When Angels Watch a Solar Eclipse

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“Come on, grab your special glasses and let’s go watch the eclipse! It’s been a few since we’ve seen one.” Rafe walked toward the door.

“Seriously? Like He doesn’t throw enough shade where my reputation is concerned?” Luc grumbled. Why had he bothered to stop by? Losers.

“It isn’t like you don’t enjoy all the bad press. You thrive on it.” Rafe pointed out. He shoved him outside. “Besides, it’s hot, just how you like it.”

“Shut up, Luc! You know if you keep this up, He’ll make it overcast. These glasses are kinda cool,” Remi replied. “I bet we could pick up a lot of girls just by saying we have them. Chicks love smart, nerdy guys.”

Luc sighed and followed his two brothers out the door. “It was a helluva lot more fun when humans thought the world was going to end…”

 

If you’d like to read more about Rafe, Luc and Remi, you can find them here:

SE Final

Evangeline is the town pariah. Everyone knows she’s crazy and was responsible for the death of her last boyfriend. Even her mother left her and moved cross-country. Lonely and desperate, Evie decides to end her life.

Rogue angel Remiel longs to return to earth, but there’s just one problem. He tends to invite trouble and hasn’t been allowed back since Woodstock. The Boss sends him to save Evangeline, but there’s a catch: he can’t reveal his angelic nature, and he must complete the task as Father Remiel Blackson.

Forced together on a cross-country trip, a forbidden romance ignites and love unfolds. A host of heavenly messengers tries to intervene, but Remiel and Evangeline are headed on a collision course to disaster. Will his love save her, or will they both be lost forever?

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Book Trailer Video:  https://youtu.be/ufztE2tMAM4

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Forbidden love is hell…

Confident and quirky, Jo Sanford thinks her boss is God’s gift to women–and she couldn’t be further from the truth. Devilishly handsome, Luc DeVille will stop at nothing to lure his administrative assistant right into his arms–and bed.

Over Rafe Goodman’s dead body…

Rafe, Jo’s best friend, refuses to sit by and watch as Luc tries to win the heart of the woman he’s always protected. After all, Rafe is her guardian angel. Suddenly, Jo’s caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil. But the closer she gets to the fire, the hotter it burns. Now, Jo’s going to learn that when love battles lust, Heaven and Hell collide.

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Book Trailer Video: https://youtu.be/6kAlEQb-8PA

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For a LIMITED TIME ONLY, Luc’s story is available in the Haunted By Love Paranormal Romance anthology. All proceeds go to the March of Dimes.

LOVING LILI

Their lovemaking is hot and dirty. Their break ups are nasty and epic.

Tired of taking the blame for every wicked thing that happens on earth, fallen angel Luc DeVille decides to write a tell-all-book exposing The Boss.

Sharing a long and passionate history, Luc is shocked when Lili Nix arrives to interview for the job as editor. Immediately the verbal sparring begins, but the sexual chemistry remains combustible. Fascinated by this heavenly creature, Luc changes his game plan. After all, she’s the only angel who has ever held his attention and understood his intentions.

Being in this world, but not of this world, is a lonely business. Can two lost angels connect and make it last this time?

Amazon: http://a.co/1w0wE48

 

 

 

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Jennifer Lane’s With Good Behavior

With Good Behavior
by Jennifer Lane
Series: Conduct, #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Omnific Publishing
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Updated: August 14, 2017

In the midst of organized crime and dim hopes of redemption, can love persevere? For Sophie Taylor, a psychologist who lost everything when she violated an ethical boundary, and Grant Madsen, a naval officer who sacrificed himself to protect his uncle, finding that love seems unlikely.

As they start their lives over in Chicago, both fight family influences and run as fast as they can to escape the past. When their paths cross outside their parole officer’s door, attraction sparks. Too bad a hidden connection may not only shatter their fledgling love, but prove deadly to them both.

Sophie let out a long breath, feeling the stress of her first parole meeting dissolve. That relief was short-lived, however, once she opened the door and found herself eye to eye with a man whose black, buzzed hair and olive skin highlighted eyes that held crystal-blue, bottomless depths. The next parolee on the docket? His nose was slightly crooked and his lips were full. His penetrating gaze bore a hole in her. She stood frozen, staring for several moments before regaining her bearings and muttering, “Excuse me.”

She ducked out of the door and strode down the hallway, daring to glance behind her to see the man watching her leave. A faint smile crossed his lips, and her cheeks burned.

As she scurried off, the stranger’s intriguing eyes on her mind, she decided parole wasn’t all that bad.

Book 2: Bad Behavior

Book 3: On Best Behavior

Get psyched for romance with psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane! By day she’s a therapist, and by night she’s a writer. She can’t decide which is more fun.

Jen loves to create sporty heroines and hot heroes in her college sport romances. Volleyball wonder Lucia Ramirez finds her love match in Blocked despite the glaring political spotlight aimed on her family. In Aced, the second book in the Blocked series, it’s her brother Alejandro’s turn to get lucky in love. Spiked (Blocked #3) features Lucia’s younger brother, Mateo, and completes the series.

A swimmer and volleyball player in college, Jen writes swimming-based romances as well: Streamline, a military mystery, and the New Adult novella Swim Recruit.

Stories of redemption interest Jen the most, especially the healing power of love. She is also the author of The Conduct Series, a romantic-suspense trilogy that includes With Good BehaviorBad Behavior, and On Best Behavior. Her current project is a psychological thriller, Twin Sacrifice.

Ultimately, whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time she enjoys exercising, attending book club, and visiting her sisters in Chicago and Hilton Head.

RELEASE DAY!

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¸.•´¸.•*´¨)✯ ¸.•♫¨)
✮ (¸.•´✶ (¸.❤`THE RESURRECTION OF DYLAN McATHIE

At seventeen, music legend Dylan McAthie ran away from his Alabama home to chase his dreams. Years later, he’s forced to return—coming full circle to escape the nightmare his life has become. Hounded by paparazzi and plagued by the aftermath of personal and professional loss, Dylan craves some quiet anonymity so he can regroup and sort out what lies ahead.

Hired by his estranged brother, Jennifer Adams knows exactly who Dylan is. She grew up next door to his family and has followed his career. But the surly, overbearing man she’s caring for as a private-duty nurse is far from the charming boy she remembers. Nevertheless, she’s determined to be professional, do a good job—and not fail at her first time getting away from home.

As her patient heals, his demeanor softens, and their interactions grow less antagonistic. Soon their chemistry is undeniable—and inappropriate—leaving the inexperienced Jennifer thoroughly confused. Adding to the turmoil, scandal finds Dylan once again, threatening all the progress he’s made and putting Jennifer at risk as collateral damage.

It’s up to Dylan to fix what his fame has so easily broken and find a way to move forward with his life. But will his resurrection mean the death of any relationship with Jennifer?

4 love

BUY IT HERE!
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REVIEWS
5 STARS This is more than the typical rock star romance.  This is the story of man who ran from his roots only to discover that those roots are the foundation of the man he wants to be.  This is a story of a young woman finding herself and learning to reach out for what she wants in life.  For both of them there are hard lessons to learn but together they may learn something new about life.  They both will learn the true meaning of love, the importance of family, and the healing power of forgiveness. Once again Nancee Cain delivered an emotional novel that taps into the complicated core of humanity. — Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews

5 STARS I loved this story. Despite Dylan McAthie’s rock god persona, there is a tenderness about him that is endearing. I also enjoyed how Jennifer Adams’s character unfolded and grew as she worked her way into this difficult man’s heart. —G from Bookish Temptations

Book Trailer

Tempting Jo, Kindle Unlimited & Giveaways!

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Are you a Kindle Unlimited Member?
Tempting Jo is now available for FREE on KU!

And even better, it’s part of the KU Challenge & Giveaway 4/1-4/30!!
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Over 120 authors have come together to offer an awesome giveaway in an effort to find new readers!
Come meet your new favorite author. Read for FREE with KU. Even better, we’ve pooled our funds to offer an awesome giveaway! Enter to win a Kindle and Amazon Gift Cards just for reading and telling us what you liked.

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Author Spotlight: F. Stone

I’m so excited to be a part of Forbidden’s book launch celebration.

Better Wear Your Flak Jacket!

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FORBIDDEN eBOOK IS FREE! THAT’S RIGHT… FREE!

February 14th to 18th at AMAZON

book-cover-three-dimensional-finalSynopsis:

Year 2047, City of Samarra, capital of the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories

Fifteen American travelers have vanished. Surrendering to Mayor Aamir’s demands, Captain Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, Eliza MacKay. The devout Muslim is horrified to discover that if he exposes the cover-up, his family will suffer dire consequences.

The CIA has the lying Sharif in their cross hairs. Sharif’s only hope is to prove his country’s government is free of guilt. Secretly, he hunts forensic evidence. Cryptic messages, backstabbing informants, and corruption threaten Sharif’s resolve to see justice served. When he discovers the shocking truth, he and MacKay become the targets of a ruthless killer.

Sharif is tortured by his attraction to the impetuous Eliza MacKay. In spite of her struggle with PTSD, he’s drawn to her vivacious personality. Islam forbids the intimacy he craves. In desperation to save Eliza, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

ΩΩΩ

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter your name in Feather Stone’s rafflecopter for a chance to win:

GRAND PRIZE: AMAZON coupon valued at $100 USD,

Second prize: Amazon coupon $50,

PLUS five ten dollar amazon coupons.

ΩΩΩ

Below is one of my favorite romance scenes from F. Stone’s book, Forbidden.

Chapter 30

Buzz adjusted his speed and configured the Phoenix to climb. The mountain loomed another one hundred fifty miles in the distance. Snow in the higher elevations glistened in the sun among the jagged peaks.

“Better have a seat, Sharif. Going to get rough. Buckle up your friend, too.” Buzz turned to check on Miss MacKay. “Shit, what is she doing?”

She stood at the tail section in the aisle, wobbling with the aircraft’s movement on the wind currents. Her bare back faced the men. She appeared to be looking for something in her backpack.

Sharif lunged to stand behind her back, blocking the pilot’s view of the semi-naked woman.

“What are you doing?” he growled. “This is not permitted.”

“I spilled hot coffee on my shirt. It burned like crazy. Just give me two minutes to change into a clean shirt.” Eliza shrugged him off. “Turn around.”

“You’re indecent.” Sharif knew he should tear his eyes away, and turn around. The shape of her back, the soft shoulders, and her curves reminded him of the undulating terrain of the Sahara. The waistband of her pants rested low on her hips. Fighting his body’s traitorous desires, Sharif growled, “Get into the bathroom.”

“Too damn small.” Eliza snatched a black lace camisole from her backpack and held it against her chest. “Go back to Buzz. I’ll be properly dressed in two minutes.” The plane lurched to the right. Eliza lost her balance and placed her feet farther apart.

Sharif grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back snug against his chest. He whispered into her ear. “Eliza, when are you going to stop tormenting me?” He half-hoped she didn’t hear his confession above the roar of the twin engines.

“Do you want me to shut off who I am?”

He felt her body tense as if preparing to fight him off, then melt into his wall of muscle and bone.

The intimacy threw him into panic. In the span of one breath, he felt the old inclination to shun the pleasure, even to feel repulsed by the bliss. Allah forbids. But his drive to be honorable refused to allow the lie. He could no longer deny that Eliza, the impetuous and insane woman who had the audacity to expose his humanity, had become very dear to him.

“No, never,” he said, placing a brief kiss on the corner of her mouth. Though he met her just seven weeks ago, he knew her as if they had spent a lifetime together. He knew the cadence of her voice, the swing of her stride, and the nuances of her moods. He marveled at the light that shimmered in her hair and lived in her eyes. He knew the capricious scent of her body, and could spy on her thoughts through the tilt of her head and curve of her mouth. He found it mystifying at the depth to which he understood this woman, like no other. Wanted her, like no other.

The warmth of her body spread like a warm breeze into his. Numbed by isolation and practiced sacrifice, fragments of his passion flared out of control. Hashim Sharif moaned. He couldn’t tell where his body ended and hers began. The dim light of the aircraft cabin sighed over her shoulders. If not for the lace camisole concealing her most alluring charms, his lust would have ruled his actions.

Over the years, the words “I love you” had become mute, lost under the weight of perceived duty and disconnection with his emotions. He was Captain Sharif, the noble Muslim warrior. He was not Hashim Sharif, the good man, worthy of Eliza MacKay.

Soft and warm, her hands covered his. Sharif shivered with need – to declare to man and Allah, Eliza was his. A violent shake of the aircraft shattered his lustful intentions. Sharif straightened, and wrestled his inner cop back into control. Love was for people not running for their lives.

She buttoned up a fresh shirt, turned to face him and flipped up her hair under the police cap. “There, no harm done.”

He lifted his cap and slapped it back down. “Around my family, we’ll have to maintain physical distance. No unnecessary conversation.”

“You’re the boss.” She smiled and patted his chest. “Anything you want, it shall be done.”

For the next hour Sharif and Eliza rested, fitfully sleeping, half relieved to be away from the terror in Samarra, and yet anxious about finding a resolution to the Sharif family’s safety. Sharif bolted upright in his seat when Buzz shook him awake.

“There’s trouble in Rumi, Sharif,” Buzz hollered. “Captain Khattab and his men are setup to meet you on the tarmac.”

*********************************************************************

WOW! I don’t know about you all, but I’m fanning myself! More about the multi-talented F. Stone!–Nancee

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Romance Under Fire

Author Feather Stone / F. Stone / Judy Weir

On our cattle ranch, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.

For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.

My first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, was published by Omnific Publishing in 2011. The setting is on a naval ship, under the command of a surely man who is under suspicion of treason. When a battered woman is brought to his ship for execution, he has no idea that she is about to turn his disciplined life into chaos – and that she is no ordinary woman. The Guardian’s Wildchild has a rating of 4.1 at Amazon.

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Jo’s Christmas Gift

 

This is a prequel to my paranormal romance, Tempting Jo.

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The office Christmas party is in full swing, complete with one drunken moron copying his butt on the copier. In the corner, I spot Tweedle Ditz and Tweedle Dumb hanging all over our boss like cheap tinsel on a Christmas tree. To my dismay, Mr. DeVille doesn’t seem to mind one bit. I catch him leering at the twins’ inappropriate, low-cut blouses. My mood darkens. Just once, I wish he’d look at me like that. At least I can add two plus two. Working together, I doubt the twins could count to fifteen. But with boobs like theirs, I guess they don’t need to. I’m not proud of my jealousy, but it is what it is.

For lack of anything else to do, I focus on removing Atticus’s white fur from my black, claw-picked sweater. I’m the only one not drinking and I fit in this party atmosphere like a preacher on Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. Having grown up with an alcoholic father and pill-popping mother, I’m uncomfortable in situations like this.

Mr. DeVille approaches and I stand up straighter, my heart racing. His crooked Santa hat looks strangely out of place on my GQ-handsome boss. Resisting the urge to straighten it, instead, I bat my fake eyelashes and pray the toilet paper I stuffed into my bra doesn’t fall out.

“Something in your eye? Having fun, Friday? Need a drink?” He lifts his glass of champagne. I’m a mere minion to him, not worthy of him bothering to remember my name is Jolene. But, I bask in his attention anyway because I’m just a tad in lust with my boss.

“I’m good, sir.” I raise my punch glass, wishing he’d notice me when he’s not under the influence.

He turns and winks at one of the twins. Behind his back, I roll my eyes and sigh. Apparently, no amount of bra stuffing can compare to silicone. I plaster on a fake smile when he turns his attention back to me.

“What do you mean you’re good? That’s an adjective. Are you saying you’re an angel, or do you mean you feel well? Or, are you trying to articulate that you don’t require anything at this time?” He raises one eyebrow, waiting on my response.

While I’m relieved he hasn’t pointed out my poor grammar in front of my coworkers, it’s a tad annoying. If he weren’t a damnyankee he’d accept ‘I’m good’ the way it was meant. But then he flashes his panty-melting smile and my mind blanks.

“I’m teasing, Friday. Relax and have fun, it’s a party! Want to sit on my lap and tell me what you desire for Christmas? I bet you’ve been a very naughty, little girl.” He waggles his eyebrows and his grin widens.

I’d love to sit on his lap. But in my fantasies, we’re alone and naked. I cross my fingers behind my back, praying I didn’t just say that out loud.

Mr. DeVille’s head snaps up and his brows knit together. “Sonofabitch,” he hisses, snatching his Santa hat off his mussed, blond hair. Are those flames flickering in his blue eyes? I put my cup down, wondering if someone spiked my punch.

“What’s he doing here?” The venomous tone makes me shiver. Who has him so riled?

Looking across the room, my mouth drops. My childhood friend, Rafe Goodman, strides through the party smiling and nodding at my co-workers, stopping to shake hands with a few. He has the easy gait of a man who’s comfortable in his own skin. I’ve always admired this quality about him. Tweedle Ditz and Tweedle Dumb practically trip over their tongues and I feel a strange sense of protectiveness.

“Dammit, I told him he could start Monday. Leave it to Mr. Holier-Than-Thou to show up and put a damper on the office party.” Mr. Deville drains his champagne and signals one of the twins to refill his glass.

“He’s going to work here?” I squeal and rush toward the best friend I’ve ever had. When I was a little girl, Rafe saved me. Literally. He found me lost in the woods after I’d run away from home. Even though he was a few years older, he took me under his wing and became my confidante and savior.

He grunts as I barrel into him. “Um, hello. Do I know you, Miss?” His familiar smirk widens into a grin.

“Rafe!” Embarrassment over my emotional display heats my cheeks. He laughs and pulls me into a bear hug. Although we haven’t been in touch for years, his presence brings an instant sense of peace and familiarity that I’ve missed. I’m reluctant to let go and my emotions clog my throat.

Still clutching his arms, I gaze up at him.  The premature gray at his temples and laugh lines beside his dark eyes make him more attractive than ever. Ten years ago, I developed a huge crush on him, but he left for college before anything came of it. His eyes widen.

“Yikes, is that a spider on your cheek?” He swats my fake eyelash to the ground and stomps on it.

I peel off my remaining eyelash. “So, what are you doing here? It’s been ages since I’ve seen you. Where have you been? It’s like you disappeared from the face of earth.” I pick a white feather off his jacket and needlessly smooth his lapel, not wanting to break contact. Having him here is such a surprise, I’m afraid I’m dreaming.

He grabs the feather from me and shoves it in his pockets, looking as embarrassed as I was with my eyelash fiasco. “Um, yeah, sorry about that. Correspondence isn’t my thing. I’ve been all over, working.” He pulls his gaze to mine and brushes a strand of my hair off my face. “It’s great to see you, too, Jo. You look great. Where’s the tomboy I left behind? Frankly, I’m relieved to see a familiar face. It’ll be nice having a friend in this den of hell.”

I nod. Just three hours ago these men were cutthroat sales rivals, vying for Mr. DeVille’s approval. Now they’re hanging on each other like frat brothers. One of them trips and grabs my ass.

“Well hullo there, Jody,” he slurs.

I roll my eyes. Doesn’t anyone know my name? I attempt to remove his hand from my bottom. It isn’t the first time he’s tried to cop a feel. I’m aware my butt provides a generous handle to hang on to, but I’m uncomfortable. I slap his hand away, but he only laughs. Rafe hauls the lech off me, jerking him by his tie and whispers something I can’t hear. The drunk backs away, hands up, and then flees like the place is on fire.

“Do you want to stay here or can we leave?” Rafe glares at the room in general and straightens his red tie. He sneers at Mr. DeVille and the animosity between them is palpable over the frivolity of everyone else.

“I’d love to, but it’s my job to clean up after the party.”

“Tomorrow’s Saturday. Do it then, or are you going home for the holidays?”

“I am. I need to stay here and study, but I don’t want to disappoint my brother. He needs the company and has already planned the meal for when he gets off work…”

“You work and go to school? Jo, honey, everyone needs a break now and then. Why don’t you just relax? I’m sure Johnny Way would understand.”

His offer is so tempting I want to cry. The truth is, I’m dog-tired. “Maybe we could just grab a cup of coffee? I’m going to need the caffeine boost to clean this place.”

His smile broadens and it’s like witnessing the sun rising after a storm. I realize Rafe is no longer the boy I once knew; he’s a man, and devastatingly handsome. He could give Mr. DeVille a run for the money in the looks department. The females in the office who aren’t passed out at their desks openly ogle him.

For spite, I hook his arm and sidle closer. I kinda hope Mr. DeVille sees and experiences just a fraction of the jealousy I feel when he flirts with the twins. “Let’s expeditate our departure.”

Rafe laughs long and hard. “Say, what? Are we declawing Mr. Devil of his hooves?” We’re now the center of attention.

“No, I meant let’s leave fast, before anyone stops us–is the word extricate? Hey wait a minute, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say about our boss. Especially since you don’t even know him.” Aside from Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Ditz, I have to admit most of my co-workers would probably agree with him.

“He has thick skin; he can take it. Extricate is closer but I think you mean expedite.” He pulls me toward the door. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Do you know Mr. DeVille?”

“Our paths have crossed a few times.” Grabbing his coat, he wraps it around my shoulders, as if he knew I didn’t have one. Some things never change; he’s always seemed to know just what I needed. In the parking garage, I unlock the door next to the elevator. It’s the only perk of cleaning the office building; I get to live here rent-free.

“Welcome to my home. If it’s okay with you, can we just stay here? I have coffee.”

Rafe nods and loosens his tie and unbuttons his collar. “Fine with me. Being new to the area, I’m still getting my bearings.”

Now that I’m here my exhaustion takes hold. If I were honest, I’d tell Rafe I just want to curl up with my mean old cat and take a nap before tackling the office cleaning. But I don’t want to be rude. Instead, I warn, “Watch out for Atticus, he doesn’t like company.”

My cat glares at me, swishing his tail with typical feline disdain. Rafe scoops him up and my cranky pet purrs, making a liar out of me. Typical. I flip the coffeemaker on and kick off my shoes.

“Hey there, Atticus, you’re a good boy, aren’t you?” Rafe murmurs. The cat who hates everybody gives my friend a head-butt and his purring intensifies. Has hell just frozen over?

“I’m going to get comfy. Just make yourself at home. Coffee will be ready in a few.” I place Rafe’s coat on the lone chair in my studio apartment and slip into the bathroom. It just takes me a minute to change into my oversized sweatshirt and Wonder Woman lounge pants. When I return, I find Rafe propped on my bed, channel surfing. Beside him, Atticus gives me a smug look of ownership.

“What would you like to watch?” He moves Atticus to make room for me.

“I don’t care.” I grab my coffee and crawl beside him, smiling. A sense of peace surrounds us. There’s no need to chatter, there’s no awkwardness. It’s as if we’ve never been apart. He stops flipping the channels when he comes across Miracle on 34th Street.

“I love this movie!” Rafe grins and settles in, thumping his pillow.

I grimace. “Really? It’s so corny. When the kid doesn’t believe is the only realistic part of the movie.”

He nudges me. “Not so, miracles do exist. When did you become so cynical?”

“I don’t know, maybe when I grew up?” My yawn escapes despite my effort to suppress it. “Besides, if miracles existed, our hot boss would notice me as more than his efficient assistant,” I mutter, still annoyed Mr. DeVille spent more time with the twins.

Rafe’s smile fades and his brows pull together. “Oh, trust me. He’s noticed you, just not in a good way.”

“From your lips to God’s ears.” I pat his cheek, liking the way his designer scruff feels. I yawn, again. “I’m sorry I’m not better company.” I curl into his rock-hard chest. His presence has always comforted me. For some reason, now that he’s here, I can truly relax. My heavy eyelids drift close and I whisper, “I’m glad you’re here and going to be working with me…”

“I’ll always be here for you, Jo. That’s a promise. Now just rest.” He pulls a quilt over me and I sleepily wonder if he’s going to kiss me good night…

***

Jo’s coffee tips perilously close to my lap and I quickly move it. Pulling her closer, I impulsively kiss her forehead. The scent of summer roses takes me back in time. When her home life was unbearable, she’d escape to the small pond surrounded by wild roses. We’d fish or talk until it was safe for her to return.

She views me as a friend. I am, but so much more. I’m her guardian angel, and she needs my protection now more than ever. Jo doesn’t realize her boss is my fallen brother. And for whatever reason, he’s taken an interest in her. I vow to defend her no matter the cost.

Jo snuggles in closer and I wrap both arms around her, wishing we could stay like this forever. I don’t move, afraid of disturbing her, despite the cramp in my neck. The lavender circles surrounding her eyes are testament to her exhaustion. She needs to slow down and take care of herself.

“I’m sorry I’m not much company,” she murmurs, her eyes still closed. “Please don’t go, I want to catch up… I need to stay awake… I have to clean the office…”

“A nap won’t hurt you.” I watch her sleep; I’ve always loved watching her sleep. But she’s not the little girl I remember. She’s a woman. Her hair spreads across her pillow and I wrap a soft chestnut curl around my finger. Her cheek rests on her folded hands and a soft smile lingers as she slips deeper into sleep.

Switching off the lamp, I place another soft kiss on her forehead. “Sweet dreams, Jo. You’re safe now. I’m here.”

She rolls onto her back, eyes still closed, and whispers, “I’m always safe with you. You’re my knight in shining armor, my Superman.” Her hand grabs mine and she turns over, pulling me with her. I’m on top of the cover spooning her delicious butt and having un-guardian-angel-like thoughts.

And there isn’t a damn place I’d rather be.

***

I slowly wake from the best sleep I’ve had in ages. The pillow covering my head moves and morning breath assaults my nose. Irritated, I throw the pillow and glare at Atticus. “You need to go to the vet for a teeth cleaning.” I pluck a white feather from his mouth wondering where it came from. Unfazed by my disgust, he meows incessantly until I feed His Majesty.

Starting a fresh pot of coffee, the tiny apartment seems cavernous without Rafe’s big personality. Was it just a dream? The dent in the other pillow tells me otherwise. I miss him, but I don’t have time to dwell on why. It’s already six in the morning and I still need to clean the office before heading home.

I take my coffee with me to fortify me for the overwhelming task of cleaning up after drunks. I’m used to it. This was my job growing up. At least I get paid to do it now.

The elevator opens and I rub my eyes. Am I still sleeping? The place is spotless, the Christmas decorations gone. It looks like any normal business day. How did this happen? Did Mr. DeVille feel sorry for me and hire someone to do it? I giggle, knowing that’s about as likely as a snowball in hell. We didn’t even get a holiday bonus, just that lousy party. Or did my co-workers clean up after themselves? Again, highly unlikely.

I check all the offices and the break room and find no remnants of the party. On my desk is a vase with a single pink rose and a white feather and a sticky note.

Merry Christmas, Jo.

Always believe in miracles.

Yours forever, Rafe

I should’ve known Rafe was responsible. I angrily dash my tears away. I must still be tired. Why else would I be reacting like I’m in one of those corny holiday movies he loves? Scribbling a quick thank you note I leave it on his desk. I wish I’d asked him for his number. I’d not only thank him; I’d invite him to spend Christmas with Johnny Way and me.

***

It took a lot of coaxing, but I finally convinced my older sibling to let me put up a few decorations. Our empty stockings hang on the mantle, and a tiny, pre-decorated tree sits next to Lynn’s picture. There are no gifts, nor are any expected. I don’t have the money, and although Johnny Way is a good brother, he isn’t demonstrative or sentimental. I doubt a gift even crossed his mind. Lynn was the shopper and the one who orchestrated our Christmas celebrations. Even when she was sick, she’d order the perfect gift from a catalogue. This is our first holiday without her and it’s going to be hard. She was more like a mom than a sister-in-law, and I’m sure my brother volunteered for these extra shifts to bury his pain. I’m finished baking the sugar cookies, and the house smells divine.

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But now that the work is done, I feel lost. Being alone can be miserable. Being alone on Christmas Eve is downright depressing. However, it beats the drunken brawls from my childhood. Since I don’t have a present, I decide to write a letter to Johnny Way telling him how much he means to me. He’ll think it ridiculously mushy and watching him squirm will be present enough for me.

An hour later, I push my books aside realizing studying is a lost cause. I don’t feel like watching sappy holiday movies, and I’m not in the mood for Christmas carols. I thumb through the playlists on my phone and put it on a generic playlist.

A log shifts in the fire and I curl up on the couch wishing I still believed in Santa. People wonder why I stay so busy. Deep down, I know why. I’m running from loneliness. Feeling sorry for myself, I wish Atticus was here to snuggle. The dumb cat hid behind the refrigerator this morning, and no amount of coaxing would get him to come out. As much as I hated doing it, I had to leave him home alone with plenty of food and water, and a new, catnip mouse.

The doorbell rings, interrupting my pity party. It’s almost midnight, who could it be? My father’s in prison and my mother went to visit him. Santa? I shake my head at my own whimsical thinking. I peek through the peephole and gasp when I see the corner of a red hat with white fur.

Cautiously, I open the door.

“Ho, ho, ho!”

“That’s what he said,” I quip, quoting The Office and laughing. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard Santa was skipping your house because you don’t believe in him, so I’m taking up the slack.”

I throw myself in Rafe’s arms and his fake white beard tickles my damp cheek.

“Hey, now. No crying, it’s Christmas. This was supposed to be a happy surprise.” He tosses two packages onto the coffee table and strokes my hair.

“I can’t help it I’m overwrought with emotion,” I sniffle.

Rafe chuckles. “I think the word overcome would work better.” A loud wail sounds from the doorstep and I duck under his arm.

“Atticus!” I pull my cat from his carrier and he begrudgingly tolerates my kisses. I look up at Rafe. “How did you get him?”

“I, uh, stopped by your place to see if you’d left yet and heard him crying.”

“But how did you get in my apartment?” I rise holding my purring cat and close the door with my hip.

“The magic of Christmas.” He winks and gives Atticus a scratch behind his ears.

“Magic?”

“Okay, I broke in with my credit card. You really need a better lock.”

I laugh. “You do know my brother’s a sheriff, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s out of his jurisdiction and I didn’t leave any fingerprints.” He peels off his hat and fake beard, sniffing. “Do I smell cookies?”

I giggle. “I guess Santa deserves some milk and cookies. I’ll bring you some.”

When I return, he’s staring into the fire, lost in thought, the poker still in his hand.

I place his milk and cookies on the coffee table and rub his back. He jumps and spins to face me.

“Wow, Santa. You’re a little on edge. You okay?”

He smiles and brushes the back of his fingers down my cheek. “I’m fine, this Santa’s glad he didn’t come down the chimney, he’d be a crispy critter.” He glances back at the fire and shudders.

We sit and watch the flickering flames and the fiber optics on the tiny tree. Rafe finishes off his cookies. He pours a bit of the milk on the empty plate for Atticus. Rafe pats his flat stomach and his eyes drift closed. Under the pretense of petting Atticus, I move the perfectly wrapped presents. The big one is squishy, the little one isn’t.

“Package pincher.” Rafe opens one eye. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

“But satisfaction brought it back,” I mutter taking the dishes into the kitchen.

I return and find Rafe wearing his Santa hat and holding the gifts.

“You look magnitudinous.”

Rafe throws his head back and in a pretty good impression of the jolly old elf, laughs long and hard. He pulls me to his lap and hands me the smaller present. “Here, open this one first.”

I shake it and pinch it, clueless to the contents. Feeling like a kid, I carefully unwrap the pretty angel paper, wanting to prolong the excitement. I pull out a Word-a-Day calendar and giggle.

He grins. “You like my magnanimous gesture? Although I’d never think of you as below me or as a rival.”

I laugh. “Yes, I do. I want to improve my vocabulary so people don’t think I’m an uneducated redneck.”

“Stop. You’re neither. You’re a hard-working, intelligent woman.” He searches my face, as if memorizing it. “And so beautiful, inside and out.”

His intensity is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. If only my boss would give me attention like this.

Rafe sighs and moves me off his lap. I feel awkward, it’s as if he read my mind, or something. At the very least, I feel like an ingrate when he hands me the large package.

“No, I can’t accept anything else. You cleaned the office and drove up here, and I’ll use the calendar…” My voice trails off as I stare at the gift. I want it, despite my protests. But I feel guilty, not having anything to give him in return.

“Just open it. It isn’t like I bought you a car or anything.”

Tempted, I squeeze the squishy package.

“Go on,” he encourages.

I slit the tape, once again savoring the experience. I gasp, pulling out the softest, prettiest pink sweater I’ve ever seen. “Thank you, I love it.” I rub it across my cheek and smile.

“I’m glad. It’s a color I always associate with you.”

I smile at my dearest friend. “You have no idea how happy I am you’re here. I was dreading Christmas, but you’ve made it special.” I take his hand in mine. “I feel bad not having anything to give you in return.”

Rafe stands and pulls me to my feet. “You’re my gift, Jo. Your friendship means more to me than you’ll ever know. And I promise, I’ll never take it for granted again. Having you back in my life makes even an ordinary day feel like Christmas.”

Before I can respond, he places a finger over my lips. “Dance with me,” he whispers.

I step into his arms and we slow dance in front of the fire to a song about words not being necessary. It’s perfect. We’ve always been in sync, even in silence, even when not together.

The calendar is useful, the sweater beautiful. But he’s right. The miracle of Christmas is reconnecting with someone you love.

As a friend…

Right?

© Nancee Cain

December 2016

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Forbidden love is hell…

Confident and quirky, Jo Sanford thinks her boss is God’s gift to women–and she couldn’t be further from the truth. Devilishly handsome, Luc DeVille will stop at nothing to lure his administrative assistant right into his arms–and bed.

Over Rafe Goodman’s dead body…

Rafe, Jo’s best friend, refuses to sit by and watch as Luc tries to win the heart of the woman he’s always protected. After all, Rafe is her guardian angel. Suddenly, Jo’s caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil. But the closer she gets to the fire, the hotter it burns. Now, Jo’s going to learn that when love battles lust, Heaven and Hell collide.

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4.7 out of 5 STAR REVIEWS!

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Forbidden love is hell…

Confident and quirky, Jo Sanford thinks her boss is God’s gift to women–and she couldn’t be further from the truth. Devilishly handsome, Luc DeVille will stop at nothing to lure his administrative assistant right into his arms–and bed.

Over Rafe Goodman’s dead body…

Rafe, Jo’s best friend, refuses to sit by and watch as Luc tries to win the heart of the woman he’s always protected. After all, Rafe is her guardian angel. Suddenly, Jo’s caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil. But the closer she gets to the fire, the hotter it burns. Now, Jo’s going to learn that when love battles lust, Heaven and Hell collide.

Reviews:

“Ladies and gentleman, Nancee Cain does it again! I just LOVE the way she writes about angels and make them seem so human.” —Beauty and the Beastly Book Blog

“…her stories really make you feel genuine emotions. At first I was halfin-lust with Luc and I can totally understand Jo’s fascination with him, but Rafe….. oh brother! I want my own guardian angel and he must be just like him!! ” —Kat Loves Books Blog

“Tempting Jo is a battle between Heaven and Hell, good versus evil with a human caught in the crossfires. This is a book you want to finish in one sitting even if it’s 7am, because you just have to know what happens between these characters.” –Southern Book Nerd Blog

“Nancee Cain creates magic in the pages she writes: her angels are sinfully unangelic, her humans are downright flawed and completely relateable, her plots are impeccable, and her writing is genius.” -Paranormal, Magic & Mischief Blog

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