Chapter 2 –Winner Takes All

For those who missed Sunday’s blog, I’m trying to put the finishing touches on this book, and in order to get inspired to finish in a timely fashion, I’m releasing two chapters per week of Winner takes all.

Chapter 2 – A New Beginning

The last thing Javier needed in his life was a woman. He’d vowed to stay away from them after New York. And he’d been pretty good at keeping that vow for the past four months.

But something about this woman intrigued him. She’d come to the bar, sat alone, and hadn’t ordered a drink. She’d spent a decent amount of time talking to his sister, Josefina, about what food to order.

Javier had watched her from his table and tried not to seem conspicuous as he ate pupusas. She wasn’t his type, though she was beautiful. Caramel skin, hair to her shoulders in some kind of twists and lips that just screamed to be kissed. He wasn’t sure if she worked out to get that body, but she was surely working that red slinky dress that cut off mid thigh and had a swooping v-neck that accentuated her breasts. They were a nice size, and looked so succulent, he could only imagine what they looked like once separated from that dress. His cock twitched.

Dammit. He wasn’t sure why this one was getting to him. Ever since Delilah, he’d been sufficiently through with the ladies. He felt a surge of anger just thinking about her. Delilah. He should have known just from the name. When he’d met her, he’d thought of the sweet, silver-toned radio hostess his mother listened to on weekday evenings. All warm and light as she dispensed love advice. How wrong he’d been. He should have thought of the original vixen who had wooed poor Sampson and then sold him out to the Philistines. That Delilah was more akin to the one he’d gotten.

He shook his head, blew out, and banished Delilah from his thoughts. Instead, he watched this woman. He found he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She called Josefina over a couple more times during her meal, and they chatted. Questions, perhaps. She was pointing to things in the restaurant. Pictures. He sighed and looked at a picture she’d just pointed to. It was a little boy on a farm in El Salvador. Javier’s father, Josef.  He looked so little and unintimidating in that photo. If only Josef had remained that way.

Javier’s interest should have waned when she asked about his father. Showing interest in a man he got along with as well as oil did with water should have been a sign that she was not the one. Only, for some reason, it just made him more curious about her.  As soon as Josefina had a moment free, Javier waved her over. She came to his table, but remained standing, as if she might take his order. His father would have been incensed if it looked like she was sitting with a customer. “Who’s that lady?” he asked, inclining his head toward the bar. “The one who’s been monopolizing your time?”

Josefina turned and looked  in the direction of the gorgeous customer. “Um, she just stumbled in here after not liking the place down the street. She was curious about how long we’d been here. Wanted to know more about the restaurant’s history. I told her the story: dad’s story.” Javier refrained from rolling his eyes. Dad’s story. It had been one of his first real sells, a sign that, given enough motivation, he could sell anything, even a father who hated him.

“You put in the bit about the first restaurant burning down?” he asked.

Josefina did not refrain from rolling her eyes. “It’s not like you created the restaurant, Javi. You just polished the story a bit so it sounded good.”

He hated how he didn’t get credit for punching up the story, for boiling it down to its best elements. The story’s key component was the imagery of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Santiago’s had been rebuilt, the dream completed, success claimed, a final triumph.  It was the perfect story. And, really, that’s all it was: a story. The image of the successful American dream applied only to the business. Josef Santiago’s personal life was more aptly described as an American nightmare.

“Javi, what’s rule number one?” Josefina asked.

Rule number one. “The customer is always right,” he belted out with a smirk.

She gritted her teeth and shook her head. “You know what I’m talking about,” she said, but she clearly felt he needed to hear it said aloud. “Don’t hit on the customers.”

“Rule number one is for employees. I’m not employed here, now am I, sis?” he asked.

She sighed.

He grinned. No, he wasn’t technically working here. An employee had called in sick, and Josefina had asked if he could lend a hand. He’d almost said no, but his sister wasn’t his father, and if she was asking him to lend a hand, she needed it. He’d been forced to work here throughout high school and any time he’d been home on break during college, so he knew the ropes. Still, he wasn’t an employee, so he wasn’t about to be stuck with employee rules.

Josefina looked like she planned to say something else, but she finally just shook her head and walked away. Maybe as little as a year ago, she would have threatened something along the lines of, “I’m gonna tell dad.” But his baby sister had taken on a more mature attitude as she approached her senior year in college. And she’d also gotten serious about the restaurant. The domain Javier had outright rejected, she’d come to embrace fully.

With Josefina off to check on a customer, Javier turned his attention to the beautiful mystery woman. She was now watching the band. The group had already played a short practice set. Javier glanced at his watch. It was time. The tables closest to the low, platform stage were empty, so he started pulling them away to make room for people to dance. Josefina sidled over to help him. Soon, they had the area cleared.

Miguel, the band leader, nodded to Javier as the group began to play a rousing salsa. The first rule of working at the restaurant was not to hit on the customers. The second rule was to work, not parade around having fun. And Javier was about to break both those rules. He stood on the dance floor and began to move to the beat. Just a swivel of the hip as his feet glided  in time with the music. He smiled and let the music’s vibrations guide his body. He knew one or two people would join in eventually. He turned, his body facing the bar, and looked right at the lovely woman in red. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled at him. He held out his hand and beckoned her to join him. She considered it a moment, and then stood.

The vision in red glided off the bar stool and sauntered right to him. Every eye in the restaurant seemed mesmerized by her. Or was he projecting his own thoughts to everyone else? But how could they not be watching her? Long silky legs, striding tall and confident, the way her hips swung, slinky, sexily, in tune with the music.

And here she was — right in front of him. She smiled crookedly, those ruby red lips looking sinfully delightful, and joined him on the dance floor. She nestled her fingers inside his extended palm, and he closed his hand around hers. Her touch was electric and his body hummed the closer she got to him. Together, they shimmied on the dance floor, their bodies flying in time with the music, gyrating, puffing, swaying and having a good time. They managed to keep up with each other through four songs, songs that brought others out, and drew the occasional, “You two are good,” from couples dancing nearby.

 She had a flare for the dramatic, for she winked at the compliment and said, full of bravado, “Of course we are.”

She was bold and unapologetic, and he couldn’t imagine anything more delightful than that in a woman. His dad would like her, Javier thought. Dammit! Where the hell had that thought come from? His father was the last thing he wanted to think about. Not when he was dancing with a beautiful woman, not when he was preparing for his triumphant tomorrow.  Tomorrow was the beginning of his new life. He wasn’t going to fuck it up this time. He was going to knock this one out of the park. It wasn’t the ideal post, but if he could craft his father’s life story into something moving, he sure as hell could do the same for his own life.

As the music faded, beautiful pulled away from him and gave a quick nod. “Thank you for the dancing,” she said, placing a manicured hand on her chest. “I need a little break.”

Javier nodded to her, and she turned and headed back to the bar. He followed, watching her nestle her fine ass into the seat. He knew he should stay away from her, but he couldn’t help the attraction. She was flawless: she was brave, she could dance, and she was into him. He leaned against the bar, preferring not to sit quite yet. “Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.

She eyed him, as if sizing him up. He didn’t mind. He had nothing to worry about when it came to size. He cocked the right corner of his mouth into a rakish smile. Her eyes roved his body, from top to bottom, and then she licked her lips as if she’d determined he was exactly what she wanted. “Sure, I’d love a drink.”

He grinned and motioned Marco, the bartender. “Her drink’s on me.”

Marco raised an eyebrow in doubt. Javier ignored the look and kept the confident smile on his face, but he had a flash of absolute hatred toward his father. It was one thing for his father to deride him privately. It was beyond the pale that he’d given the bartender the impression that Javier was a loser. Javier tried to ignore the look the bartender had given him, but Red Dress had watched the exchange closely. Javier thought for a moment that she might sour on him based on the bartender’s disdain at his offer to buy her drink. But she just smiled, turned to the bartender and ordered a glass of white wine.

Perfect. He leaned in. “I’m Javier,” he said.

“Tina,” she responded, with a come-hither smile.

Let’s Play Beat the Clock… Will This Romance Be Free?

The pandemic has made it so that I’ve lost a little bit of gusto in writing and editing. So, in order to give myself a bit of a deadline and force me to just get it done, I’ve decided to arrange a little game of beat the clock.

How will this work? Well, my novel Winner Takes All has been in a bit of a holding pattern in finishing up the rewrites and edits. So, to motivate me to finish it up, I decided to post a chapter every few days. That way, I have incentive to make sure I get the book completed properly and up for sale. And if I can’t get it published in time, then it will end up being fully published on the website.

So, it starts here. Today. This is chapter one of Winner Takes All. And I’ll keep publishing a chapter every Sunday and Wednesday until it’s ready to go online as an ebook.

Chapter 1 – An Abrupt End

Tina sat across from Quentin and watched his lips move. They were gorgeous, thick lips — plump, moist, soft — attached to a hella fine, chocolate man, with pretty white teeth, brooding mahogany eyes, and a flawless face. He smiled at her, cupping his long, thick fingers together on the tabletop. His voice rang out velvety smooth.

When he’d asked her out to dinner after bumping into her at the coffee shop, she’d been elated. Things were going right on her job, with her being a shoo-in for an upcoming promotion. Now all she needed was for things in the love department to pick up. And she’d thought Quentin would be the answer. Even the name sounded regal. Only, the time they’d spent together tonight had shown just how mistaken Tina had been. Quentin was a pretty package hiding the ugly beneath.

“So, enough about me,” Quentin said with a smile, one he probably thought looked bashful. Actually, it looked phony. “Tell me about what you do.”

She smiled back at him, hoping the ruby red lipstick, aptly called “sinner” by the cosmetics line, drew his eyes to her lips. She glanced at her watch, before locking eyes on him.

“We’ve been here, in this restaurant, for 30 minutes, and this is the first time you’ve asked about me,” she said. His smile faltered, and he opened his mouth — she presumed to apologize. Tina held up her hand to shush him, her manicured nails glinting in the dim restaurant lighting. “You asked what I did. I’m a marketing executive at a small, but respected, DC firm. I manage marketing campaigns for clients, and I have exactly three seconds to capture the attention of my product’s target audience. Not three seconds to sell to them. Three seconds to capture their attention. Then, I have about 10 seconds before they get bored and go on to something else. So, I’ve learned to say what I have to say up front and say it quickly. I’ve learned to cut to the heart of matters, so that my most important message is heard up front and when it matters. I’ve learned to make that message compelling. So, Quentin, we are done.”

He leaned back, his eyes widening,

She leaned forward, her eyes never leaving his. “You have talked about yourself nonstop for 30 minutes. You have been rude to the waitstaff. You were condescending to the valet — a person you just left your very nice Lexus with. You are boorish, self-absorbed, and seemingly uncaring. I have no interest in spending another moment with you, and I would have left sooner, except I have been working on bringing my professional demeanor to my personal life. In the past, I have been known to be too quick to react in my desire to be decisive. I want to thank you for the drink,” she said as she lifted the glass of white wine and took one last sip. “However, I will not be staying for dinner.”

She stood, and as he stammered futilely, Tina walked right out of the crowded, upscale dining room and through the front door.

Once outside, the heat slammed into her like a brick wall. The conditioned air inside the five-star restaurant had made her forget these were the waning days of a Washington, DC, summer. The outdoors felt like a sauna. She debated taking a cab home, but she wanted to eat. And not at that place. She was confident that the fancy establishment, with pressed linens and men in stuffy-jackets, served overpriced food in portions that wouldn’t fill her. She wanted real food. Good food. She walked away from the restaurant, being sure to turn the corner in case Quentin decided to get up and follow. Though, she doubted he would. Her read on him was that Quentin was not the kind of guy who followed when spurned. He didn’t try to make amends or fix things. He was a save-face-at-all-costs kind of guy. She imagined he would stay at the restaurant long enough to pay the check, and then go home, eat buffalo wings, and write her off as a “crazy bitch.” Tina didn’t care. She’d been called worse.

She walked a couple blocks as she searched for the ride-sharing app on her phone and tried to figure out where she wanted to eat. She was in Adams Morgan, a restaurant district known for cozy, authentic eateries. Rather than take her to a trendy, quiet place, Quentin had opted for a shi-shi foo foo place that had opened up in hopes of getting the tourist who heard it was trendy but actually wanted traditional.

She’d gotten the app and was considering just calling for a ride and scarfing down a bowl of cereal at home, when she heard salsa music. She turned in the direction the harmonies were coming from: a little place just a door down. Drawn to the music, Tina soon found herself in a clean, bright, tiny restaurant. Though only about half full, it held a decent sized crowd. The customers were a mix of people who appeared to range from the young 20s to the fun-loving forties. Small square tables for two dotted the restaurant. The tables were pushed together in spots to accommodate foursomes and could probably be configured to fit larger groups, if necessary. Customers were enjoying plates of what looked like Mexican food: things rolled in tortillas and covered in sauces and cheeses. Bean dishes that looked heavenly nestled on festive plates. Tina scanned the restaurant, taking in the atmosphere. Most people ate family style, a couple of dishes in the middle of their table, with large serving spoons to ladle out what they wanted.

There was a bar to the left. The salsa band was on a stage in the back of the room. They’d actually stopped playing at the moment. She wondered if they’d just been warming up. It was too early for them to be done.  As Tina looked around, she didn’t see a podium for a hostess, but after a moment, a young woman in a black skirt, and green shirt holding a menu walked over to her, and asked, “Would you like a table or did you want to eat at the bar?”

Tina wasn’t sure. “Is the band going to play again?”

As Tina got a closer look at the woman, she wondered if she was a high school student, she looked so youthful. Though she had the poise of someone older. She nodded in response to Tina’s question. “Yes, they’re warming up. They don’t start officially for about twenty minutes. Then we move out the tables closest to the stage so people can dance. It can get pretty crowded, once they start.”

Tina nodded at the lady, who was pretty, with olive skin and a thick mane of curly black hair. 

“So, what kind of food do you serve here?”
“Authentic Salvadoran food.”

The dishes she’d spied on the tables looked scrumptious. She could get down with that. Tina surveyed the room. The tables were alright, but the bar looked perfect. It had the best vantage point. She could eat, watch the band, and see the dance floor. She might even decide to shake her booty. This evening didn’t have to be a complete waste after all.

What are you thankful for?

It’s almost U.S. Thanksgiving (I see you Canada, with your celebration last month). As it’s the time in this country to spend time with family and be thankful for what the year has brought us.

So, I thought I’d take a minute to say a few things I am currently thankful for:

  • I have not gotten coronavirus
  • I am pretty healthy
  • My family is all fairly healthy
  • I have a home still
  • I have a job still
  • There is much love in my life

I’m sure there are other things I could be thankful for, but I wanted to be brief and catch the most important things. In so many ways, 2020 has been an awful year. Too many people have lost their lives from this deadly virus. And for their families, this marks their first holiday without those souls. I am sure it is incredibly difficult for them. I wish them grace in these difficult times.

Given how much was lost this year, I am keenly aware of how much I have to be grateful for. I am looking forward to my Zoom Thanksgiving and probably Christmas, happy that everyone I want to be there is alive and well.

So, what are you thankful for as we head into Thanksgiving in the US?

What do you love about fairy tales?

For those of you who’ve read my books, you know I adore fairy tales.

Of course, much of the world adores fairy tales. These timeless stories have been passed down from generation to generation and filled them with delight. Disney has made billions of dollars from reimagining classic tales with large-eyed heroines and heroes.

But, what is it about these classics that make us love them so?

For me, it’s the happily ever after. I love a good story where, at the end, the main characters ride off into the sunset and have a happy life. It’s a fantasy–that life can be perfect after all the trials and tribulations. A fantasy that makes you feel good, that all the drama has been worth it.

I love that so often two people find in each other true love. While the fairy tales are sparse on details, they give you the sense of possibility. That there are people out there who are meant for you, people who you can find in the least expected places, and it can all work out. That hint of possibility–for Cinderella to be one out of a thousands of girls at a ball to capture the heart of a prince. To be sleeping beauty and happen upon your true love just before you are cursed to a hundred years of sleep. To be Rapunzel and find a guy who happens to let down your hair.

In re-imaginings, you get to flesh out the details, the whys of how these two fell in love, of what attracted them to each other. But even in the originals, they were wonderful in that they let you fill in the gaps and create your own understanding–one that was perfect for you–of what made that relationship tick.

That’s refreshing.

So, what is it that you love about fairy tales?

Can Political Opposites Be Happy Together?

It’s the height of election season, with today being the big day, and lots of polarization. It got me to thinking: can people on the opposite side of the political spectrum be happy together?

Back in the day, James Carville and Mary Matalin were the power couple who seemed to make it work despite being on opposite sides of the aisle. But back then, differences seemed to be more relegated to politics, whereas today’s differences seem to be more moral in nature, with one side believing the other are just bad people.

So, what are your thoughts: can political opposites work these days, or is it one for all and all for one?

Are you still finding romance?

We’ve been in this pandemic for more than six months now. I’m tired of it, to be honest. I’m tired of all the restrictions, but I know I need to do them for safety.

The one thing that hasn’t been restricted though, is entertainment. No, we can’t go to the movies, but we can read great books and watch wonderful films in home.

Have you found yourself, as things have continued to get worse through the pandemic, able to find joy in some of these small pleasures? Have you enjoyed a good romance novel or a great romantic film?

I’ve found I have been able to escape in watching and reading, but less so in writing. My productivity has been down. It’s taking forever to finish two projects I started ages ago.

I think people want escape–I know I do. Are you escaping into romance? If so what are you watching or reading? Share in the comments.

Almost There…

I feel like Princess Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I’m almost there!

As I mentioned last time, I’m putting my books into Kindle Unlimited again. However, to do that, they have to be off other sites. There are a couple books that are stragglers, and I’m having trouble getting them removed from other sites, but here’s a progress update.  I’m still waiting on Beauty and Her Beastly Love and Stil’s Heart, but the the following books are available in Kindle Unlimited:








Consolidating in the time of coronavirus

I hope you all are well. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted a blog. How time flies.

I just wanted to check in and briefly mention that I am making some changes to where my books are sold. Specifically, with the exception of perma-free books (Dr. Carter & Mrs. Sinn; The Princess, the Pea, and the Night of Passion), all of my titles are being taken off other sites and will be sold exclusively on Amazon.

My books had been Amazon exclusives and part of the Kindle Unlimited program when I first started writing. However, after a year or so, I decided I wanted to spread my wings and see how the titles did at other retailers. While readers on other retailers did find my books, the bulk of my sales remained on Amazon.

With the growing financial meltdown caused by all the shutdowns to stop coronavirus, I decided to go back into Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Amazon exclusivity. I know in my own household, we’ve been cutting expenses and enjoying our subscription services more. I expect more people will do that, and the books will see more reads in Kindle Unlimited. Especially as people have less free money to buy individual books.

To be in KU, your book can’t be sold on any other platform. This weekend, I’ve started the process of unpublishing my books on all the other retailers. Once that’s complete, I’ll enroll them in KU. Some retailers are slower than others to remove books, so I anticipate everything will be de-listed by Wednesday or Thursday and I’ll be able to enroll in KU by next weekend.

I hope everyone is coping well. The social distancing and other lockdown measures have been mentally challenging. We’re social beings, so these measures are hard. The good news is, we’ve made it thus far, and we just have to keep our heads up and keep plowing forward.

Stay well.



To My Gift Horse, I say Thank You!

There’s that old expression, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” And that’s how I feel today.

I was super surprised to log onto my Amazon dashboard and see hundreds of copies of Dr. Carter & Mrs. Sinn had been downloaded today. I did no advertising, no tweeting, no nothing. I suspect I showed up on someone’s bargain freebies list today, and that’s super cool with me because I never look a gift horse in the mouth!

If you haven’t read Dr. Carter and Mrs. Sinn, you can pick it up free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, and Apple!

If you’re wondering what looking a gift horse in the mouth means, my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Harmon, told us that back in the old days, when horses were common household transportation, the way you determined their worth was by examining their teeth. Bad teeth, I suppose, meant, old, no good horse. So, if someone ever gifted you a horse, it would be incredibly rude to examine its teeth. You got a horse, and any horse is better than no horse.

I hope all of you stay safe in the quarantine. Download some romances and love those you’re with (even if they’re annoying after two weeks of quarantine).

Plans for Troubled Times

The coronavirus is very scary. It’s been pervading everything in U.S. lives for the last few weeks, and ramping up to pandemic level in recent days. The state I’m in–Maryland–has closed schools for the next two weeks. It’s a dangerous times, and I think people are looking for any signs of hope.

I would say, if you are stuck inside, and worried about COVID-19, be vigilant, but also try to enjoy whatever distractions you can when you can. Watch your favorite films, read your favorite books, catch on your Netflix binge list.

A friend at work told me, coronavirus is certainly “making life interesting,” and I told her, “I’d rather have a boring life.”  Since we can’t get back to boring, we must remember that as we try to get through this scary time,  we should try to find small joys.

When I start to worry about things I have no control over, I am going to watch the Princess Bride or maybe try one of the books I got excited about and bought and haven’t quite gotten to reading yet.

What’s your plan as we hunker down and try to get through this awful pandemic?