wrong.

From that point on, she made his life hell, then tried to play Luke against him. She was forever putting ideas in Luke’s head about the three of them doing things as a family when Owen just wanted to spend quality time with his son.

This was his weekend with Luke and he had big plans. He didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as he wanted with his son, and he’d be damned if he was going to give that up. If that was what her phone call was about right now, it could go to voicemail.

She’d fought him over the custody arrangements because of his job. He got visitations rather than joint custody. Ashley had been convincing with the flowing tears and explanations in court that Owen would have a nanny for his half of the time and that was worse than if Luke was with her.

The female judge agreed and granted Owen a few nights a week—where Luke had to be returned to his mother for the day while Owen worked—and every other weekend. For the past several years it was working…when Ashley wasn’t trying to make them a “family” again.

His phone dinged that there was a message, which he’d check in a minute. Right now he had a patient waiting and he’d push his ex from his mind. No reason to make the guy wait in the MRI machine if he didn’t need to.

Once he was finished looking everything over, he told the tech that the patient was set. Then he listened to the voicemail message.

“This is Officer Smithson from the Houston Police Department. Your name and number were listed as the ICE contact in Ms. Bailey’s phone. She’s been in an accident, if you could please return our call—”

He hung up and called Ashley’s number back, not wanting to call some police department number and talk to someone who wasn’t even at the scene. With any luck, she’d answer or at least someone next to her would.

“Hello,” the same male voice said.

“This is Owen Taylor. Am I speaking with Officer Smithson?”

“Yes, Mr. Taylor. I’m sorry to inform you that Ms. Bailey has been in an accident—”

“Was she alone?” he asked, his heart beating fast enough to make him wonder if he’d pass out. It was the middle of the day. Luke didn’t have pre-school on Fridays. Chances are he was with Ashley just now.

“No. There was a male passenger with her.”

“A child,” he barely croaked out. “Was it a child?”

“No. There were no children. Two adults and I’m sorry, but both are being transferred to the morgue.”

 

Winter Blues & Some Romance

I know those that are reading this could be from all over the world, but here in Upstate New York, winter is in full force.

And mid February is the worst for me. This is the time of year I start to feel the winter blues! I’m watching the calendar and counting down the days, just waiting for March 1st. Even though it can snow in March, it’s still almost spring in my eyes and that’s good enough.

In order to pass the time, I try to curl up with a good book. Anything to take my mind off the blustery snow outside the window in my sunroom. It’s not really a sunroom this time of year though. The first view is what I’m waiting for again! All the lush green out of my window with birds chirping everywhere. The second is some of the deer in my backyard trying to get cozy too.

If you’re like me and trying to wish some of the days in the calendar away and are looking for a good book to curl up with, go no further than three of the newest Valentine Day boxed sets just released by the authors of Authors’ Billboard.

There is a little bit of everything here and each set is only 99 cents! That’s 26 stories for $2.98!! Now where could you get a deal like that?

So grab a set or two…or three and snuggle in with some wonderful stories of love and romance.

Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought it’d be a great time to see what holiday traditions others might have.

I’ve got plenty. First and foremost, I bake Christmas cookies and deliver them to friends and family several weeks before Christmas. When everyone is just waiting for them and haven’t had their fill. Plus, it’s one of the things to get off my to-do list. Yes, that is my kitchen and cookies I made this year!

Another tradition is celebrating the holiday on Christmas Eve at my house. Both my husband and my side of the family come. It’s a day full of food and gift exchanging for my side with the nieces and nephews. Christmas morning, we go to my in laws, and it’s the one holiday of the year I don’t have to host or cook. Yay me!

But my favorite holiday tradition of all is the 12 days of Christmas. Or my version of it. You see, my husband and I were high school sweethearts and back in the day I’d thought it’d be cute to give him a gift every day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve. He’d get his real gift on Christmas morning, so I started on December 13th and ended on the 24th.

Back then I just gave him candy each day. His mother didn’t appreciate it and always made comments on dental bills, but it didn’t stop me.  As the years went on, the gifts moved away from candy and onto things like socks, ornaments, favorite foods, beer etc.

When my son was two and could understand the tradition, I started it with him. All 12 of his gifts (and hubby’s) are wrapped in their own wrapping paper to tell them apart, all gifts are stored in a big bag or box for them to draw out randomly each day. Kiddo still draws his and his father’s out like he’s done all along.

Truth be told, this is my favorite holiday tradition of all. Me giving them something to look forward to daily. Though it’s not as much fun for the kiddo at 18 as it was at 2, he still looks forward to it. Same with the hubby. They even give me ideas now and again of what they’d like to get on those days—and I find that very helpful!

So how about you? Do you have a holiday tradition? If not, how about reading some holiday stories? The authors at Authors’ Billboard have several Holiday boxed collections out right now for just 99 cents each. Grab them up and sit back and enjoy!

Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!