Tag Archives: holiday

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.

 

I just had to share!

cheesecake-bars-with-wine-gelee-4-600x900

I’m not a big drinker but I do enjoy a glass of wine every now and then. And with the holidays coming up, we are always looking for a way to put a bit of a different spin on the usual culprits…such as red wine.

I saw this recipe a few days ago and I can’t get it out of my head. So I figured I’d share the love and drive you just as nuts as I am right now at wanting to try this delicious looking dessert. I would say I’m sorry…but I wouldn’t mean it! So let’s enjoy it together, shall we?

Cheesecake Bars with Wine Gelée

yield: 16 squares

prep time: 25 min
cook time: 25 min
total time: 7 hours (including chilling)

INGREDIENTS:

For crust:

  • 8 full sheets (140gr) graham cracker
  • 4 tablespoons (55gr) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For cheesecake filling:

  • 12oz (340gr) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (60gr) plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (300gr) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For wine topping:

  • 1 envelope (8gr) unflavored gelatin
  • ¾ cup (180ml) red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 4 teaspoons sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 8×8 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving two sides hanging over the edges.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into fine crumbs. (If you don’t have a food processor, place the graham crackers in a ziplock bag and roll a rolling pin over the graham crackers.) Add sugar and melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened with butter. Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Evenly spread it, lightly pressing into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on wire rack.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with whisk attachment, beat cream cheese, Greek yogurt and condensed milk until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, flour, vanilla extract and salt. Continue to whisk until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake it until the filling is set but not browned, for about 25 minutes. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature (about 2 hours), then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to chill.
  6. To make the wine gelée, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of wine and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, stir in the sugar in the hot water. Add the sugar water into the wine with gelatin. At this point, the mixture will be a little cloudy. Mix well until gelatin is completely melted. (If needed, microwave for 30 seconds to warm the mixture up. The mixture should become clear.) Add the remaining ¼ cup of wine and cool the mixture to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Gently pour the wine mixture using a back of the spoon over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, until the wine topping is set completely.
  8. Cut into 16 squares (or even smaller, if desired), before serving.

    Recipe is courtesy of Sweet & Savory by Shinee
    There were so many ads on the original post, I could barely get to the recipe. So rather than taking you through that madness, I posted the details here. To see the original ad, uh I mean post, visit http://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/cheesecake-bars-with-wine-gelee/

A Different Kind of Yum!

Okay, I’ll be completely honest here — when I first heard of this recipe my first reaction was “EWWWW!” But after reading what’s in it, it sounds absolutely delish and perfect for a holiday picnic or outing.

If you make this, let me know how it turns out!

Layered Cornbread Salad (courtesy of The Food Network)

FNM_050113-Layered-Cornbread-Salad-Recipe_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscapeTotal Time: 20 min
Prep: 20 min
Yield:6 servings
Level:Easy

Ingredients
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 scallions, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups crumbled cornbread
2 15 -ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese

Directions
Toss the tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, lime juice, chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
Assemble the salad: Sprinkle half of the cornbread in a glass bowl or trifle dish. Top with half each of the black-eyed peas, corn and the tomato-pepper mixture, then half each of the sour cream mixture and cheese. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, ending with cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Photograph by Con Poulos

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/cornbread-salad-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Merry Christmas!

I’m currently sitting in my office thinking about the wonderful year I’ve had. I didn’t have a ton of releases or make much money from writing, but what I did have were the most fantatic interactions, both in person and online, with people that share my passion for books.

You all have enriched my life so much, and I want to thank you for that. You could have been spending your time elsewhere, yet at conferences you chose to talk to me, have dinner or coffee, and sometimes just be plain silly with me. And online you shared my insane love of shoes and goofiness.

In a word, you all are WONDERFUL!

Again, thank you so much, and Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

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

Snippet Saturday – Holidays

Snippet Saturday is a brilliant collaboration by NYT and USA Today bestselling author, Lauren Dane, and a fabulous group of authors that she’s invited to join her in posting book goodies every Saturday. I’m thrilled to be part of this mad fun!

This week’s Snippet is HOLIDAYS! My favorite time of year is Fall and Winter when we celebrate the holiday season with our families. And because of this, I chose to post bits from a story where our heroine, Melaniece, is spending the holidays with her kids…and an unexpected guest.

Enjoy this snippet from Forever December, then be sure to visit all the Snippet Saturday authors via the links at the bottom of the post.

With dinner done and dishes cleared, Denise and Melvin decorated the seven-and-a-half-foot real pine Christmas tree they’d picked up in town earlier. An overstuffed Melaniece slid onto the floor in front of the fireplace and watched them at play. Her fingers sank into the thick pile of the sheepskin rug as she lay on her back and moaned with a lopsided smile plastered on her face. Dinner had been fabulous. Denise had made Shrimp Creole with Dirty Rice and Melvin had whipped up a peach cobbler made with homemade butter crust. Oh god, she was so full, all she could do was lie there, soak in the warmth of the fire and hope she didn’t explode. But hell, if she did blow up she’d die fat and happy. Heh!

When the doorbell sounded, she didn’t move from her warm spot on the floor. Besides, she had a good idea who it was and secretly wished the cockeyed nosy neighbor would just leave her customary Christmas cookies on the porch and leave.

“Get that, will you Denny?” Melaniece drawled sleepily, eyes half-closed. The soft footfalls of her daughter’s bare feet, the quiet click of the deadbolt and easy swish of the front door opening reached her ears. She waited to hear Denise’s “thank you for the gift, Mrs. Orley”. A few moments passed but the neighbor wasn’t calling out her customary holiday greeting, nor was Denise giving her usual Merry Christmas to whoever was at the door.

She definitely knew something was going on when the little hairs on the back of her neck joined her stomach in an out-of-the-blue spastic butterfly dance. Melaniece cracked open one eye and looked toward the door.

Two large suitcases sat in the middle of her now snow-covered foyer floor and Denise, who was doing a fabulous job of completely ignoring her, thus avoiding her stare of doom, helped a bundled, but familiar-looking, form out of a thick parka.

Melaniece glanced over at her son and froze. If the boy wanted her to believe nothing was out of the ordinary, his ear-splitting grin pretty much gave him away. But whatever it was, he wasn’t telling.

She watched layers of clothing fall away from the person. A jacket, sweater, snow pants and boots had been hiding a wide, solid-looking back, thick muscular thighs and an ass that couldn’t possibly belong to a mere mortal. Successfully swallowing the lump growing in her throat, Melaniece sat up, both mouth and eyes wide. Oh lord, had the kids ordered her a stripper? Woo, what a hunk!

Said hunk turned to face her and snatched a knit cap off his disheveled head to reveal tastefully cut auburn hair, startling green eyes and sinfully full lips.

“Holy. Shit,” Melaniece whispered.

Michael Bannon walked into her living room, eyeing her like the cat who’d swallowed the canary…or in this case, the partridge in the pear tree.

Snippet Saturday Authors
Rhian Cahill
Leah Braemel
Mari Carr
Shiloh Walker
McKenna Jeffries
Taige Crenshaw
HelenKay Dimon
Lauren Dane
Jody Wallace

Snippet Saturday – Winter Wonderland

‘Tis the season to snuggle up in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea, some good food, and an even better book. The only thing that could make the season more perfect is…SNOW!

I used to live in Colorado and I must admit, snow is gorgeous to look at and play in for awhile…and that’s about it ;D  However, in Carinian’s Seeker (Vampire Council of Ethics Bk 1) our heroine and her alpha vampire lover found that snow was good for all kinds of other interesting…things. To find out, you’ll have to read the book, but let’s say this sweet scene leads up to something more scorching hot than the hot chocolate Carin is enjoying *grin*.

Enjoy this Snippet and be sure to visit all the other marvelous authors via the links at the bottom of this post. Merry Christmas!

Excerpt from Carinian’s Seeker, Vampire Council of Ethics Bk 1
Kindle | Nook

The sun had just begun its rise over the eastern mountains when Bix tiptoed into their bedroom, bundled Carin up and carried her outside.

The entire place was a winter wonderland sitting on endless acres of gently sloped, snow-covered hills with a nice mix of trees and open space overlooking Smith Lake. In the distance, white peaks of the Rocky Mountains could be seen. Carin felt like a kid at Christmas. Having grown up in San Francisco, gone to college and started her career in the same city, she’d never seen snow. And San Diego certainly wasn’t a place known for the fluffy cold stuff. As they walked, Bix pointed out the estate’s private golf course down the hill and off in the distance, promising to teach her to play if they were still in residence here come spring. She kind of hoped not, preferring to learn to ride horses on his estate rather than trudging across the greens playing golf. She just couldn’t get over it—vampires played golf and rode horses. Real country-clubbers.

The only sound was the soft crunch of Bix’s boots in the snow as he moved at a leisurely pace in consideration of her sore bones and achy, but healing, body. The main house was at a good distance but visible when he stopped at an open-topped gazebo surrounded by towering evergreens. Bix set her on her feet, and Carin stepped inside and surveyed their haven in awe. Instead of wood flooring, the inside of the shelter was all snow-covered grass covered by a tarp and piles of thick, soft blankets. Her mouth watered at the delicious aroma wafting up from a large breakfast basket perched on one of the sturdy benches built into the wall of the gazebo. Her man had been plenty busy this morning.

The clear, jewel-blue sky was visible through the top of the structure. She’d have to come out here at night with a telescope and view the stars, well once Bix let her out of his sight. In a word, the spot was perfect, beautifully secluded, and an ideal place to enjoy a bit of privacy.

She removed her shoes and Bix shooed her into the middle of the very comfortable, extremely thick pallet. After tossing her an even thicker blanket to cover herself, he set the breakfast basket within arm’s reach and lit a blazing fire in an oversized sunken pit smack in the middle of the shelter. She smiled behind his back. The man had thought of everything. Food, warmth and a ton of soft down pillows made it nice to be outside in spite of the bone-chilling cold. Her insides went all fuzzy when he tossed a huge chunk of cured wood into the pit and looked over his shoulder with a mix of care and naughtiness in his one-sided grin.

“You comfy, sweetheart?” Bix inquired as he toed off his boots and joined her under the covers. She nodded but kept her eyes on the flicker of building flames blasting waves of welcome heat to where she reclined buried under the blankets. Her thoughts were surprisingly quiet. This was the first time she’d been out of bed in more than a week, and given her scrape with death she couldn’t believe how calm she felt. Death scared her more than anything, yet here she was, stitched wounds and all, just as happy and content as you please. Bix kept the companionable silence. Retrieving a large thermos from the basket, he poured her a mug of steaming hot chocolate.

Scooting back to lean against one of the little benches, she sipped the steaming brew with a contented sigh. Bix passed her a flaky raspberry pastry made especially for her as a get-well-soon gift from the resident chefs. A fresh banana and another cup of hot chocolate finished her off. Mmm, she couldn’t remember the last time something this simple tasted so yummy.

Snippet Saturday Authors
Lauren Dane
Rhian Cahill
Eliza Gayle
Selena Blake
Anne Rainey
Jody Wallace
Lissa Matthews
Mari Carr
McKenna Jeffries
Myla Jackson
Taige Crenshaw
Alison Kent
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Shelli Stevens
Shiloh Walker

Smutketeers, baby!

In honor of my new Christmas release, Forever December, on December 14th I’ll be hanging out with the Smutketeers for their 12 days of Xmas extravaganza. I’m so totally excited because I’ll be sharing the day with the marvelous Michelle Pillow and Mandy Roth! Woooo!

Be sure to catch my post that day because in addition to hot hunky winter vampires, I’m going to tell you how to make Shrimp Creole. It’s a dish I grew up loving thanks to my Louisiana grandmother. If you make this particular nom-nom, be sure to tell me how it turned out. AND, if you’re going to the Authors After Dark convention in New Orleans, let’s hook up there for sure!

Can you handle…a Forever December?
Coming December 14th

TJ

Snippet Saturday Holiday Hotness


This week’s theme is holidays. I just LOVE the fall holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Winter Solstice, New Years. *happy sigh* Be sure to visit all the other fab authors via the links after the excerpts. Enjoy!


Gift Wrap Optional is the story of Melaniece and Michael, two lovers who’d had an opportunity to live happily ever after…until he decided to marry Melaniece’s best friend years ago. Now Michael is back and he’s decided that he is going to be Melaniece’s Christmas present, him…and his fangs.

EXCERPT from GIFT WRAP: OPTIONAL
By TJ Michaels, Copyright 2006
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Available in trade paperback or eBook

Melaniece Matthews muttered to herself, carefully navigating the icy winding road leading up to the high country.

“Man, what a weird dream. Michael, a vampire?” The same strange dream plagued her at least twice a week for the past six months. They’d started immediately after she’d returned from a short trip home to California. It had been so good to see her friends and family after being away for eight years. And beyond lovely to see Michael Bannon again—the man she’d always loved. And, sigh, the man who’d seen her as just a great friend. Instead of marrying her, he’d hooked up with someone else, a woman named Janna. The end result? Six years of hell on earth for him. And now he haunted her in her sleep.

While Melaniece could admit she’d thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with him after so many years, she sure as hell wasn’t going to admit he’d been on her mind ever since. Her dream crept around the edges of her mind. “What if he is a vampire?” she smirked to herself, a sarcastically evil grin plastered across her lips. “That would explain why he ripped my heart out by marrying Janna. There’d certainly been plenty of blood to go around.”

Peering through the cold, clear windshield, Melaniece grimaced as her thoughts turned to her favorite holiday. Instead of the usual elation about Christmas, she was assailed with a mix of emotions she couldn’t quite nail down. There was the thrill of spending time with her children after a whole year of separation, chased by a longing for intimate companionship so acute she found herself on the verge of tears. Then, right there at the back of her mind was an elusive sense of naughty anticipation. But for what? A good lay? Not likely. She had no prospects and no interest in hunting for any. Michael’s handsome face popped into her head complete with fangs and a roguish grin, just like in her dream. Damn, she could practically feel the gorgeous, redheaded hunk making love with her as his incisors rasped over her skin. Yep, right there on the big sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace. Perfect spot.

“Hah, right!” she laughed with an unmistakable snort and waved the image away. But her breathing quickened in spite of a refusal to acknowledge the fine-assed man with fangs dancing around in her head. Give it a minute and her pulse would return to normal, right? Woo, she needed to turn off the heat. In spite of the freezing cold, the car was hot as hell. After a quick glance down at the console, she rolled her eyes up to the roof of the car. The damned heat wasn’t even turned on!

“Good grief, I’m hopeless,” she quietly grumbled. And it was all her dream man’s fault. Key word—dream. First off, she’d long given up hope in that quarter. Second, there was no such thing as vampires. So Michael was single again. Big deal. They’d had a great time reuniting in California six months ago. Who cared? None of it meant he wanted her now any more than he had eight years before.

With the car packed full of wrapped packages and luggage, Melaniece focused on the upcoming holiday. A glimpse at the pile of boxes in the backseat brought a small smile as she reminded herself this was a season to give generously to those you loved…and those who loved you back. And boy was she prepared to do just that.

Her children had spent the past year in an exchange program teaching English in Japan. It was amazingly expensive to live on the exotic little island. With most of their meager salaries going toward rent, groceries and train fare, the two had gone without some conveniences. When they returned to Minato-ku, a suburb of Tokyo, they’d sure as hell take lots of top-of-the-line goodies with them. Nothing but the best for her kids.

Christmas Day was fast approaching. She looked into the rearview mirror and spoke sharply to the woman reflected in the narrow glass.

“Okay you,” she said to herself. “No more goofy dreams, no more wasting time mooning over someone you can’t have and no more vampire nonsense. It’s Christmas and you’re gonna accept whatever Santa decides to give you. Got it?”

Got it. She popped a classic holiday CD into the player and hummed along with “Santa Baby”. With genuine laughter, Melaniece let Nat King Cole chase away her blues as she headed up the highway to her vacation home to meet her family. Up there among the snow-capped peaks, the long-toothed boogeyman was not allowed, no matter how yummy he looked in her sleep, damn it.

*****

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 kanji symbols and a pair of black pants practically tackled her before she’d cleared the car door.

“Hi, Mom!” Denise screeched.

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-colored 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, turning his cocoa-colored skin a shade more reminiscent of a caramel-covered apple!

“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 them—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!

*****

With dinner done and dishes cleared, Denise and Melvin decorated the seven-and-a-half-foot real pine Christmas tree they’d picked up in town earlier. An overstuffed Melaniece slid onto the floor in front of the fireplace and watched them at play. Her fingers sank into the thick pile of the sheepskin rug as she lay on her back and moaned with a lopsided smile plastered on her face. Dinner had been fabulous. Denise had made Shrimp Creole with Dirty Rice and Melvin had whipped up a peach cobbler made with homemade butter crust. Oh god, she was so full, all she could do was lie there, soak in the warmth of the fire and hope she didn’t explode. But hell, she’d die fat and happy.

When the doorbell sounded, she didn’t move from her warm spot on the floor. Besides, she had a good idea who it was and secretly wished the cockeyed nosy neighbor would just leave her customary Christmas cookies on the porch and leave.

“Get that, will you Denny?” Melaniece drawled sleepily, eyes half-closed. The soft footfalls of her daughter’s bare feet, the quiet click of the deadbolt and easy swish of the front door opening reached her ears. She waited to hear Denise’s “thank you for the gift, Mrs. Orley”. A few moments passed but the neighbor wasn’t calling out her customary holiday greeting, nor was Denise giving her usual Merry Christmas to whoever was at the door.

She definitely knew something was going on when the little hairs on the back of her neck joined her stomach in an out-of-the-blue spastic butterfly dance. Melaniece cracked open one eye and looked toward the door.

Two large suitcases sat in the middle of her now snow-covered foyer floor and Denise, who was doing a fabulous job of completely ignoring her, thus avoiding her stare of doom, helped a bundled, but familiar-looking, form out of a thick parka.

Melaniece glanced over at her son and froze. If the boy wanted her to believe nothing was out of the ordinary, his ear-splitting grin pretty much gave him away. But whatever it was, he wasn’t telling.

She watched layers of clothing fall away from the person. A jacket, sweater, snow pants and boots had been hiding a wide, solid-looking back, thick muscular thighs and an ass that couldn’t possibly belong to a mere mortal. Successfully swallowing the lump growing in her throat, Melaniece sat up, both mouth and eyes wide. Oh, lord! Had the kids ordered her a stripper? Woo, what a hunk!

The hunk turned to face her and snatched a knit cap off his disheveled head to reveal tastefully cut auburn hair, startling green eyes and sinfully full lips.

“Holy. Shit,” Melaniece whispered.

Michael Bannon walked into her living room, eyeing her like the cat who’d swallowed the canary…or in this case, the partridge in the pear tree.

Enjoy snippets from these awesomely fantabulous authors!


Michelle Pillow
Mandy Roth
Anya Bast
Lacey Savage
Jaci Burton
McKenna Jeffries
Moira Rogers
TJ Michaels
Taige Crenshaw
Vivian Arend
Jody Wallace
Ashley Ladd
Shelli Stevens
Shelley Munro

Holiday Hotties and Merry Christmas

Thank you to all who joined us at the Holiday Hottie chat on December 19th. It was a load of fun. And now, HOLIDAY HOTTIES is done! The two grand prize winners will be announced on Monday, December 22, 2008. Stay tuned!

I’m giving books this year which, believe it or not, is something I’ve never done. If you’re doing the same here are some links to make it easier.


MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

TJ
www.tjmichaels.com