My first book release in three years, how I’m feeling about it, all the cake and #campnanowrimo

Meet Zeke KNight

This week marked my first book release in 3 years. Sinful (Knights of Hell MC #1) came out Wednesday, and I’ve been going through a barrage of emotions. It’s amazing and wonderful and scary as hell.

I’m super excited because it’s the first book I’ve put out in 2-3 years. During that time, so much has happened in my personal life – illness, my Mom being sick, moving house, etc. I never thought I’d been able to finish anything again. But I DID. And it’s out there, in the world, and people are reading it. I celebrated with a special cake because, come on, the occasion definitely calls for cake (or as my husband would say, any excuse for cake in my eyes).

you can never haveenough

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who pre-ordered, reviewed, purchased or promoted Sinful in the last few days. You are awesome and I can’t thank you enough for all the support.

As well as excitement, there have been moments of sheer terror. Oh god, I have a book out in the world. What will people think? Are they going to like it? Wow, there is so much to do from editing, to marketing, to uploading the book, to creating ARCs and finding readers…Not to mention the weeks I’ve spent arguing with Amazon about Sinful being a romance. They don’t agree and have labelled it “erotic romance”, so it’s not visible when people search for “contemporary romance” or “biker MC romance” 😦

The last time I really published anything, I had a publishing house behind me. Now I’m doing it all by myself. It’s scary and rewarding. I have complete control, which means if it bombs, it’s all on my head.

Like I said, soooo many emotions.

But I am proud of this book. Proud of this trilogy. Zeke and Grace’s story has been with me for 5 years. Yes, 5 long years it’s taken me to write and get their story out there, and I wouldn’t change a thing. They are finally ready to be released into the world, to be shared and (hopefully) swooned over.

As with all my books, Zeke and Grace DO get a HEA, but they have a hell of a ride getting their. Zeke is president of an MC club, so of course there are going to be dangers and pitfalls. The chemistry between Grace and the bad boy biker is off the charts hawt.

If you like steamy romance, bad body bikers and feisty heroines, maybe try Sinful.

There is a sneak peek of chapter one below. Right now I’m going to eat some more cake, make a cup of coffee and continue on with #campnanowrimo. I’m working on a new steamy romance series which I’ll be sharing more about in the coming weeks.

For now, enjoy a peek into Zeke and Grace’s world…

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Chapter One

She wasn’t spying. Technically, spying involved binoculars and stealth. It didn’t involve looking up from a book every five minutes and checking the street. Or so Grace Burton tried to convince herself as she settled further into her window seat.

She was waiting for them.

Grace had only been in town six weeks. Four of them spent in her new house. Most of those nights she’d ended up cozied into her window seat, lights dim enough to still read, spying on the man who lived across the street.

She’d moved here to escape the claustrophobia of New York and the neighborhood was exactly what she needed. Quiet. Suburban.

She never expected someone like him.

A rumble hummed in the distance. The roar of motorcycle engines grew louder as they approached.

She checked the clock. 2.15am. Although they always came back after dark, they were much later tonight. She rolled her eyes, ashamed she’d become so aware of their schedule.

Six gleaming Harley Davidson’s pulled into the large driveway across the street. The male riders removed their helmets. Three of the men were good looking but only one captured her attention, had done from the first night she saw him. From watching them together, she assumed he was their leader.

Despite pulling into the driveway first, he removed his helmet last. He hooked it on the handlebars before swinging one toned thigh over the saddle. With crew-cut dirty blond hair, a chiseled jaw encased in a beard and shoulders a line-backer would kill for, the man commanded attention. He oozed masculinity and projected a dangerous edge that excited Grace.

She couldn’t stop the physical reaction every damn time she saw him. Her heartrate quickened, her nipples tingled and the flesh between her thighs pulsed with unsated desire.

It had been a long time she’d had someone in her bed.

A very long time.

Maybe she was just desperate. Maybe if she had sex, she’d finally stop fantasizing about her neighbor. That’s what she tried to convince herself after she touched herself in the bath and imagined his rough fingers bringing her to orgasm.

God, she was delusional. Who fantasized about having sex with strange man they spied on?

It wasn’t as though he was a complete stranger. From the patches they wore of devil skeletons holding swords, she knew they were a motorcycle club. As a trauma nurse in NYC, she’d treated numerous men like him.

He was most likely trouble. Trouble she didn’t need. She’d come here to get away from trouble. To break away from violence and death.

But that didn’t stop her from looking. And wanting.

Five guys crowded around the oldest man in the gang. His arm hung at an odd angle and he couldn’t walk on his own. Two of the other members helped him towards the house. She narrowed her eyes, squinted, trying to get a better look. As they passed into the porch light she caught the unmistakable gleam of dark ruby on the older guy’s white t-shirt. His whole side was soaked through with blood.

That amount didn’t come from a scratch.

Shit. 

Acting on pure instinct, Grace dropped her book and bolted from her hiding place. She ran to the bathroom and grabbed the extensive med kit she kept beside her vanity. It looked more like something an EMT would carry than a regular home med kit. She liked to be prepared.

You could take the nurse out the hospital but you couldn’t stop her from being paranoid.

She slipped on a pair of sneakers and jogged across the street. Her heart hammered in her chest. Silently she prayed the men weren’t too belligerent or pissed off by her intrusion. At best they might label her a nosey neighbor. At worst they would see her as a threat.

As she knocked on the black front door of the spacious two store house, she made a mental note to make better choices in the future. Especially if she were still alive and not bundled into a freezer somewhere.

The door cracked open a few inches and she came face-to-face with one of the younger men. Black hair curled slightly at the nape of his neck, stubble shadowed his jaw and his piercing blue eyes narrowed when they focused on her. “Yeah?”

Grace swallowed, tried to moisten her dry mouth. Despite his good looks, fear danced along her spine. Too late to back out now. “I saw your friend was injured. It looked serious.” She patted the med kit. “I’m a nurse. Was. In New York. Just moved here.” The babbling wouldn’t stop. The words continued tripping off her tongue. “I live right across the street. I came to help.”

The guy was about the shut the door in her face when a smooth, deep, sexy voice asked, “Who is it?”

Tall, dark and dangerous responded. “Chick from across the street. Said she’s a nurse come to help.”

She heard a few curse words, a snort and some laughter. Grace tapped her foot while the man deliberated. The foot tapping was a nervous habit she picked up as a child waiting to go in for tests. She hadn’t done it in years. She was wayyyyy out of her comfort zone.

After what seemed like an eternity but couldn’t have been more than five seconds, sexy voice shouted, “Let her in.”

Tall, dark and handsome scowled as if he were about to question the decision, before shrugging and opening the door wide enough for her to slip inside. She brushed against his chest, caught a hint of zingy male cologne mixed with cigarettes and tequila, and blushed. Despite throwing off a badass aura, he was extremely attractive.

He jerked his head in the direction of the kitchen, completely oblivious to her reaction to his closeness. “That way.”

She walked into the kitchen and five pairs of eyes turned on her. Four of the guys still wore their patched leather vests. She felt like a museum piece on display as they appraised her, seized her up and assessed her motives. The air hung thick with tension. She’d learned the art of processing information without meeting a person’s gaze in the ER. Sometimes patients hyped up on drugs or booze disliked being looked directly in the eye. Back in the early days, some patients had attacked her for looking at them and she still bore the scars.

Two of the gang members stood idling against the counters. One was older with a shaved head and tattoos covering his neck and arms. The other was younger and could have been tall, dark and handsome’s twin brother.

The three other men, including her patient, were seated around a small kitchen table.

The injured man had long blond hair laced with grey. He kept it tied back in an old fashioned cue. They’d removed his patch and cut his t-shirt so his arm and shoulder were exposed. She could see the ink on his chest, but the injury grabbed her attention. There was cylindrical hole in his left shoulder. The puckered wound was small compared to some of the stuff she’d seen, but the ripped flesh oozed a steady stream of blood.

Gunshot wound.

Her instincts kicked into overdrive and she pushed forward, hauled her kit onto the table and muttered under her breath. “Jesus Christ.” Addressing her patient, she unzipped the bag and pulled out some latex gloves, snapping them on before saying, “I’m Grace.” The injured man grimaced. “Jay. Nice to meet you, Grace.” She appreciated his polite tone even if it did come through gritted teeth.

She gently gripped his arm and leaned over his shoulder. Exit wound. Good. She didn’t want to go digging around muscle to find the bullet.

“Through and through. Clean wound. Didn’t hit any major arteries.” She met his gaze and focused on his dark brown eyes. His pupils were wide but not enough to indicate shock or inebriation. “I’m going to probe around the wound and it’s going to hurt. You ready?”

Jay nodded.

Grace inhaled. “Okay then.” She poked around the flesh and a fresh trickle of blood ran out. Jay grunted but took the pain like a pro. “Good news is there are no early signs of infection. Bad news is I need to stitch it.”

“You have the provisions to do that?”

Grace turned towards the sexy voice she’d heard from outside. She looked directly into the whiskey colored eyes of him—the man she’d been fantasizing about for four goddamn weeks. For a few brief seconds, she lost herself in the intensity of his stare. Electricity danced across her skin. Lust slammed into her gut.

Surely a huge fucking lightbulb flashed above her head reading ‘fuck me now’.

Trying to hide the embarrassment of her visceral attraction, she snapped off her gloves and rummaged in her kit, distracting herself from his penetrating gaze. “Of course. This is a fully functional medical kit used by medical professionals. It’s a mini triage kit and can be used in most emergencies.” Her words came across prissy and haughty. Another one of her defense mechanisms.

“I’ll take your word for that, Doc.” She risked a glance in his direction to see if his face matched the condescending tone. His features spoke of concern for his friend and a hint of curiosity. Nothing more. “Can you fix him?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. I’m Zeke by the way.”

Zeke. It sounded wild and untamed. It suited him. “Nice to meet you, Zeke.”

“Likewise.”

She snapped on a pair of fresh gloves, ignoring the pitter-patter of her thrumming heartbeat. The hint of pain from the latex sting pulled her back to the task. Focus. She needed to focus.

“She handles latex well,” the guy with the shaved head snarked, dripping sexual innuendo.

She injected a local anesthetic just below the wound site to numb some of Jay’s pain. As she set up a needle and thread, she answered the snarky comment, “It’s from years and years of anal examinations. If you’d like, after I’m done, I can show you how well I handle that too. I’m so good, I don’t even use lube.”

Bellows of laughter erupted from the kitchen as she began sewing together the torn flesh. She concentrated on repairing the skin, ignoring the men. Someone said “I like her” and she smiled. Maybe she wouldn’t end up chopped into tiny pieces.

She did a mental eye roll. She’d been watching way too much Netflix. Just because they were an MC, didn’t mean they were Sons of freaking Anarchy. Most motorcycle clubs were about brotherhood and bikes. Not guns, drugs and murder.

So how did one of them end up with a gunshot wound? A niggling voice questioned in the back of her mind.

She couldn’t ask. It would be rude. And really, she had no desire to get involved in whatever shit they were in to. She was here for one thing—to heal.

It took less than ten minutes to sew and dress the wound. She removed the gloves and rolled them into a ball, along with some soiled gauze and thread. Looking around she located a trash can, got up and disposed of the material before heading to the sink to wash her hands. Now the immediate crisis had past and the adrenaline worn off, she felt uncomfortable surrounded by men she didn’t know. She was all too aware of their gazes on her.

She covered her anxiety with medical chatter. “You should only have a small scar. Take painkillers if it hurts. Keep the area clean and no showering for a day or two. You might have some restricted movement for a few days. Stiffness. If it starts to burn, gets really red or hot, you’ll need to see a doctor.” She dried her hands on her shirt and turned.

Everyone stared at her. Their emotions—sexual curiosity, slight animosity, gratitude—overwhelmed her. She needed to leave ASAP. She had no business being here.

Jay tested the movement in his shoulder and grinned. “Seems good. You did a good job, Doc. Thanks.” As though sensing her unease, he scowled at his friends. “You big brutes are scaring her. Where’re your manners? You know my name, and Zeke’s.”

She refused to look at the object of her deepest lust lest it show on her face.

Jay pointed at tall, dark and handsome. “The guy that let you in is Rafe. Latex boy here is Tiny. The guy next to him, Gabe, is Rafe’s brother. And finally the dude sitting opposite me is Sammy.”

She should have guessed Gabe was Rafe’s brother. They both rocked the dark, brooding thing and the resemblance was clear. She’d not really had chance to look at Sammy so she directed her attention at him. Much younger than the rest of the crew, she put his age around early twenties.

He practically beamed at her. “Hiya, Ma’am. Nice to meet ya.” He was like an excited puppy.

She couldn’t help smile at his sunny disposition. “You too, Sammy.”

Tiny ribbed him for being so polite and a blush heated his cheeks. The dynamics between the men fascinated her. They communicated without using words. It was obvious she was an outsider and that made her uncomfortable.

Unsure of how to extract herself from the situation, she began gathering her things. “I’m done here, so I’m just going to…” She closed her medical kit and gripped the handles, evading eye contact. She prayed she could make it out the door without any repercussions.

A large, warm hand covered hers and she started. Zeke stood less than an inch away. His scent—leather, cigarettes, tequila, citrus, man—seeped into her and she wanted to lean in and inhale his spicy, erotic scent.

What the hell was wrong with her?

“Let me get that for you.” His brushed the pad of his thumb across the back of her hand. “I’ll walk you back.”

Grace swallowed. Fantasies were fine. They were safe and could include anything her heart desired. Reality never lived up to fantasy, but the briefest touch from Zeke outstripped anything she imagined. Her skin tingled where he’d touched her. Her whole body primed, ready for his next move. Nipples hardened. Knees weakened.

She wanted to tell him no. That she could make her own way back across the street. Instead, she let go of her bag. “Okay. Thanks.”

Jay rose and gave her a quick, one arm hug. “Thanks again, Doc.”

She walked towards the front door in a daze. Once outside, the cool night air hit her heated body and she took a deep breath. With the adrenaline wearing off, her heart pumped blood around her body so fast she thought she might pass out.

Silently, she chastised herself for racing across the street. They didn’t know a thing about her and she’d bulldozed her way in to their house.  They probably thought she was crazy, or a groupie, or worse, an undercover cop.

“Grace, you okay?” Zeke’s broad hand caressed the base of her spine through her shirt. A soothing gesture that did nothing to dissipate the heat licking along her nerve endings.

When she looked up at him, his whiskey eyes were a mixture of concern, wariness and, dare she hope, need. Confusion replaced desire.

Men like Zeke didn’t lust after women like her. Looking like he did, like sex on a stick, he could have any woman he wanted. Why would he lust after her? She was average in every sense—boobs slightly too big to be called perky, hips a little too wide. Boring and unexciting for someone like him.

And she was totally okay with that. Life wasn’t a romance novel.

She stepped away and moved towards her house. “Fine. Just thinking. Sorry for barging in. I’m not usually this impetuous.” A few more steps and she’d be in the safety of her own home. Away from the erotic pull of bad boy Zeke.

“It’s not every night I get a woman banging on my door.”

She gave him a droll look. “I find that hard to believe.”

His deep, husky laugh sent shivers down her spine. “Okay, busted. It’s not every night I get an intelligent woman banging on my door.”

She climbed her porch steps and fumbled with her keys. She unlocked the door, stepped over the threshold and turned for the medical kit, eager to go back to her normal, boring life.

Zeke put it beside her on the floor and idled against the frame. He leaned down, filling her personal space, crowding her. She could step back, away from his masculine presence, but she didn’t want to. She was completely enraptured by him. And for a few heartbeats she wanted to entertain the fantasy that Zeke was interested in her.

“So, Grace, how did you know that Jay needed help? It’s well after midnight. Shouldn’t good girls like you be in bed dreaming of pretty princes?”

She bristled at his patronizing tone. “I was getting a glass of water and saw you come back. I saw the blood in the light and came to see if I could help. It’s what I’m trained to do.”

Not a complete lie, but not the whole truth either. He didn’t need to know she’d been spying and drooling.

“So you haven’t been sitting in your window seat for the past four weeks watching us?” His amber eyes blazed seeing directly into her soul.

Busted.

Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I beg your pardon?”

He reached up and flicked a strand of her hair. “At first I wondered, new tenant in the neighborhood. A woman who likes to spy. Maybe a threat. Maybe sent by the authorities. But now I understand.”

His soft, baritone voice lulled her. She watched his sensual lips move. Zeke was dangerous. Extremely dangerous. She knew that now, yet she couldn’t move back. Moth and flame came to mind, and she was going to get burned.

“What do you understand?” Her voice sounded huskier than she wanted it to be.

Her breasts swelled and tingled inside the confines of her bra. She yearned to reach out and run her palm across his bearded jaw, feeling the wiry hair abrade her skin.

“I understand you aren’t a threat. You’re a voyeur. You like to watch don’t you, Grace? When you came into the kitchen, I wasn’t sure which one of us you wanted to fuck. Rafe and Gabe are real pretty. You wouldn’t have to choose between them—they’d do you together if that’s your thing. But it’s not them, is it?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “It’s me you want to fuck.”

She inhaled, started to protest even as her body screamed yes.

Yes, she did want to fuck him. Deep and hard and all night long.

He stopped her with a finger pressed to her lips. “Ssshhh. No need to lie to me.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lower lip. Zings of pleasure followed in its wake. “If I kissed you now, I’d have you naked and under me within five minutes. I’d probably be the fuck of your life. I like sex. I like beautiful women.” He waited a beat, rubbed her lip some more. “But there is one problem.”

“What’s that?” Her mind was still trying to process the image of him, naked and on top of her. She had no doubt he’d be an excellent lover.

He pushed the tip of his thumb gently inside her mouth. “I don’t fuck good girls.” He cupped her cheek. “I’m not a good man, Grace. I’m bad and dangerous and damaged. You may think you want me, but you don’t. Now go back to bed, get out your conventional vibrator and bring yourself off thinking about me. And then forget I exist. I’m not for you.”

He brushed his lips across her cheek in a tender, brief kiss that ignited her senses. And then he was gone. He’d set her body on fire and destroyed her with his words.

Arrogant, conceited asshole.

Anger bubbled in her gut. Where did he get off presuming to know her?

Not wanting him to have the last word, she called after him. “Zeke?” When he stopped and looked over his shoulder, she continued. “I’m not a good girl.”

She flipped him the bird and slammed the door.

Good riddance to the misogynistic asshole.

 

Sinful (Knights of Hell Book 1) Copyright © 2020 Scarlett Sanderson PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE THIS TEXT WITHOUT PERMISSION

My experience with COVID-19 – the symptoms, the fear and the aftermath

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What strange times we are living in. I truly hope you and your families are all well and safe. I’m sending hugs to everyone who is struggling at this difficult time – whether will illness, finances or the emotional toll this is taking on all of us.

 

I’m writing this blog post to share my own experience of COVID and how it’s affected me physically and mentally. I’ve had suspected COVID-19 and complications since March 13th – 74 days and counting. It’s been one of the scariest, most frightening times, and it’s still dragging on. For people who think “it’s just the flu”, I am telling you now, I’ve had flu, I’ve even had walking pneumonia and I have never experienced anything like this.

As many of you know, I have lupus. This means it isn’t unusual for me to take time out of writing. I can be gone for months at a time whilst dealing with a flare-up, or a particularly busy time with work and my mother (who has terminal cancer). But usually, in the background, I’m still hammering away writing. Since March 13th I haven’t been able to do anything. COVID hit me hard and I’m still experiencing symptoms 74 days in.

The first week I got sick I had a temperature, a bit of a cough and a tight, sore chest. For 7 days I foolishly believed that it wasn’t so bad. That I could manage it like I do my lupus – with rest, painkillers and fluid. By the second week I was struggling to breathe. On the Thursday of the second week I was gasping for breath so much, my husband had to call an ambulance. The sheer terror of not being able to get air into my lungs and having a paramedic dressed in full protective suit (complete with respirator) was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through. Although my oxygen levels were good, because of the underlying lupus they recommended I go to hospital. However, I refused. There is no guarantee I would have been tested and without the need for oxygen at that point, I was at more risk of infection if I went to the hospital. After all, although everyone was pretty certain I had COVID, what if I didn’t? I chose to stay at home and continue with antibiotics, painkillers. I also had a very irrational fear – what if I was taken to hospital alone and never came out?

I just want to say a big thank you to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service here. They arrived quickly, we’re amazing and stayed for a few hours to make sure I was okay. I cannot thank them enough for their assistance at such a scary time for me and my husband. They were brilliant. And immensely reassuring.

I won’t bore you with the mundane details, but some of the symptoms I was having over the following weeks including extreme fatigue (and this from someone who deals with fatigue on a daily basis), shortness of breath which meant I could barely walk a few steps without panting, a chest so tight it felt like my lungs were being constricted, vomiting and upset tummy. At one point in the last few weeks I even had conjunctivitis.

74 days in and I am still getting some of those symptoms. Yes, my temperature is down. Yes, I’m not coughing as much. The breathing, however, can still be horrific on some days. And the tiredness is off the charts. If I try and do too much, I’m back on the couch, symptoms reoccurring with a vengeance. This is 74 days in. That’s not taking into account the total paralysing fear that comes with having shortness of breath flare up – is it coming back? Am I reinfected? How bad is it going to be? Is this the time I’m going to have to go to hospital and risk being put on a ventilator? With no guarantees of immunity, I’m living in daily fear of a killer I cannot see.

In the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. So, so lucky. I’ve not been in hospital, I’ve not been in an intensive care unit, but the aftermath of dealing with the disease is debilitating. I’m still not working my day job as I can’t manage more than an hour or so at my computer. I need to sleep lots and physical activity is very limited.

My husband has been amazing. He’s supported me every step of the way. He lifts me up on days I’m sobbing and don’t feel I can stand another episode of breathlessness. He goes out to the supermarket to get food and prescriptions, risking his own health so I have food and medicine. He’s taken over all the household duties, despite still working from home. He is truly my rock. I can’t thank him enough or tell him how amazing he really is. He is my ultimate romance hero.

The other thing this disease has robbed me of is visiting my sick mother. She lives miles away and since lockdown has been in place, she’s been extremely ill. And I’ve been unable to travel down and be with her as I would be risking her and myself. The guilt is almost as crippling as the symptoms of COVID. My Mom is my best friend. Not being able to hold her, hug her when she’s crying or in pain, is one of the worst things imaginable.

Relatively speaking, I am so much better than I was at week 4 or even week 8. It’s been a tough ride. There have been setbacks. There are going to continue to be setbacks if you read the reports about people recovering from COVID. It’s comforting to know it’s not just me.

One thing this journey has made me realise is the life I was living before lockdown wasn’t serving me. I was super stressed out about the smallest thing. Day job stress was through the roof. I was bouncing from one thing to another – home, work, my sick mother, hospital appointments for me, always doing, doing, doing. Yet all the time resenting myself because I wasn’t taking care of myself or my mental health. I wasn’t taking small, productive steps towards the life I want for myself – becoming a full time writer. And all of that was leading to resentment.

During lockdown I’ve reorganised some of my priorities. Sure, I have days when all the fear and doubt and resentment comes back into play, but I know what I want now. I know how I want to feel in life.

Joyful. Creative. Calm. Resilient. Optimistic.

My priorities are my health, my husband and family, my creativity.

With these in mind, I’ve completely re-thought how I structure my days. Obviously this will change once I am back at the day job, but that’s where resilience comes in. Go with the flow. Don’t sweat the smaller stuff. It doesn’t matter what people of think of me (having a chronic illness makes me over achieve, over perform, so people don’t think I’m lazy), it only matters how I feel about myself.

The past three weeks have seen me take a completely new outlook on writing. Even though I’m still sick, I’ve managed through small steps to finish editing two books of a trilogy I’ve had written for a while, and create a whole marketing plan for those books. I’m now on to editing the 3rd book and every single day I feel joyful to get to work. To be creative. I’m even finding joy in doing the things I used to hate like writing blurbs, creating teasers images and revamping my website.

One thing I am grateful to COVID for – giving me back my passion and joy for creativity.Untitled design (4)

There is a long road ahead in which there will be illness and grief, but there is also light and laughter and joyfulness. There is hope.

Take care and stay safe,

Scarlett

Sunday Book Nook – The Lost Ones and Fire Bound

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For 2020, I thought I’d do a regular spot on what I’m reading. As I like to curl on Sunday’s with a cup of tea and some reading, I thought I’d call these posts “Sunday Book Nook”. It’s just a glimpse into what I’m reading at that particular time.

Reading is one of my favourite pastimes. Doesn’t matter how I’m feeling – if I’m sick, or tired, or full of energy – or travelling – at work, at my folks, on holiday- or just at home, I LOVE to read. I can always read and always carry at least one book with me. Probably not a revelation considering I’m a writer!

Early last year I finally got a room in our house that is just for my books. It’s my ‘library’ with a cosy, comfy chair that I spent some time in every day. It’s my happy place.

To start off 2020, I’ve been reading The Lost Ones by Anita Frank and Fire Bound by Christine Feehan. A gothic story and a paranormal romance – awesome choices in my opinion.

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The Lost Ones is a true gothic ghost story. I love a good gothic story and this one didn’t disappoint. I found it really atmospheric and eerie. What I did struggle with was the first 80 or so pages. There were a lot of places where it lagged in the beginning, not really gripping my attention, but there were snippets that showed me I had to keep reading. And I’m glad I did. If you like historical gothic ghost stories, this is definitely a book for you.

I’ve been reading Christine Feehan books for 16 (yikes!) years. I adored her Dark series when I first started reading them, but got bored after a while and stopped reading them. I was so excited when she started doing a number of different series. I recently found the Torpedo Ink series and as I’m also writing an MC romance, thought I’d give it a go. I LOVED it. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Torpedo Ink series and cannot wait for the next books to come out this year. One is out in January so I’m definitely going to treat myself to that if I hit my writing targets 🙂 Although part of another series, the Sea Haven series, Fire Bound has characters with links to the Torpedo Ink series (brothers).

It’s a great paranormal romance. Although at first I was confused – mainly because I was coming into the Sea Haven series near the end as Fire Bound is one of the final books – but as soon as I got into it, it’s well worth it. Sexy hero, strong heroine, paranormal abilities and a spy thriller story-line wrapped up with some hot sex – perfect read for a winter’s afternoon. Not as high on my list of favourites as the Torpedo Ink series, but it’s definitely reinforced my renewed love of Christine Feehan.

Up next for me, another gothic ghost story and one of my favourite reads of the last few years, The Silent Companions. It’s sooo creepy. I wouldn’t have chosen to read it right after The Lost Ones but it’s our book club read for a book club I run at work.

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Until the next Sunday Book Nook, happy reading!

 

Happy 2020! What do you have planned for the year?

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Happy 2020 to everyone! It’s a new year and a completely new decade. How exciting.

I hope you all had a great festive period and got to spend time with people that make you happy. I took some time off over Christmas to spend with Mister Scarlett and my parents. As most of you know, my Mom has terminal cancer so it was a quiet Christmas with lots of laughter and some tears. But the most important thing was we all had a great time 🙂

This week marks the beginning of a new decade. I can’t believe where the time went! 2010-2019 was a great decade for me. Of course, there were some lows, but the highs were amazing.

I got published with Ellora’s Cave in 2011 – something I’d been hoping for since I started reading their books. It was a dream come true (for a while, but that is another well publicised story) and I met some wonderful readers and authors – you are all amazing!

I got married to a wonderful man who is everything to me. Loving. Handsome. A great friend and champion of my writing. I love him more than words can say.

We had some beautiful holidays in places I’d never been. Got a lovely new house and a garden where I can grow veggies and plants.

It also saw my lupus and chronic illness restrict what I can do. I had to drop my work hours to part time and then my Mom – my best friend – got cancer. We got the terminal diagnosis not long after, and I know the next few months are going to be very hard, but I’m still blessed to have her here.

Bokeh Lights New Year Quotes (1)

What are my hopes for this year?

Well, I’m on a regular writing schedule. Woohoo! So the motorcycle club romance trilogy I’ve been promising you for years will finally be released. I’m working on those books this month and by spring, the first book WILL be available on Amazon. I’m also going to submit the manuscript I wrote during #NaNoWriMo to the Mills & Boon Dare line. *Fingers crossed* you’ll see that some time this year!

pens

As a child, I always got a fancy fountain pen for Christmas and this year Mister Scarlett surprised me with one in my favourite colour. So there will be definitely be lots more writing.

I did the Good Reads challenge last year and managed to read 111 books. I’m not setting a goal this year for reading as it pressures me into the mentality that I’ve “gotta read”, but I am committing to one hour per day.

Other goals include increasing my strength and fitness. I love to go for walks, but since I’ve been ill that is so much harder. I’ve started exercise routines in the past that have crippled me over the weeks, and diets which have made me ill. This year is about strength. Emotional and physical. As with my writing goals it will be manageable. Slow and steady.

Finally, I got some circular needles for Christmas. I’ve never been able to knit in the round, so this is the year I want to learn 🙂 If you have any patterns for beginners, leave me a link below. I’ve already started and, after a shaky beginning, seems to be going well.

knitting

So to sum up, my goals for 2020 are:

  • Write and release more books with a regular writing schedule.
  • Manageable strength and fitness for my health
  • See family and friends more – make time for them
  • Grow my edible garden
  • Knit in the round

2020 is a new page, a new chapter. Let’s make it a good one 🙂

Let me know what your goals, hopes, resolutions. I’d love to hear them!

Writer Wednesday – writing year review for 2019

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For the last #WriterWednesday of 2019 I thought I’d do a post on my writing year in review. It’s been a rocky one – ups and downs galore – but I’m happy to admit I’m ending 2019 on a writing high 🙂
So, let’s start with January.

In January I decided to get my sh*t together and create a plan (okay, so the plan didn’t come together until the end of January, but hey, it was still January!). I love watching YouTube videos from the author, Sarra Cannon. She has a craft channel called Heart Breathings. She is such a breath of fresh air with videos on the craft and the realistic life/goals of a writer. I love her because she is so generous to her fans – always creating work books for free – and not being constantly all about the hustle, hustle, hustle. She is real and talks about the real struggles of writing when you have other commitments – a job, family, school, chronic health issues.

She has a system called HB90. You plan your writing goals for 90 days at a time and be laser focused for those 3 months.

I could do this. It would give me structure and 90 days was a good period of time.

So I planned. I planned my 3 monthly goals.

  1. Increase sales and engagement
  2. Finish and release the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy
  3. Plot and write first 3 chapters of a Mills & Boon Dare submission

Easy. Sustainable.

Err…not. I failed. Oh, for the first month I wrote, I promoted and then I got lazy. Life happened. I got sick. Mom got sicker. Work got crazy. Life got in the way and I didn’t make writing a priority. It came way down my list of commitments.

Lets skip to June. I did some editing and started that Mills & Boon story while I was soaking up the sun in Santorini with Mister Scarlett (who wouldn’t want to write in such a beautiful setting?!), but it never got past 1,000 words.

santorini

Fast forward to August. I’m writing here and there. Book 1 in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy, Sinful, is complete (first draft only though). I made the decision not to release it until the other two were finished. I did add some words here and there, but nothing substantial. All the while the sales on my old titles have dwindled to nothing.

In September, I release an old story with Totally Bound.

By the time November rolls around I’m determined to get my ass in gear and do NaNoWriMo. As I explained in my other post, due to numerous things, I couldn’t commit to 50000 words. It just seemed too…insurmountable. So I made my own goal – 30000. 1000 words per day. Again, I charted my progression in another post (but I’m happy to say I hit it!).

One thing NaNo did for me was create a manageable, sustainable goal. I had to commit to just 30-45 minutes per day to getting the words down. That’s it. Just 30 minutes.

And you know what? It worked! By the end of NaNo, I had 36000 words. I’m happy to say as of Saturday just gone, I completed the first draft of the Mills & Boon submission I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Whoop, whoop.

Compared to this time last year, I feel in such a good place. I’m not doing 1000 words per day now, but I’m aiming for 750 a day. Mister Scarlett asked me how I was going to be accountable to myself now that NaNo is over and that’s a good question. After all, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. I’m a known slipper. Always have been. There is always something else I can find to do – binge Netflix, read, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, nap.

So for the end of the year and first few months of 2020 I have a manageable, sustainable (you seeing a theme with the buzzwords here?) plan.

From now until 31st December – I’m working on an erotic Christmas romance that I started in 2018. 750 per day, and I want to try and hit 10000 words by the end of the month. That’s with taking the holidays off. I started on Monday and I’m already 4063 words in.

word count tracker

January 2020 – I’m going to finish the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. 750 words per day. 20000 word target.

February – editing the Mills & Boon submission, working on the synopsis and putting together a trilogy proposal.

See? A plan. Manageable. Sustainable.

One of the things I have found in 2019 is the joy of writing again. It sounds like a cliche, but I lost that for so long.

Some days it’s still hard, but there are the days when it flows and the words fly onto the page, and there is such a joyous feeling inside me when that happens that I can’t explain it to people. The consistency helps the words fly. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the past year it’s consistency is the key to the words. The more I do it, the easier it gets (not always, but mostly). The writing has also been helping me, mentally, deal with a lot of stuff. It’s an outlet. A sorely needed one.

As 2019 draws to a close, there have been ups and downs, I haven’t published anything new, but I have lots of things coming together. The best thing about 2019 is I’ve rediscovered why I write. I’ve rediscovered the joy and that makes 2019 worth it!

I hope your 2019 has been everything you imagined. Let me know if you have any plans for 2020. I’d love to hear them!

 

Writer Wednesday – #Nanowrimo update

Writer Wednesday

It’s time for another Writer Wednesday post. This time it’s an update on how #NaNoWriMo is going.

I’ve been really quiet on my blog and on social media for the past few weeks because I’ve been writing. And *gasp, shock horror, blow me down with a god damn feather* I have been sticking to my word count and writing every day.

Remember the post I wrote back at the beginning of November? If you can’t, I’ll link it here . I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day for the whole of November, with the aim of reaching 30,000 by the end of the month.

I’m happy to say as of 25th November I reached 30, 117 and I’m still going. Woohoo.

There has only been one day in the month so far that I haven’t written. That was due to being sick so I gave myself the day off – and didn’t feel guilty about it! All the other days, even on work days where I only had 15 minutes to write, I managed to get words down. Most days I reached 1,000. Some days only half that. Other days It hit 1,200.

The important thing for me has been consistency. I only had to write 1,000 words per day. That would take about 30 minutes or so. I broke it down into two 15 minute stints. Sometimes I’d write a little bit more – another 15 minutes or so, but never more than that.

For me, 30,000 words is nearly a whole novella. Although I haven’t finished my Mills & Boon Dare submission yet, I’m proud of the fact I CAN write a full novella in a short amount of time. This is the most productive I’ve ever been with my writing, but the most important thing is it has helped me remember the sheer joy I get from writing.

Yes, some days it’s been hard. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get the words on the page, but I kept doing it. One word at a time. Other days it simply flowed. After each writing session I came away feeling elated. I love my characters. I love sitting down and creating imaginary worlds on a page. It allows me to lose myself and forget about whatever else is going on for little while.

Another important thing I’ve come to realise is how good a regular writing schedule is for my mental health. I’ve always found writing cathartic. Over the past 26 days I’ve found it’s had a positive effect on my mental health. With everything going on at the moment, the ‘side effect’ of writing has proven to be healing.

I need to write. I’d forgotten that.

With social media and keeping up an online presence (which is important, and I love each and every person whom I’ve met online), promoting my books, the admin side of the business, I’d forgotten the simple joy of sitting down to write. As J. R. Ward said “The work always comes first. Magic happens when you put the work first.” I’ve got this pinned on my board at home to remind myself that the writing, the stories, come first.

Although I set my own goal for NaNoWriMo, the month allowed me to find the joy in writing again. It gave me space and clarity to remember I can do this. I love doing this. I might not do 1,000 words per day from here on in, but I will set a regular word count for each week. After all, I know I can do it.

I just need to keep on doing it 🙂

Writer Wednesday – #NaNoWriMo

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I’m going to introduce a new feature for Wednesdays. I won’t be updating every week, maybe once a month (don’t hold me to that, I’m notoriously bad at updating my blog!) I’ll do a post called ‘Writer Wednesday‘. I’ll chat about the writing process, publishing, the practicalities of writing.  Let me know in the comments below if there is a particular topic you want me to cover and I’ve be happy to do a post on it.

Sooo, for this week’s ‘Writer Wednesday‘ I’m going to be talking about NaNoWriMo. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You can visit the website for more info. The basic premise is you commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

I don’t normally do NaNoWriMo. I tend to keep my own schedule and committing to a certain number of words per day (if you do the 50,000 that’s 1,666 per day) just makes me antsy and terrified. But this year I decided to sign up. Go, me!

 

Nano

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, feel free to follow me 🙂

I decided to sign up because I really want to complete a rough draft of a submission for the Mills & Boon Dare line. This has been on my to-do list since April. I’ve started the story (about 5,000 words in already) and have it all plotted, but the Knights of Hell series has been taking precedence. I came to the conclusion I would NEVER get to this Mills & Boon sub if I didn’t do something.

So I signed up for Nano.

The terrifying thing for me is, I’m not an everyday writer. With lupus, a job, and a sick Mom, other things sometimes have to take priority. Added to that, my books have NEVER reached 50,000 words. Some have come close. I think Claiming Ruby comes in around 42,000. I’m not even sure I can do 50,000 words.

But I want to do this. NaNo provides a perfect opportunity to get in regular writing sessions and to have a whole community of support. That is one of the best things about NaNo – the community. There is an online forum for support, but also regular local writing sessions. Honestly, if you are looking to write that novel and want to stay motivated, NaNo might be the thing for you.

I signed up a few weeks before November 1st…and then totally freaked out. I can’t commit to writing 1,666 words per day. Am I crazy? Sometimes I don’t even do that in a week! Lately I’ve implemented a 15 minute writing stint every day where I can average around 400 words, and at the end of the week those word counts add up. But 1,666 EVERY day? Nah. I can’t do it.

And knowing me like I do, I’d feel like a complete failure for not meeting those word counts. No matter how sick I felt. No matter what else was happening, I’d still feel like a failure. And that would put me off sitting down to write at all.

Being a writer is easy you say? Pfff. Hell no. As well as figuring out a writing schedule and actually getting the ideas down, you have to deal with all kinds of guilt (but that’s another blog post).

Anyhoo, at the advice of the awesome romance writing community, I decided to set my own goal for NaNo.

30,000 words in 30 days. 1,000 words a day. I can cover this pretty much in two 15 minute writing stints. Easy, right? I’m already doing one 15 minute stint, another one and I would have 30,000 at the end of it.

It’s now 6th November and I’m hitting my word counts *whoop, whoop*

nano 2

I can’t give you my typical NaNo day. Sometimes I write for 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Never at night as I’m just pretty dead after 6pm.

I write at my desk, in a coffee shop, at work on lunch. I write on my computer and in notebooks.

Bascially, I’m doing what I can, when I can.

Mister Scarlett asked me what happens if I don’t hit my word count one day. I’m not sure, but I’m determined not to beat myself up. If at the end of the month I don’t have 30,000…that’s okay. But I will have a big chunk of wordage that I didn’t have on October 31st and that is something to be celebrated 🙂

Wish me luck for the rest of the month!

Where do I get my ideas? The story behind my latest re-release, Owned by the Night

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I’m so excited that Owned by the Night, my erotic paranormal romance has been re-released with Totally Bound! It’s available from the Totally Bound site, Amazon or all good online bookstores for 99p/99c. A real bargain for such a steamy book 😉

In honor of the re-release I thought I’d share where I got the idea for this story.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is: where do you get your ideas from? It’s not an easy question for a writer to answer. Ideas come from everywhere – everyday things, news, movies, books, something someone said to me…

I tend to get a lot of story ideas, specifically “moods” of books, from music.

Owned by the Night is no exception. Actually, this story has a clear correlation to a specific song.

And that song is…Closer by the Kings of Leon. In case you’ve never heard the song, I’ve linked to a video on YouTube below.

Here are the lyrics:

“Closer”

Stranded in this spooky town
Stoplights are swaying and the phone lines are down
Floor is crackling cold
She took my heart, I think she took my soul
With the moon I run
Far from the carnage of the fiery sun

Driven by the strangle of vein
Showing no mercy I’d do it again
Open up your eyes
You keep on crying, baby I’ll bleed you dry
Skies are blinking at me
I see a storm bubbling up from the sea

And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer

You shimmy-shook my bone
Leaving me stranded all in love on my own
Do you think of me?
Where am I now, baby where do I sleep?
Feels so good but I’m old
2000 years of chasing taking its toll

And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer
And it’s coming closer

I get such a dark vibe from this song. Always have done. I think I had it on repeat the whole time I was writing the story.

 

 

Listening to the lyrics, I came up with Kyrian and Allgera. A female vampire turning a male, one she thinks she can control, but ultimately ends up running from. Eventually, after thousands of years, he catches up to her and she finally gives into her desire to be with him.

 

 

Ohhh, think I just gave myself goosebumps 🙂 The story itself was originally called Closer but my lovely editor decided to go for something a bit more suited to the storyline. And thank god for that!

 

 

Owned by the Night is sexy and dark and full of possession and fangs. I’m so glad it’s out

in the world again.

 

I really enjoyed sharing where I get specific ideas for my stories. If you liked this post, and would like to know more about where I get my ideas, post a comment below.
You can purchase Owned by the Night at:
OwnedbytheNight_outnow

Gardens and the search for the perfect pizza dough…

Well, it’s been another eventful few weeks since I last wrote a blog post.

Our garden landscaping is now finished! It looks so pretty. It’s very low maintenance, with raised beds and tiles instead of grass. Exactly what I need with me having lupus. It means I have easy access to do some gardening and grow veggies.

What do you think?

Now the fun part starts 🙂 I haven’t had a workable garden for a while, so I’m doing my research on what is best to plant in containers, and what vegetables I can grow in a small patch. I’m already propagating chillies.

Mister Scarlett had some specially built food prep areas. He’s intending to get an Uni Pro pizza oven and become a pizza master! While we wait for the oven to be delivered, we’ve been experimenting with pizza dough and various proving techniques. I love cold proving (something I’ve only just discovered!). Here is our most recent attempt at pizza (my toppings were ham, mushroom and olives):

pizza

Do you have any good dough recipes we could try out?

On the writing front, I’m steadily working my way through edits on Sinful. The more I get into the story, the more I fall in love with Zeke and Grace. She is so feisty. Such a perfect match for Zeke despite their differences, but whew! they do go through the ringer! *evil laugh*

One thing I hate doing (and I do mean hate – it’s torture!) is writing blurbs. Now I’m self-publishing, all these admin tasks are solely my responsibility. Before, my editor used to help out. I truly suck at it, but I’ve been writing and re-writing the blurb for Sinful, so fingers crossed it’s okay.

That’s pretty much it for this blog post. I’m heading back into the writing cave…or maybe out into the garden…

Writing, WIP, libraries and EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Sinful

Greetings, everyone!

I realise it’s been another long period of time between posts. I promise to ‘try’ and get better at writing more regular posts.

It’s been another busy few months! I’ve been really ill a few times, but the latest bout of sickness really knocked me off my feet. I had a terrible chest infection and was on pneumonia watch for a while. That slowed my writing/editing down considerably. Boo.

It does mean I’ve been reading a lot though. I’m more than half way through my 2019 reading challenge on Good Reads.

reading challenge

I’ve become addicted to Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Can’t get enough of it! I’m trying to pace myself with them so I don’t binge read them too quickly.

A new author discovery for me is T.M. Frazier. Just read the first 2 books in the King series and oh, my…*fans self* Love her characters. So dark and raw. Yum.

There has also been lots of stuff going on with the house. We are finally getting the garden landscaped. More on that in another post, and about our experiments with the perfect pizza dough! The most exciting thing, after a year of being in the house, we finally got the library shelving fitted. I have a library!

book shelving

A comfy snuggle chair is arriving tomorrow, and then I’ll have the perfect reading room. I’ve always dreamed of having a library/reading room. I’m so lucky to be able to have one thanks to the wonderful Mister Scarlett. Although he may lose me to the room…haha

Publishing wise, I’m still working on editing the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. As I said at the beginning of the post, after a great January, February/March has been a really slow starter.

However, here is a sneak peek excerpt to keep you going. I’m definitely going to have the first book, Sinful, finished before Spring is through.

She climbed her porch steps and fumbled with her keys. She unlocked the door, stepped over the threshold and turned for the medical kit.

He put it beside her on the floor and idled against the frame. He leaned towards her, filling her personal space. Crowding her. She could step back, away from his masculine presence, but she didn’t want to. She was completely enraptured by him.

“So, Grace, how did you know that Jay needed help? It’s well after midnight. Shouldn’t good girls like you be in bed dreaming of pretty princes?”

She bristled at his patronizing tone. “I was getting a glass of water and saw you come back. I saw the blood in the light and came to see if I could help. It’s what I’m trained to do.”

Not a complete lie, but not the whole truth either. He didn’t need to know she’d been spying and drooling.

“So you haven’t been sitting up in your window seat for the past four weeks watching us?” His amber eyes blazed with heat.

Busted.

Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I beg your pardon?”

He reached up and flicked a strand of her hair. “At first I wondered, new tenant in the neighborhood. A woman who likes to spy. Maybe a threat. Maybe sent by the authorities. But now I understand.”

His soft, baritone voice lulled her. She watched his sensual lips move. Zeke was dangerous. Extremely dangerous. She knew that, yet she couldn’t move back. Moth and flame came to mind, and she was going to get singed.

“What do you understand?” Her voice sounded huskier than she wanted it to be.

Her breasts swelled and tingled inside the confines of her bra. She yearned to reach out and run her palm across his bearded jaw. Feel the wiry hair abrade her skin.

“I understand you aren’t a threat. You’re a voyeur. You like to watch don’t you, Grace? When you came into the kitchen, I wasn’t sure which one of us you wanted to fuck. Rafe and Gabe are real pretty. You wouldn’t have to choose between them—they’d do you together if that’s your thing. But it’s not them, is it?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “It’s me you want to fuck.”

She inhaled, started to protest even as her body screamed yes.

He stopped her with a finger pressed to her lips. “Ssshhh. No need to lie to me.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lower lip. “If I kissed you now, I’d have you naked and under me within five minutes. I’d probably be the fuck of your life. I like sex. I like beautiful women.” He waited a beat, rubbed her lip some more. “But there is one problem.”

“What’s that?” Her mind was still trying to process the image of him, naked and hot. She had no doubt he’d be an excellent lover.

He pushed the tip of thumb gently inside her mouth. “I don’t fuck good girls.” He cupped her cheek. “I’m not a good man, Grace. I’m bad and dangerous and damaged. You may think you want me, but you don’t. Now go back to bed, get out your conventional vibrator and bring yourself off thinking about me. And then forget I exist. I’m not for you.”

He brushed his lips across her cheek in a tender, brief kiss that ignited her senses. And then he was gone. He’d set her body on fire, and then destroyed her with his words.

Arrogant, conceited asshole.

Anger bubbled in her gut. Where did he get off presuming to know her?

She called after him. “Zeke?” When he stopped and looked over his shoulder, she continued. “I’m not a good girl.”

She flipped him the bird then slammed the door. Good riddance to the misogynistic asshole.

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Over the next month you can find me taking part in The Romance Reviews anniversary party. Head on over for a chance to win tons of prizes until March 31st.

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Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You get all the exclusive news, sneak previews and stories. If you sign up, you get a FREE copy of BEG ME delivered straight to your inbox!

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That’s all for now.

Until next time, take care.

Scarlett