Category Archives: Family

Come on 2017

I don’t usually share too much of my personal, day-to-day information online. Today I’m going to make an exception. Why? Because I think it’s important to remember that we’re all human, we all have ups and downs and we all have great and awful times.

My life isn’t much different than yours. I love reading. I love my family. I’m a total geek who loves food and playing with the grandbabies.

I’m also SO happy that 2016 is almost over!

I lost my job earlier this year. It was a horrible and completely unexpected situation. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I didn’t have a day job to fall back on and we almost lost everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I was totally stressed and while I love writing, it doesn’t pay the bills, so a day job is important for my, and my family’s sanity.

I did a lot of talking to myself this year:

  • “Yo, T.J., don’t flip your wig woman. Things will work out!”
  • “Hey you, uh, I mean me, keep a positive outlook. The money will come. You will pay your mortgage. Everyone will eat and the lights will stay on, damn it!”
  • “Don’t worry about your family. They will leave the house and return again safely.”
  • “Have faith in humanity! Not everyone is shortsighted and full of hate.”
  • “Not all of your favorite musicians and actors are dying this year! Relax!”

And it went on and on. Needless to say, this year has sucked in so many ways that I’m seriously counting down the days to next year. Oh, and I’m not even going to get into the nutball politics this year. I’m glad to say that I didn’t think I’d be motivated to write a single thing, but that’s changing and the plot bunnies are hopping around like crazy *YAY!*

Also to celebrate the landing of a new day job, we are going to feast like there is no tomorrow. This is part of the plan. Ever had it? If so, share your favorite recipe for…PORCHETTA! Click the picture to hop to the recipe.

Oh, and 2017, hurry up already.

 

30 Day No Bullshit Challenge

…is coming!

I see all these challenges, like the 30 Day Plank Challenge, 30 Day Squat Challenge, 30 Day Journal Challenge. 30 Day Whatever-The-Heck Challenge. How about a 30 Day No Bullshit Challenge? Well, it’s coming people.

NoBS

A Certified Master Life Coach is going to take us through 30 days of true life-changing challenges to our own status quos. Want to kick dysfunction? Want to better your personal relationships? It doesn’t matter what kind, whether it’s friendship, marriage, family or whatever. She’s prepping…then we’re coming for you.

Stay tuned – start date will be announced soon. ‪#‎30DayNoBS‬

Our coach’s name is Tamara Mays-Sheeley. Her area of expertise is polishing women into the gems that we are. If you want personalized instruction, you can enroll in her classes directly.

If you’re in the Savannah, GA area in August, drop into the Authors After Dark reader convention where we’ll both be signing!

Links:
Info on Authors After Dark
Info on The Polished Gem Academy
Link to Tamara’s book on Amazon

 

Thanksgiving Nom Noms

We’re total foodies in my house. We cook and eat just about every type of food there is, from Japanese to Cajun to French to whatever.

Rigth now I’m getting ready to walk out of my office and head into the kitchen to begin cooking for Thanksgiving. As a native american woman, I probably see Thanksgiving a bit differently than many considering it was the beginning of the end of my people. However, my family does celebrate the holiday by spending time with loved ones and friends and remembering all the many blessings in our lives. Eventhough we try to express thanks and gratitude all year, Thanksgiving is a time for us to spend a day doing nothing but focusing on family abeing grateful.

So, what am I cooking? Cornbread dressing (or stuffing, as some prefer to call it), candied yums with cranberries (sweet potatoes), sweet potatoe pie, macaroni and cheese (made with real cheese), and turkey. My daughter is cookign some other stuff, but she’s being creative (as usual) so I’ll have to get back to you on what her sooper seekrit nom nom is this year :)

One thing we are very grateful for is having a full pantry! So remember that you can get the Passionate Cooks recipe book from All Romance eBooks – I have a recipe for Shrimp Creole inside, and it’s FREE! Click the graphic to get your copy.

Passionate Cooks

Also, for your nom-nom pleasure, here’s a recipe I’d love to share with you from our good friend Emeril Lagasse, Mr. BAM! himself. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Emeril’s Creole Cornbread Stuffing

stuffing

Difficulty: Easy
Cook Time:  min

Ingredients

  • 1 baked Basic Cornbread (12 cups), broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or canned low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Emeril’s Original Essence
  • 1 pound andouille sausage (or other smoked sausage), cut crosswise into 1- inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

Cooking Directions

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10-by-15-inch baking dish or two 9-inch square baking dishes with the butter.

Combine the chicken stock, cream, milk, eggs and 1 tablespoon Essence in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Add the dried cornbread and stir to mix, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet or medium pot over high heat. Add the andouille and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable oil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, remaining 2 teaspoons Essence, the salt, black pepper, and cayenne and stir to mix. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add to the cornbread mixture. Stir to mix well. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Serve warm.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse

The original recipe can be found here: http://www.emerils.com/recipe/6780/Creole-Cornbread-Stuffing

Yeah, I’m empowered!

Welcome to the Authors Against Bullying Blog Hop Day!

While this isn’t a thrilling or adventurous type of blog hop, it is no less important. If you have a kid (or if you were a kid) that had to deal with bullying, we are banding together to bring attention to this important issue.

After my post, PLEASE VISIT THE OTHER AUTHORS via the links at the bottom of this page.

First, let’s be honest – bullying isn’t going to go away. As long as you have idiots in the world and there is no impending gene pool cleansing, bullies will exist on the Earth. Our goal here is to talk about it.

Second, bullying should never be ignored. And I mean EVAH!

I remember being told I looked like a pitbull because I had dark skin and ‘black’ features. I was called nappy headed, ugly, skinny, black dog and more. I was told I would never be anything but a poor whore. Yeah, being black in American could really be fun *pffft*. Unfortunately, those names were thrown at me by other black students. At school. Every damn day.

It’s part of the reason why this song became my anthem (no, this song didn’t exist at the time, but my thoughts and sentiment were the same).

Anyway, I remember a girl named Sylvia stomped into my class in middle school and demanded that I go out into the hall to fight her and a group of five girls *yeah, like that was going to happen, right?*. The reason: One of the popular boys in school liked me. The end. The teacher sent those girls packing. Then she sent me to the principal’s office with an escort so I could go home early so they couldn’t have a chance to jump me after school.

Guess who met me at the principal’s office? I’ll give you three guesses, though you will only need one. Sylvia and another girl named Trina plus a whole new batch of cronies were waiting. The end result was that there was a group of almost ten girls that wanted to kick my ass for no other reason than I wasn’t in their clique.

But I had a tough mom. I could tell her anything. Not to mention she taught me to take care of myself and to fight if I needed to. My mom also came up to the school and let them know in no uncertain terms that she would applaud me and take me to Baskin Robins in reward for taking care of myself if the school couldn’t control those crazy bitches.

These days, schools are more likely to punish a kid who stands up for him or herself than they are to punish the bullies. I don’t understand it, honestly. So, parents need to really be aware of what’s happening. Ask your kids if they are having any issues at school and share your own experience with bullying. This way our children won’t feel embarrassed if they know we were once in their shoes. We also don’t want our kids to feel ashamed or weak if they’re scared. It’s normal to be afraid.

If a child doesn’t feel comfortable talking to a parent about being bullied, then guess what — that’s the parent’s fault. It’s tough talk, but no less true. So fix it. Make sure your kid feels that they can tell you anything. That, to me as a person who had to deal with being scared to go to school each day, was the most comforting thing ever.

And when my own kids were bullied, they knew they could come to me. They also knew that this mama bear would put up with no one messing with her cubs. Yes, I made trips up to the school. And yes, I had big sister wait for her little brother at the bus stop and she witnessed her 3rd grade brother getting pushed around by a 5th grader. We told the Vice Principal. Nothing was done. So when my daughter witnessed her brother get thrown to the ground so hard he smashed his face on the cement and broke his front teeth, dear darling daughter beat the crap out of that bully with her lunch box.

And both my kids got ice cream that day.

Now, many people would say, “Oh no. You should never fight. It doesn’t solve the problem.” And they’re right, to a point. But I can say that bully went on to mess with someone else’s kid rather than mine.

The end.

THE KICK-BUTT AUTHORS AGAINST BULLYING!

Shrimp Creole, Baby! (x-post)

In case you missed the announcement of my new release along with the awesome recipe that was posted over at the Smutketeers Annual Xmas blow out last week, I’m x-posting it here. If you cook this dish (Cajun food, bebe!) be sure to tell me how it turns out!

In honor of my new Christmas release, Forever December (Kindle | Nook), let’s get down to business about one of the things I love about this story: FOOD!

At the beginning of the story , the heroine, Melaniece, meets her kids at their mountain getaway for their Christmas vacation. The first thing Mel notices after receiving her hugs and kisses is the scent of yummy Cajun food filling the air. For myself, growing up in a home with a Louisiana grandmother, Cajun food is something I absolutely love. I can actually make a mean seafood gumbo, too!

Later in Forever December the family enjoys some homemade cinnamon rolls, which my daughter happens to make from scratch. Her speciality is something we call Peach Burst rolls – cinnamon rolls made with Saigon Cinnamon with fresh peaches baked into the dough. Nom nom nom nom!

Now, back to the Shrimp Creole. Seems to me that many people assume what Shrimp Creole is. Unfortunately their belief is typically based on some half-assed, watered down, tomato-sauced fake version shown on TV or from a person who claims they’ve make authentic Shrimp Creole…via a recipe that is unauthentic. Not their fault. They probably just didn’t know.

First, what is it? It’s a simmered shrimp dish in red sauce that is served over white rice. Perfect for cold nights and good company. That pretty much sums it up. However, the flavors are complex and when made correctly, can be damn addicting.

So here’s how to make it…but first things first:

Do NOT use tomato sauce or marinara sauce in your shrimp creole *tj wagging finger, scowling and tsk’ing*. Use fresh tomatoes and run ‘em through a food processor or something. If you don’t have the time, use a good quality tomato paste instead. But never, ever use tomato sauce.

Next, instead of chicken stock or water, make shrimp stock with the shrimp shells OR as a good alternative make dashi (Japanese fish stock) using bonito flakes (but be careful – leave the bonito flakes in too long and it’ll be much too strong). Here’s a recipe for dashi in case you want to make it for things other than shrimp creole. It really is very VERY yummy.

Use the best quality gulf shrimp you can get. It can be pricey, but there’s nothing quite like the sweet smooth flavor. If you can’t find them locally, there’s a place called Deanie’s that I visit when I’m in New Orleans (god, they make the best PoBoy sandwich ever) and they’ll SHIP YOU Louisiana gulf shrimp for a very reasonable price.

Now for the recipe, which you can double or triple if you want to make a big pot:

Shrimp Creole:

2 lbs. (or more, if you like) Peeled and Deveined Shrimp (remember to save shells to make Shrimp Stock)
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Large Onion, finely chopped
2 Celery stalks, finely chopped
1 small Green Pepper, finely Chopped
2 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 Cups Ripe Tomatoes, Diced
2 Cups Shrimp or Fish (dashi) Stock
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2-4 Bay leaves
2 tsp Black Pepper
1 small bunch of fresh Thyme, coarsely chopped
Sliced Green Onions (garnish)
1/8 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped (garnish)
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (careful with this)
Boiled Rice

  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan (be sure it’s big enough to fit the shrimp and stuff later).
  • Saute all the vegetable EXCEPT the tomatoes and herbs. Once the veggies are soft, add the tomatoes and Old Bay seasoning. Toss in some salt (a big pinch should do). Turn down the heat a bit so as not to burn the tomatoes before they have a chance to break down.
  • Once the tomatoes have cooked down and begun to fall apart turn the heat up, add the shrimp stock or fish stock, bay leaves pepper and cayenne. Add the herbs and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for about 45 minutes.
  • Taste your sauce. If it needs “something” now is the time to add it. Make sure it’s got enough salt (remember you haven’t added the shrimp yet), pepper, garlic and herbs.
  • Bring your sauce back up to a boil and, if you like, thicken it with a few tablespoons of roux (basically oil and flour browned, then made into thick gravy) or use a cold water-n-cornstarch mix).
  • Once thickened a bit, throw in your shimp. Good lord, don’t overcook the shrimp or they’ll taste like rubber. Turn the sauce back down to low heat and let it simmer until the shrimp just begins to turn pink (remember, after you turn off the heat, the shrimp will continue to cook).
  • Service with rice and garnish with green onions and the parsley.

Voila! Shrimp Creole!

If you make this be sure to let me know how it turned out! Merry Christmas and have you have a Forever December…

TJ

Snippet Saturday – Family Holiday Fun!

At holiday time we get in the kitchen and my family cooks together. My son makes a mean fresh cranberry sauce from fresh berries. My daughter makes breakfast wonderful with her homemade cinnamon rolls, and we do all the meal prep together for whatever nom-nom’s we’re going to have that year. We typically choose something different each year. Last time we have gumbo – genuine seafood gumbo made by these hands, compliments of my Louisiana grandma *wheee!!*. This year we’re down to the wire and still deciding what we’re cooking. But whatever it is, we’ll do it together.

Releasing this week is Forever December – the story of a hunky vampire out to secure a second chance at love. In this snippet, our heroine has just rolled into her vacation home to discover her children, home for a visit from college, have prepared her some goodies. And she’s all ready to dive in!

And don’t forget to check out the fabulous Snippet Saturday authors via the links at the end of the post!

The sun had just dipped below the mountain peaks when Melaniece pulled into the garage. Snow had begun falling in fat, wet flakes and she was relieved to see a big, black SUV covered with a fresh dusting of the white stuff parked on the other side of the wide garage. She slammed her car into park thinking now was a good time to do a funky little happy dance—her children, Denise and Melvin, were already here.

The second she shut off the engine and popped the trunk, an excited and very loud female came hurtling out the door. A blur of what looked like a white sweatshirt covered with red Japanese hiragana symbols and a pair of black pants practically tackled her before she’d cleared the car door.

“Hi, Mom,” Denise squealed with happiness.

Melaniece’s heart melted and a big grin tipped up the sides of her mouth. Awww, it was so nice to be loved by one’s children.

“Hi, sweet pea, it’s so good to see you. Where’s your brother?” Melaniece asked, trying to peek over her daughter’s shoulder toward the open door leading into the house.

“I’m right here, Mom. How are you?” Melvin asked cheerfully. Long jean-clad legs carried him out to the garage and to Melaniece’s side. Six-feet-two inches of slender muscular male wrapped his arms around both sister and mom, engulfing them in a warm group hug.

Melaniece stepped back and grinned widely at her “babies”. At eighteen and twenty years old, they were mirror images of herself, with the exception of their dwarfing her modest five-feet-four inches. Long, dark locs covered their heads, apple pie cheeks sported dimples and they both flashed perfect, bright smiles. Their cocoa-n-cream skin and strong physiques were rounded out by stellar personalities. Beautiful and handsome described them to a tee.

Melaniece stepped back and shook her head in disbelief at Melvin. “Boy, are you ever gonna stop growing? I know you’ve grown at least a few good inches since I last saw you. And so good-looking, too? You know you get that from your mama, right?” she quipped. And there it was—the blush only a teasing mom could bring about in a grown son. It bloomed in his cheeks until they looked like little caramel-covered apples.

“And you should see all the girls that chase after him. And once I caught him and the neighbor…” Denise chimed in, ever the older sister.

“Mom!” Melvin implored.

“Okay, enough teasing your brother,” Melaniece chuckled, feeling happier than she had in…well, since her trip home to Michael, er, California. But she wouldn’t dwell on that. Or her goofy dream.

“Help me with my stuff?” Moving toward the already open trunk of her car, she turned to grab whatever was closest at hand and began to fill the arms of both Denise and Melvin with their Christmas gifts.

“Good lord, woman, what is all this?” Melvin asked, feigning a gasp under the weight of a particularly hefty box.

Melaniece didn’t answer, just smiled and handed over package after package until both their arms were loaded. Before she could reach for another one, Melvin said, “Go on in and relax. We’ll bring this stuff in. Dinner is already prepared.”

Melaniece felt her stomach tighten and rumble. Gosh, with all the packing, the long drive up, and preoccupation with her dreams—not to mention the constant low-grade arousal because of those dumb nocturnal thoughts—she’d completely forgotten about breakfast and lunch. Well, her stomach made it clear it was feeling neglected and the loud rumble was heard by all.

An aroma hit her nose the second she stepped over the threshold into the house. Shrimp, tomatoes, garlic…Old Bay Seasoning?

“Wooo, I smell it,” she cried happily. “Cajun food! Oh yeah! Uh-huh!” An awful rendition of the Electric Slide dance carried her on inside. She headed directly to the kitchen, not the least bit offended when her kids’ chuckles followed her. Yep, this was going to be one heck of a Christmas.

EIGHTEEN Snippet Saturday authors to enjoy!
Lauren Dane
Rhian Cahill
Eliza Gayle
Selena Blake
Anne Rainey
Jody Wallace
Lissa Matthews
Mari Carr
McKenna Jeffries
Myla Jackson
Taige Crenshaw
Vivian Arend
Alison Kent
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Shelli Stevens
Shiloh Walker
Leah Braemel

No Wedding, No Womb?

On September 22, 2010, a movement will kick off. A movement that will spark debate, cause us to question a social issue that we don’t talk much about anymore. A movement that will no doubt bring with it plenty of criticism and ‘how dare they’ comments. But, as a single (divorced) mom, I totally support this movement. And as a black single mom (it shouldn’t matter what my skin color is…but unfortunately it does) I applaud it.

Join esteemed author, Christelyn D. Karazin of the blog, Beyond Black and White, along with a whole slew of authors, television and radio personalities, and most importantly, dozens of moms, as we confront a practice that has decimated black families. No, it’s not a government thing. It a ‘us’ thing that only we have the power to eliminate.

The result of unstable, unplanned homes in the black community has led to the highest high-school drop out and incarceration rates for black males out of all other races in this country. There are more black men in jail than there are in college.

It’s time to say NO to “baby mama” drama. It’s time to say NO to the “baby daddy” madness. We deserve better. Our children deserve better. They deserve being brought into homes where they know they are loved and wanted, where the people who made those babies have every intention of hanging around to nurture them.

I’ll be blogging on September 22, 2010 as well. Check it out here, then hop on over to the other blogs for the shot heard ’round the world ;D

No wedding…no womb.

(commercial by Janks Morton, director of “What Black Men Think”, “Men II Boys”, “We Need to Talk” and other groundbreaking films)

Snippet Saturday – Family

I’ve always wanted a big family. Since I wasn’t blessed to have one, I enjoy creating them in my books. In this case, we’ve got a hero whose family happens to be the people he works with on a daily basis. Some are vampires, some are humans. And they all love him no matter what. Oh, and speaking of love, I’m sharing the love by reminding you to visit all the other Snippet Saturday authors by clicking through to their website from the links I’ve provided below. Have fun!

Meet Kenoe Hatsept and his family from the Vampire Council of Ethics…

left center right

Hatsept Heat
Vampire Council of Ethics Book Three
by TJ Michaels
Copyright 2009, All rights reserved

Note for Readers: You must be over eighteen to read this excerpt.

Kenoe silently flipped open his vid phone, slipped the ear bud in so he could have his hands free, and whispered into the tiny microphone.

“Dial home.” His words formed as mist in the cool early summer air. The line rang two, three, four times. Relief left his chest in a
huff when someone answered.

“Serati here. This better be fucking good.”

“Alaan, it’s Kenoe. Something is wrong in Japan, and I mean more than just the number of rogues in Nagano. I’m in Tokyo—”

“Tokyo? What the hell are you doing there?”

“Changed my itinerary. As I was saying—” Kenoe rushed on before Alaan could question him further, “—I’m in Shibuya district and I’ve
just seen the weirdest damned thing. I’m not sure I can describe it.”

“Spill it already, Hatsept. I’m in bed, so get to the point.”

Alaan was his usual charming self. Kenoe couldn’t blame him. It was barely morning back home while the night was young and the parties were just getting started in the clubs not far from where he stood.

In the background came a female voice.

“Who is it, Alaan?”

Alaan answered his mate on a yawn. “It’s Kenoe.”

“Really? Give me the phone.” Tameth, as bossy as ever. Kenoe smiled thinking of his best friend.

“No. Roll over and go back to sleep.”

“We weren’t sleeping anyway, asshole. Now give me the damned phone.”

“Careful, woman,” Alaan snapped. “Behave or I’ll cut down your weekly quota of cock.”

Alaan Serati—the only man Kenoe knew who could make a bass-filled growl sound playful. And Tameth was one of very few females who
could handle the big blond brute. They were perfect for each other.

“Oh, please. You’d never survive.” She laughed. Then Tam’s voice filled the line. “Kenoe, you okay? What going on?”

Funny. Her voice had always gotten under his skin. But now, it slid over his consciousness like a soothing balm rather than a stimulating bliqueur. But the blood-firing effect did happen with Shinju, hell almost ten times worse than Tameth had ever affected him and… Oh shit. Could Shinju be the one? His bondmate? Nah, no way. Impossible.

“Kenoe?”

“Huh?” Come on, Hatsept, get your shit together. “I mean, yes, I’m fine. I just happened to be leaving dinner when I saw
something…someone.”

“So?”

“It was a man, a human with no scent of vampire origin. But he moved like one of us, there one moment and gone the next. And if I’m not mistaken, I’ve caught a glimpse of him before.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense, Key. You’re the best damned tracker of all the elite Seekers. How could you not be sure whether
you’ve scented him before or not?”

“Like I said, he carries no vampire scent. In fact, he has no scent at all. You know I never forget a smell, but this guy doesn’t seem to have one. I swear, he moved so fast I almost missed him.”

“That is strange,” Tameth said in confusion. “But even still, if he’s a human why do you care?”

“I have my reasons.”

“Hold on, let me conference Carin in. This sounds like some stuff you two should discuss. It worries me that a human moves like a vamp, but doesn’t smell like vamp, rogue, or…anything.”

“Exactly. In fact, I’ll just call her directly.”

“No way,” Alaan said with a raised voice in the background. The man always had exceptional hearing. “I want to hear what the hell is going on too.”

A few moments later a sleepy and none-too-happy Bix picked up the line.

“Head Seeker here, goddammit.”

Tameth put her phone on speaker and relayed what Kenoe had told them. Bix roused Carin, who was instantly awake after hearing their
concerns.

“That worries me,” Carin rasped, voice scratchy and thick with congestion.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Kenoe wondered quietly. His brow pulled down into a frown as he watched the shadow of the man creeping around Shinju’s house. Seeker instinct went full tilt and he was ready to drop the phone, jump out of that tree and take off at a dead run to aid his woman.

Whoa. Hold the door. His woman? Aw, hell.

“Cold. First one in three years.” Carin croaked while trying to clear her throat.

“How? We don’t get sick.”

“Out playing in the rain with Alaina. Took my new vampire DNA for granted and got kicked in the ass by the human genes behind it. I’ll be fine by morning.”

“Damn, I hope so. Anyway, why does this guy I’m watching concern you? What are you thinking?” Kenoe asked on a whisper.

“I’m thinking about facts,” Carin said, followed by a huge sneeze and Bix’s quiet “ewww” in the background.

“Oh shut up,” Carin mumbled to her mate. “Make yourself useful and grab that box of tissue on the nightstand, will ya?” After a pause and a few totally unladylike snorts and sniffles, Carin continued. “Anyway, the facts are that the only way a human can be enhanced with vampire traits is by ingesting large quantities of blood or exchanging bodily fluids via lots of sex with a vampire—a full-fledged, natural-born vampire—over a long period of time. But that kind of contact leaves an imprint on human and vampire alike.”

Kenoe cut in. “Basically, scent.”

“Right. But you said this guy doesn’t have any vampire scent. Even I, an altered human, can smell the subtle differences between vampire and human. So for this guy to have no scent at all is just not normal in either of our worlds.”

“So what do you think is going on?”

“Kenoe, I just don’t know, sweet pea. I’ll have to think about it.”

Bix added, “In the meantime, looks like pseudo-duty, Seeker. Just watch this guy, get a visual and send us the digital. But you’re not assigned to him, nor on real duty, so no other investigation. You’re still on vacation, understand? We’ll see what we can find on him. If he’s dirty, we’ll put somebody else on him while you get your downtime in. We do have some good agents planted inside the human government over there. We’ll find something. Check in with Alaan in a day or two.”

“Yes, sir. Oh, wait, Dr. Carin, can you and Tam stay on the line for a minute?”

“Sure. Whatcha need?” they asked almost in unison. He loved his friends so much. Always there for him no matter what. And the two biggest damned mother hens he’d ever known.

“I figured I’d ask you two since you’re female, but now that I have you on the line I’m thinking I should have gotten a guy’s point of view.”

“Well, it’s not like we aren’t listening.”

Bix. And the bastard was laughing at him. Kenoe laughed back and then let it all hang out.

“I’ve met someone. A human. But I’m way out of my element here. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything like it. I smell her everywhere and the sight and scent of this female sends me on a fucking trip.”

Four voices echoed across the phone line as they all started talking at once. “What? Really? Do you think she’s the one? What does she look like? Have you approached her yet?”

With his eyes still plastered on the shadow near Shinju’s home, the doubts Kenoe had about the woman’s place in his life began to fade. The urge to strangle the possible threat had him snarling into the phone.

“Kenoe? What the hell are you growling at?” Tameth snapped.

“Sorry. I’m watching her house and…shit, this is driving me crazy.”

“If you feel so strongly, she could very well be your mate. Or maybe even a bondmate.” Carin sniffled. “I’m human, yet Bix and I went nuts after we met. Not to mention that psychic-link-bond-zing thing we had going. It was insane.”

Hmm. It would certainly explain his tumultuous emotions. God, he was horny and protective, afraid and bold, certain and unsure. All at the same damned time.

“I think…hell, I don’t know what to think,” he pushed out forcefully, even though he knew Carin was right. And from the thoughts and feelings seeping through what must be a true newly forming bond, Shinju was all over the map right along with him. He couldn’t quite hear her thoughts yet from this distance, but her emotions were pounding at him like a sledgehammer against a concrete wall.

“Then what’s the problem?” Carin asked impatiently. Her tone was the same as she used when trying to reason with her three-year-old daughter. “You know how weirded out you prime males get when you try to resist the mating call. God, I remember when Bix and I first met. He hardly played fair once he decided I was the one. Pulled the most underhanded tactics out of the hat…”

“Underhanded tactics? Like what?” Kenoe had never heard this part of the story.

“One day we were in my lab—in fact, it was only the second time I’d ever seen him. He decided to pull some junk…and he was successful. The underhanded part is this—Bix knew I was an empath. I’d never really looked into how to use my gift, but I could sense something zinging between us.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“It’s there with…what’s her name?”

“Shinju. Shinju Maruyama. And yes, it’s there. She just waltzes right into my head and I don’t even think she realizes it. It’s like she isn’t aware she has any psychic skill but is using it just the same.”

“Hmm. That’s different. Anyway, I was supposed to be mad at Bix and he was determined that he’d rather have me horny. So as he left my lab he sent the nastiest, most lust-inducing images into my head, and at the same time he made me actually feel his hands on me. It was the wildest, weirdest sensation I’d ever experienced. Something only he could do because we were meant to be together as bondmates.”

Kenoe’s eyebrows practically flew off of his face. So he could send images into Shinju’s head? But only if she was “the one”?

“Now I can talk to Bix and send images to him too. And he’s the only one I can’t block because we’re bonded.”

“Key?” Tameth chimed in. “If she’s it, go for it. Besides, you’ve already seen the outcome of two of the most bullheaded men you know try to outrun their females. And vice versa.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.” Kenoe chuckled. “But I just don’t know.”

“Well, I do know,” Tameth snapped into the phone with a tone that bordered on pissed off. “You think you don’t deserve it.”

“What the hell are you talking—”

“Hush, you. You think that because of what you went through at the hands of that asshole brother of yours that you’re tainted or something.” It wasn’t a question, but a heated, mad-as-hell accusation. And it hit the mark pretty damned close. “Well, listen, Kenoe Hatsept, you’re one of the best men I’ve ever known. A perfect mix of sensitive and badass. Whoever this woman is, she’ll be lucky to have found a man like you.”

Kenoe did something he hadn’t done since learning how to pleasure a woman at a young age in the harem from hell—he blushed. Not sure what to say, he let the first thing he could think of slip past his lips.

“What is this, some kind of psychobabble?”

“Cut the shit, Kenoe. This is serious.”

Great. Now it was Carin’s turn to chime in. May as well prepare for the shredding he knew was coming. Thank God they had his best interests at heart.

“We’re talking about your life here, stud,” Carin gubbed through her stuffy nose.

“But what if I can’t…I mean, what if I can’t love her like she deserves?”

“What about what you deserve, damn it? If this woman is the one for you, it’s because she’s meant to be. She’ll complete you in a way you’ll never understand unless you go for it. Everything you’ve worked for since the day you fled your brother’s harem has brought you to where you are today. But that’s over, Kenoe. It’s done. Lowan is history. Now it’s time for you to live for yourself. And that’s all I got to say about it. Now don’t make me and Tam have to fly all the way to Japan to kick some vampire sense into your ass.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Kenoe couldn’t keep the grin out of his voice, nor the unfamiliar flutter out of his stomach. Blushing? Butterflies? Geesh, he was turning into a girl! “I’ll catch you guys later.”

Tameth chimed in. “All right. Hey, remind me to tell you about the new jet we just got. Fill you in later?”

“Yep.”

“Love you, Key.” And in the background he heard Alaan’s deep bass echo, “Yeah. I love you too, Hatsept pipsqueak.”

Leah Braemel
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Jody Wallace
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Juliana Stone

Support Diabetes Research With Us

You know, I’d never paid much attention to Diabetes…until I was diagnosed with it during Christmas of 2007. What a present, eh?

I felt fine. No symptoms other than I kept gaining weight no matter how well I ate, how much I walked or exercised. So I decided to go in for a typical routine physical. The doctor called me back into the office a week later to tell me the tests had come back. And that I was just “over the line” enough in my blood work to be a diabetic.

It didn’t make a damn bit of sense. I wasn’t overweight (not by much anyway *smile*). Ate pretty healthy. However, I had allowed myself to totally stress, and I mean stress, over my job for a whole year, getting very little sleep, few days off, and hardly any exercise. And even though we all know stress does all kinds of nasty things to our bodies and causes the secretion of nasty hormones.

It took me a year of keeping my stress to a minimum, taking a blood-sugar control medicine and making my already pretty good diet even better. I went into the doctors office about six months later and received some good news. My blood tests came back non-diabetic. YAY!!

So I shared all that to say I really, really support what Brenda Novak is doing with her auction fundraiser for diabetes. And it is my fervent hope that you’ll participate, too.

So you’re probably wondering who the ‘us’ in the title of the post refers to. Click on the banner, hop over to the auction and take a look at what some of your favorite authors, editors, agents and publishers are doing this year.

HATS OFF TO YOU, BRENDA!!!