Summer Book Party with Authors 18!!

Please join me and the debut authors 18 group to celebrate the release of our summer books! We’ll be getting together on Facebook for a few hours to talk about the books and giveaway prizes.

When: June 18, 2018

What Time: 6:30-9:30 EDT

Where: Summer Reading List Party!

2018 Debut Romance: Check out these exciting and fresh new voices!

From contemporary to historical to time-travel, from sweet to hot and steamy to inspirational… if you’re looking for love stories, Authors18 debut writers have what you need!

Interview with Maddison Michaels, debut author of THE DEVILISH DUKE

The Devilish Duke

Historical Romantic Suspense

26th February 2018, Entangled Publishing

Minerva Spencer: Today I’m chatting with Maddison Michaels about her new Victorian novel, THE DEVILISH DUKE. Welcome, Maddison! Would you please give my readers a brief description of what the book is about?

Devlin Markham, the notorious “Devil Duke” of Huntington, needs a woman. And not just any woman. If he can’t woo one of the most eccentric bluestockings of the Ton within the month, he can kiss his hard-earned fortune goodbye. But he’s always thought love a wasted emotion and marriage an inconvenience at best. And oddly enough, Lady Sophie Wolcott seems unmoved by his charm…

When Sophie learns her beloved orphanage is in imminent danger, she will do anything to save it. Even marry a ruthless rake who takes what he wants in business and pleasure. A man who’s everything she’s always feared most—but whom she reluctantly begins yearning for.

Then Sophie becomes the target of a killer lurking from the dark shadows of Devlin’s past. And they find not only their lives in jeopardy but their very hearts.

This sounds like fun, Maddison! How about a teaser from your book.

“Hadn’t you heard? I am the Devil Duke, my very existence is blasphemous. Now run along or I will show you just how much of a devil I can be.”


Minerva Spencer: Where did you get the idea for your book?

Maddison Michaels: I think the characters first came to me – and I was watching Julian McMahon in Charmed and I liked the idea of a rake being reformed.


MS: What’s the story behind the title?

Originally the working title was The Rake’s Rules – but then I changed it to The Devil Duke, and then my Publisher changed it to The Devilish Duke.


MS: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Sophie literally falls at the feet of the Devil Duke from the branch of a tree…


MS: Tell us about your favourite character.

I love both Devlin and Sophie… they’re very special to me and I imagine that as the first hero and heroine of my first novel, they always will be.


MS: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

LOL! Ok well it would be with the hero Devlin, and I would be researching if the descriptions in my book regarding the action scenes, worked…


MS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

Like I mentioned, the inspiration for Devlin was Julian McMahon from Charmed, but apart from that, they sprang from my own imagination.


MS: How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It was done in spurts – and because the partial earned me a spot in the RWA Australia 5 day mentor program, I had to finish it quick smart. So I actually wrote about 30,000 words in a weekend to finish it off (of course it needed lots and lots of editing, lol).

MS: What kind of research did you do for this book?

I have a heap of research books (really what writer doesn’t), which I made good use of.

MS: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

A few scenes from the villains pov were removed, and a couple were shortened.

MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter – if I don’t have a detailed outline I flounder, but when I know where I’m headed (much like a map) the writing flows easily.

MS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I love the plotting – coming up with the twists and turns, is just so much fun. Plus I get to know my characters really well.

MS: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Editing… because it’s editing…


MS: Can you share your writing routine? 

When I’m writing a novel, I spend about an hour per night writing, and then on the weekend I try to have a nice block of 6-8 hours writing.


MS: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes, when I don’t have an outline, lol. So when I’m blocked, it’s usually because I haven’t fleshed out the scene beforehand. To overcome this, I just go back and plot the scene out in more detail.


MS: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Just keep going.

 

MS: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have a fair few unfinished ones – in my earlier days when I didn’t plot out the novel, I would write all steam ahead, until I hit around 15,000 to 20,000 words, then I wouldn’t know where to go, and I’d just stop. Thankfully, I’ve worked out what works now for me.


MS: Do you have any writing quirks?

I make up a playlist/soundtrack for my novel, before I even start plotting it out. Then when plotting I listen to the music, and then when I write, it gets me straight back into that headspace. Oh and I also burn some lovely aromatherapy oils while I write too.

 

MS: Tell us about yourself.

I’m a police prosecutor by day and writer by night! I am married to my wonderful husband and have a beautiful (yet rather headstrong) 6 year old daughter.

MS: How did you get into writing?

I caught the writing bug when I was eleven and entered a writing competition. It’s just something that is a part of me.

MS: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Hang out with my family. Read. Go for walks or bike rides.

MS: Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

Nope, not yet anyway.

MS: Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I hate sharks – probably because I watched JAWS when I was 4 years old…

MS: Which book influenced you the most?

All of Amanda Quick’s novels and Julie Garwood’s – my two fav historical romance writers.

MS: What are you working on right now?

A new three book Victorian series – with some really strong and unusual heroines.

 

Thank you for joining us, Maddison! You can order your copy of Maddison’s new book from the links below. Happy reading!

Book Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon Aus: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B079LF6NTV

Amazon Can: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B079LF6NTV

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-devilish-duke/id1344891465?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-devilish-duke-4

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Maddison_Michaels_The_Devilish_Duke?id=k35KDwAAQBAJ

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devilish-duke-maddison-michaels/1127921821?ean=9781640633438

Indoctrinated into a world of dashing rogues and feisty heroines when she was only 14-years-old, Maddison Michaels is a prolific reader and writer of romantic suspense and historical fiction. She gets her daily dose of suspense from working as a Police officer, prosecuting real life villains in the Local Courts of Sydney, Australia.
A member of the Romance Writers of America and Australia, Maddison is as passionate about her writing as she is about her other two loves; her family and her cups of tea. Maddison’s debut novel ‘the Devil Duke’ is due for publication with Entangled Publishing in February 2018, and her second novel ‘The Fiancé Fiasco’ is due for publication with Entangled Publishing in October 2018.

You can find Maddison online at www.maddisonmichaels.com.au

Website: http://maddisonmichaels.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaddisonMichaelsAuthor/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/mmichaelsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maddisonmichaelsauthor/
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17367583.Maddison_Michaels

Amazon Author Page : https://www.amazon.com/Maddison-Michaels/e/B079LXRLQ7

Interview with author Elena Mikalsen: Wrapped in the Stars

Today I’m chatting with author Elena Mikalsen about her debut novel, Wrapped in the Stars. First, a little about Elena’s debut, women’s fiction which will be published by Wild Rose Press February 19, 2018.

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Struggling with guilt over her sister’s death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. Curious about the ring, she follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I. In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?

Below is a little teaser from the book:

He took her hand gently and led her away from the window and onto the crowded ballroom floor. Her heart was beating wildly. It had been years since she attempted to dance at a ball. She had always been terrible at dancing and swore she’d never do it again. She hadn’t had to, either, since going to the university. Why did she agree to dance now? What was she thinking?

The music started. She felt his hand slide gently around her waist. Suddenly, she was flying on the dance floor, despite her clumsy feet and her terrible, heavy dress.

“You deceived me. You’re a great dancer,” Edward whispered in her ear, his mustache tickling her and his breath warming her neck.


Minerva Spencer: Let’s talk about where you got the idea for Wrapped in the Stars?

Elena Mikalsen:  I got the idea when I was in Edinburgh with my family. I stood in front of the antique shop (the picture of the exact shop is below). It was dark, cold, and misty. My feet very terribly achy from a day of walking on cobblestones. My husband said, “Do you want to go warm up in this store? The jewelry here looks like something you’d like to buy.” It was a tempting idea, as cold as we all were.

And then I shuddered as a thought occurred to me. What if I buy an antique jewelry item and it has memories of its owner attached to it? What if those memories then attach to me and change my life? I looked at my perfect family and shook my head. I didn’t want someone else’s memories. I was happy with mine, no matter how achy my feet were.

But this idea of memories transferring from people to objects wouldn’t leave me alone. And this book was born just a month after

MS: What’s the story behind the title?

EM: I came up with the idea based on the song I listened to often as I wrote Maya’s character. The song is by Ed Sheeran and it’s “All of the Stars.” Stars represent destiny and fate and this novel is about destiny and fate. The stories of men and women in this story are neatly wrapped around together with fate.

MS: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

EM: The story features Lenin, the famous Russian Revolutionary, who happened to plan the Russian Revolution as he resided in Bern at the time that my characters lived and fell in love there.

MS: Tell us about your favourite character.

EM: I love both of my women, even though they are very different from each other. Maya is a modern physician, who grew up after losing most of her family. Even though she is a modern woman, she struggles to be strong and stand up to others and know what she wants. However, she finds her voice and strength in the end, she just needed some time. Rebecca is a woman from Edwardian times, surrounded by protective family members, yet she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it and is the finest physicians and advocate for women in Bern.

MS: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

EM: I would spend a day with Rebecca in her clinic for women, helping her treat underprivileged women and children.

MS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

EM: Mark is a character based on my great-grandfather who came from Ukraine to study medicine in Switzerland. Maya’s grandmother is based on my grandmother.

MS: Let’s talk about how long it took to write this book? 

EM: It took me 3 years.

MS: What kind of research did you do?

EM: I studied many biographies written by women and men who studied medicine in Swiss Universities at the time Rebecca studied medicine. I also read biographies by first women physicians to learn of the struggles they had in medicine and what kind of work they chose to do. I read about WWI and Swiss history. I read Lenin’s biography as written by his wife. I read books about Ukraine during WWI, even though I grew up in the country and knew quite a bit.

MS: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

EM: Several chapters about Maya’s life in Ukraine.

MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

EM: I am very organized in my writing, with many charts. But I start by just writing all my ideas down. So, I am a mix.

MS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

EM: When I fall in love with my characters and they start telling me their stories all the time and I can’t stop writing. I can write almost all day long at that point.

MS: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

EM: I work full-time and I often don’t have enough time to write.

MS: Can you share your writing routine?

EM: I write early in the morning, usually at 6 am to 8 am. I also write late at night. 8 pm and until I can’t stay awake again. I write most of my weekends.

MS: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

EM: I struggle to write in December, because I usually wear myself out during NaNoWriMo (The National Novel Writing Month, during which you write every single day).

MS: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

EM: Don’t let your insecurity stop you from writing. I was afraid to write for many years because I thought my grammar was poor. I didn’t know there was editing software and there were editors around.

MS: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

EM: I have 2 half-written books right now that I am working on.

MS: Do you have any writing quirks?

EM: I have to have music on when I write. It’s soundtracks that I put together for each novel I write.

Thanks for joining me, Elena and congratulations on your debut!

DSC_9719-Edit

Elena’s Bio:

I am a debut Women’s Fiction author. My first novel, WRAPPED IN THE STARS, will be released in February of 2018. It was short-listed for the Del Sol First Novel Prize in 2017. I am somewhat obsessive about travel, but, when I am at home, in San Antonio, I can be found browsing through bookstores or antique shops with my husband and two children.

When not writing stories, I am a Pediatric Psychologist helping children with chronic medical illness. I write books about women who have a chance to change their lives. My stories take place in the United States, in Europe, in cities, in small towns, anywhere my characters take me. I blog on issues of mental health for teens and adults. I enjoy working with the media due to my expertise in managing anxiety, stress, and parenting issues. I provide consultation to authors on writing about mental health. My nonfiction writing can be found at https://www.drelenamikalsen.com


If you’d like to learn more about Elena or her book or get your hands on a copy, you can check out one of the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elena.mikalsen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WF_writerEM

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writer.mikalsen/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/elenamikalsen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17629655.Elena_Mikalsen

Yay! I’ve sold a 4th book to Kensington Zebra!

I’ve known about the sale of my 4th book, NOTORIOUS, for a while but I’ve had to wait until all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed before I could spread the good word.  My agent Jessica Alvarez just announced the deal in Publishers Weekly so now I can celebrate the good news!!

Here is the PW blurb:

Minerva Spencer’s NOTORIOUS, a Regency Era romance and Book 4 in the Outcasts series, in which one man discovers that a London Season is even more dangerous than being a sultan’s heir, to Alicia Condon at Kensington, in a nice deal, for publication in Late 2019, by Jessica Alvarez at BookEnds (World).

The four books in the series and their publication dates are:

DANGEROUS June 2018

BARBAROUS November 2018

SCANDALOUS 2019

NOTORIOUS 2019

I’ll be posting more information as it becomes available.

Cheers,

Minerva

Book Review: Forbidden by Faith, Negeen Papehn

Forbidden by Faith (Forbidden Love, #1)Forbidden by Faith by Negeen Papehn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb on the back of this book does not do the story between the covers justice.

Forbidden by Faith isn’t only a love story, it’s also the story of young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Sara has her plate full: pharmacy school, loving–but demanding–traditional Persian parents and family, and two hot, forbidden men who are both willing to fight for her.

The author kept me guessing and I loved not knowing how this story was going to end. Papehn also did a stellar job of depicting Sara’s struggle to find the truth while those around her are busily pursuing their own agendas.

Sara walks a fine line of being an American, a Persian, and a woman who is her own person, regardless of labels or her family’s or society’s expectations.

Papehn tells Sara’s story in a clean, fast-paced, direct fashion that is compelling without sacrificing beautiful, intelligent, and often amusing prose.

Here are a few examples:

“There was a warmth about him that felt like fingers wrapped around a hot cup of tea on a cold day.”

“Persian women were a special breed, possessing certain ironclad strength. They never showed weakness. . . . Absolutely no one considered therapy, unless they were clinically insane.”

And then there were the descriptions of food, which left me so hungry I was ready to gnaw off my arm. I LOVE Persian food and it was torture to read about it and have no Persian mother here to cook for me.

Anyhow, I loved the book–starting from the very first page. The prologue, which was clever, made the story even more fun and interesting to read (you’ll need to read the book to see what I mean!)

5 stars

View all my reviews

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

Match Made in ManhattanMatch Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Match Made in Manhattan (MMM from now on) took me on a journey down “Memory Lane” and back into my own past.

I kicked off my dating years back in the ’80s, when there were no cell phones (horrors!) and people were pretty much out of control when it came to sex, drinking (drive-in liquor stores!) and drugs.

The story Stauffer tells in her book could hardly be more different than what I experienced. Even so, there are definite parallels between dating in the 80s and dating in 2015 (or so), and I think that is where the magic in this book lies–the commonalities of the dating scene that bridge age or era. I swear, I dated the older brothers (or uncles) of some of Allison’s duds….

Anyhow, here’s the story: Allison–our protag– isn’t out for a good time and NSA sex; she is looking for a mate. But although she has a “The Pants Stay On” approach to dating, Allison doesn’t come off as a prude or judgmental, instead she is mature, focused, and decisive about what she wants in a guy.  I mean she is VERY mature and focused and I found her approach to dating fascinating to read about as it is so utterly different than my own.

Interspersed between her various dates are interesting details about her job, which is certainly a conversation starter: she is an architectural conservator. Her job (well, her boss) and the attendant stresses are a big part of the story, and the reader gets more than just a series of amusing dating vignettes–they get a thoughtfully crafted tale of her life and who she is.

I think the comps on the book blurb may do this book a disservice. I’ve never seen the reality TV show The Bachelor so I can’t say whether that is accurate, but I have read TBJ Diaries and I would say MMM is a more serious “slice of life” with humorous moments and incidents. Unlike Bridget Jones, Allison is not a drinking, smoking, weight-obsessed woman consumed with finding a man and I respect the way she conducts her friendships, career, and relationships.

While she maintains her standards throughout the book I did enjoy her changing attitude and approach to dating and her dates as the bloom slowly comes off the rose (don’t want to spoil the ending, which is not what I expected…)

NYC is one of my favorite cities and Stauffer works the City into the story almost like another character. At times the role NYC played made me think of another story about single women and their different approaches to men/life/love/careers in NYC. (Go ahead, guess!)

I found myself turning pages late into the night, eagerly reading about each date and wondering where it would go. Rooting for some of the guys, shaking my head in disbelief at others (my favorite out of all the dates was Brandon. What the hell was THAT all about?!)

Anyhow, I hugely enjoyed my journey into Allison’s life, which made me think back on things in my own life I haven’t thought about for years.

A fun page-turner and great debut.

View all my reviews

Interview with Sandi Ward, author of THE ASTONISHING THING

Today I’m interviewing fellow Kensington author Sandi Ward, who has joined me to talk about her new book.

Hi Sandi! I understand the narrator of The Astonishing Thing is somewhat. . . unusual. Can you tell me about it?

The narrator of this story is a cat! Her name is Boo. I decided to write a story from a cat’s point of view as she tries to solve a mystery. In this case, Boo’s human mother goes out one day and doesn’t return. Boo wants to know: what happened to my mother?

As I wrote more of the story, I realized that Boo’s point-of-view was similar to that of a perceptive child. She understands a lot of what’s going on with her humans—but not everything. Boo doesn’t know much about mental illness, or divorce, or what exactly is wrong with the baby of the family. So the reader must go on a journey with Boo, piecing together clues until the truth becomes clear.

I have to ask: Is there romance in your novel?

Absolutely! Although my story is general fiction and I write about families, I love stories with romance. I have never written a story that didn’t include a romantic relationship at its’ core.

To my narrator, Boo, the need to find a mate is completely normal and natural. At the same time, Boo finds the mating rituals of humans very amusing. She thinks people are funny and quirky, and she can’t always figure out what people are attracted to, and why.

In her family, Boo also gets to see up close what devotion truly is about: sacrifice, the willingness to look the other way sometimes, and forgiveness. And even then, no one is guaranteed a happy-ever-after. In real life, sometimes “happy for now” is good enough.

Here is Boo on the cover of Sandi’s book:

the astonishing thing copy_March 2017.jpg

Why did you name the cat Boo?

First of all, I just think it’s a very cute name for a cat. It’s simple and sweet.

I also had in mind Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird. He’s another character who is housebound and very quiet, but impacts a story at important moments.

The humans in the story have other nicknames for Boo, like Cutie and Sweetie. Because I’m a J.K. Rowling fan, the character Jimmy (a teenager) also sometimes calls the cat  “Crookshanks”. Boo doesn’t get the reference, of course. She has no idea who Harry Potter is, and couldn’t care less.

ABOUT THE ASTONISHING THING:

In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .

Pet owners know that a cat’s loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie—or Mother, as Boo calls her—suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie’s husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo’s human siblings, especially baby Finn.

Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she’s trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat—a wise, observant, very determined cat—can do that . . .

Wonderfully tender and insightful, THE ASTONISHING THING explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.

“A unique and poignant tale of a family’s struggle as witnessed by someone who sees everything…a triumphant debut for Sandi Ward.”

— Helen Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Cleo

FIND THE ASTONISHING THING AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER, OR:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

ABOUT SANDI

Sandi Ward grew up in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts. She attended Tufts University, and received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University, where she studied with E.L. Doctorow. She now lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, teenagers, dog and a big black cat named Winnie. Sandi is a medical writer at an ad agency in New Jersey, specializing in psychiatry and pain management.

Her first novel for Kensington Books is titled THE ASTONISHING THING, and it is available October 31, 2017. Her second novel is titled SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, available November 2018.

To learn more about Sandi and STAY IN TOUCH:

Learn more at: www.sandiwardbooks.com

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Read a FREE excerpt of the exciting new release by Kari Lemor, Running Target

An innocent in the crossfire . . .

FBI agent Jack Holland broke every rule in the book falling for the girlfriend of Angelo Cabrini, son of a New Jersey mob boss. But even if Callie Lansing’s relationship to Angelo was actually a cover and her heart was free, her relationship with Jack put both of their lives at risk. Nothing, though, could make Jack regret the liaison that led to the birth of their son, Jonathan.

After Angelo discovered Callie’s pregnancy, he went after Jack and wound up dead. Now Jack is on the run with a target on his back. The only thing keeping Callie and Jonathan safe is the mob boss’s belief that the baby is his grandchild. But if Victor Cabrini discovers the truth before Jack can put him behind bars, it could mean death for his sweet covert family. . . .

Early praise for Running Target

“Thrilling . . . Lemor once again features a dynamite protagonist who’s easily relatable, and her talent for incorporating romance and forgiveness against the odds makes Running Target even more enticing.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Ms. Lemor has delivered a scintillating read in this book where the chemistry was riveting; the secondary characters entertained me just as much as the main ones; and the ending took me completely by surprise.” ~ Book Magic Book Reviews

“Running Target is about finding one’s way back home. It’s about beating the odds when it seems like everything is going against you. And most importantly, it’s about family. I would recommend this for readers who enjoy their romance mixed with a light level of suspense.” ~Harlequin Junkie

Excerpt:

An infant’s cry broke the stillness of the maternity ward as Jack crept through the hallway. He looked toward the nursery. Should he go there first or to where Callie was? The room was less risky and he needed to see her. Assure himself she was okay.

The door was ajar so he slipped through, closing it enough to allow a sliver of light to filter in. He made out the petite shape of the sleeping woman then saw the bassinet next to her. His breath left his body. The baby was here with her.

Stepping closer, he looked down on the clear container, the blue tag proclaiming this child to be a boy. Squinting in the dim light, he read the words. Mother’s name: Callina Lansing. Baby: Jonathan.

Jonathan. She’d named the baby after him. A lump clogged his throat. A son. Damn. He had a son and wouldn’t be able to get to know him, see him grow, share in his life. This fucking world was too cruel at times.

He shouldn’t take the chance but he needed to hold him. It was vital that he touch the life he and Callie had created. He wanted—no needed—to let his child know how much he loved him. The powerful emotion emanated from his heart even as he gazed down at the tiny figure. How could love grow this fast? His first glimpse was only a second ago. Now the feeling consumed him.

Reaching down, he stroked the side of his son’s face. The baby turned his head, his bow-shaped lips opening slightly. Jack’s heart beat faster. The protective instincts that had always come into play when he was around Callie, throbbed to life and expanded as he gazed at the sweet face of his son. Heat like an electric storm surged through his blood. How could he protect this child in his current situation? He’d bring more danger upon him if he hung around. Eight months of running, trying to escape the long arm of Victor Cabrini, had shown him what hell was. Now he glimpsed a small piece of heaven.

He slid his hands under the infant, lifting him from the bed to hold him close. Jonathan barely weighed anything. His heart constricted yet again. The innocent baby scent wafted into his nostrils and he blinked back the moisture filling his eyes. The reaction was primitive and territorial. This was his son.

Their child’s eyes opened but no cry erupted so Jack relaxed. It shook him to the core knowing Callie had named the baby after him. After deserting her she had every right to hate him. As much as he hated himself. Leaving her hadn’t been in his plans but the choice had been ripped away from him. It had taken a while to recover from the stabbing. Then the fuck-up by the Bureau had happened.

He stared again at the unfocused eyes of his son, his forehead touching that of the infant’s. Kissing his face, he absorbed every little facet he could. Who knew if he’d ever see him again.

Gazing at the sleeping woman, her innocent face relaxed in slumber, caused more pain to rip through his heart. Her dark hair, streaked with natural reds and golds, was a riot of curls that framed her peaceful face. Long lashes fanned over high cheekbones, highlighting the lovely structure of her eyes. His beautiful Calico Cat.

Had the pregnancy and labor been hard? She must have looked amazing, all round and filled with his child. Regret tore through him, anger warring with that emotion. Anger that his life had been stolen from him. He’d been fighting to get it back, but didn’t seem any closer now than he’d been eight months ago.

Jonathan let out a small mewing sound and Jack snuggled him close. “I’m right here, pal. I might not be around much but I wanted to let you know…I love you very much.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I’m your Dad.”

He had a son. Was now a father. But he couldn’t be a father—not in the way that it mattered. He’d swore he’d be better than his dad. But this—he’d be worse. As it began to sink in, his hands shook with the enormity of the situation.

A noise from Callie drew his eyes to the bed. She shouldn’t see him. It was too dangerous. Still he wasn’t ready to give up holding his son quite yet. You might as well rip his heart from his chest and throw it on the floor.

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