To celebrate the release of the first book in my Sweetheart Sisters series, THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN, I’m giving away a limited edition beach pack, including a beach ball, lip balm, bookmarks and a beach mat–everything you need for a fabulous day in the sun!
Giveaway limited to US residents only. To enter, comment below about what you look for in a beach read! Winner will be drawn at random.
The series was a lot of fun to write, and I can’t wait for readers to get the books. The first book in the Sweetheart Sisters series features a trio of sassy, bourbon-drinking, matchmaking grannies who decide to bring a happy ending to Luke Winslow, a wounded Coast Guard pilot living in the dark, and a sweet animal assisted therapist who is searching for her roots, and a new life.
The Sweetheart Bargain has already received rave reviews, including a Top Pick! from Romantic Times Book Reviews. A snippet of that review: “Jump gifts readers with another steamy romance. The Sweetheart Bargain features two strong willed, albeit damaged, leads, a supporting cast of wonderfully colorful characters, a beautiful beach town and a story that will have readers laughing and then crying in turns.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Olivia turned back to the golden retriever and as she did, her gaze roamed the depressing scene before her: over the missing and cracked siding, the ivy weaving its way into the casements, the still, silent air conditioner covered with Spanish moss. The lawyer had lied. This wasn’t a gift—this was a catastrophe. A catastrophe Olivia had almost no budget to repair.
Had she made an incredible mistake? Thrown away her life in Boston, on a whim?
But what kind of life had she had, really? One where everywhere she went, everyone she saw, reminded her of her biggest mistake. Where living in a townhouse meant for two, then inhabited by one, festered like an open wound. She fingered her left hand, empty for the past two years—two years filled with changes and new directions—and knew she’d made the right choice.
She wasn’t going back. She would make this work. What choice did she have? Olivia was tired of being a failure. Failing at her marriage. Failing at her previous job. Failing at taking risks. She had changed careers, finally pursuing her degree in physical therapy, and the day had come to put all this education in practice. She had a new job, a new start. This time, she was going to plow forward and not let anything get in her way. Even this . . . mess. She couldn’t do anything about the house right this second, but she could start with the dog.
“Come on, honey.” She patted her thigh. “Let’s get you out of there.” Olivia kept up an endless soft stream of soothing words as she moved an inch at a time, slow, easy. She kept her hand splayed and her tone low, cheery. “You hungry, puppy? Thirsty?”
The dog’s gaze darted from her to the dense, overgrown shrubbery on the right, then back again. Olivia closed the gap to five feet. The dog tensed, the fur on its back rising in a Mohawk of caution. The dark chocolate eyes grew rounder, filling with fear. “It’s okay, sweetie,” Olivia said. “It’s okay. I want to help.”
Wary eyes flickered, and distrust gave way to hope. An ear twitched. The tail raised, lowered, then swished slow against the ground.
“Let’s get you something to eat. Would you like that? I bet you would.”
The dog shifted, rising on its haunches, then dropping again to its belly with a high-pitched whimper. Dark crimson blood, dried, crusted over, smeared against the animal’s side. All that beautiful golden hair matted in painful bunches. The dog had moved so fast, Olivia couldn’t tell if the injury was new or old, or the extent of the damage. Whatever had happened, this poor thing needed a human, even if she didn’t know it.
Olivia had to get this dog to a vet, but if she got too much closer, the wounded animal might panic and run. Or worse, bite her. The dog could be feral, scared. Either of which could make it react with its teeth.
In the car, Olivia had dog treats. Maybe if she got a couple of those, the dog would let Olivia get close and evaluate its injuries. She pivoted back to the Toyota and unlatched the rear passenger door, careful not to let Miss Sadie out. Just as Olivia snaked a hand into the bag that held the treats, Sadie bounded over the seats, pounced on the bag, and knocked it to the floor. Olivia opened the door a few inches more, scrambling for the spilled dog biscuits.
A flash of white zipped past. Oh damn. “Miss Sadie!”
Too late. The bichon darted into the yard, barking hellos. The golden started, hips raised, ready to run. Damn, damn, damn. “Sadie! Quiet! Stay!”
The bichon heard the command in Olivia’s voice and stopped running. She turned back, noted the displeasure in her mistress’s face, and dropped to her haunches. Too late.
A glimpse of yellow fur, disappearing under the picket fence dividing her property from the house next door. A flick of a tail—
The dog was gone.
Olivia called the bichon back to the driveway and ordered her to sit. “Stay. I’ll go look for him.”
Miss Sadie sat, her pixie face filled with disappointment at missing the great adventure.
“I know you want to help, but you need to stay. Stay.” Olivia grabbed a handful of treats out of the car and headed for the hole in the wooden fence.
Hole was a generous description. Two boards were missing, a third broken in half. Olivia bent down and stepped one leg through—straight into a thick, green shrub. She pulled her other leg through and shoved past the jumble of green leaves and spiky branches that tangled in her hair, grabbed at her clothes, scratched at her face and arms. Finally, she emerged on the other side, a little worse for wear.
She straightened—and almost collided with a six-foot-tall wall of a man.
“What the hell are you doing?” he said.
Her mouth opened, closed. Not a single word came out. Her gaze roamed over him, and she had to remind herself to breathe. Damn. Hot, handsome, sexy. She swallowed hard and tried not to stare.
Blue jeans hugged his thighs, and a black T-shirt sporting a Harley-Davidson logo outlined a defined, hard chest, muscled biceps. The man had short cropped deep brown hair, a chiseled jaw shadowed with rough stubble. Dark sunglasses hid his eyes, despite the setting sun behind him. On one side of his face, a jagged scar peeked out from under the sunglasses, which only added to the air of mystery. He looked—
Not in the hack-you-into-tiny-pieces-and-bury-you-in-a-landfill kind of way, but in a mysterious, sensual way that said tangling with him would be unforgettable. That he was the kind of guy who could kiss her and leave her . . . reeling. Breathless. The kind her friends called a Mindless Man because one night with him would make a girl lose her mind—in a very, very good way.
Olivia brushed off the worst of the shrub debris from her hair and face. Chided herself for worrying about her appearance. Her priority was the golden, not some stranger with sex appeal and an attitude. “I’m looking for the dog.”
“The golden retriever that ran into your yard.” Olivia peered around the man. She didn’t see the dog anywhere. Then she spied the end of a pale yellow tail sticking out underneath the man’s porch.
“Is it running away from home? Or from you?”
“Yes—no. I . . . I don’t know.” Damn, why did this man fluster her? “It ran over here because it’s scared. I think the dog is hurt and needs to see a vet.”
He leaned down, and she caught the scent of soap and sweat. A man’s scent, tempting, dark. His sunglasses reflected back her own face, and nothing more. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she could feel his assessing gaze. “Let me guess,” he said, his voice low, teasing. “You hit the dog with your car and now you’ve had a sudden attack of guilt.”
“Of course not!”
“Uh-huh.” A slight grin played on his lips. “So you’re just another Debby Do-Gooder, out to save the world?”
“I’m trying to save a dog, not the whole world. That’s all.” She thought of the house. Her complicated, disastrous new start. “I’ve got enough on my plate.”
“You and me both, lady. You and me both.” He let out a long breath and turned away.
In the distance, someone started a lawn mower. The low drone of the engine overpowered the chirping of the birds and sent the pungent smell of gasoline into the air. Crickets chirped in the deep grass, hidden under the carpet of green. A soft breeze tickled a path down the yard.
“Well, if you find what you’re looking for,” he said, “let me know.”
“I already did.” She bent down and splayed her palm to show the treats to the furry body under the porch. “Here, baby. Want some cookies?” The tail swished, but the dog didn’t come forward.
“Sorry, lady, but I’m full. Though if you have chocolate chip, I’ll reconsider.”
“I’m happy to share, if you like liver-flavored biscuits.”
“They make those?” He grimaced. “That sounds inhumane.”
“That’s because they’re for the dog, silly.” Olivia gestured toward the porch. “See him? Right there?”
The man turned. Scanned the space. “I don’t see anything.”
“What are you, blind?” She marched a few steps forward, and pointed again. “Right there. Now if you’ll just help me—”
The tail disappeared. An instant later, the dog darted out of the yard and into a thick copse of firs and palmetto palms across the street. Olivia sighed. “Great. Now he’s gone. Thanks a lot.”
“You’re blaming me?” He arched a brow, and the earlier friendliness on his face had been replaced by hard lines. “I’m not the one trespassing. And possibly stealing someone’s dog.”
He had a point. She hated that, but he did. “Okay, maybe I was trespassing. But it was for a good cause.”
He smirked. “That’s what all criminals say.”
“I am not a criminal. I’m a good person with good intentions.” Her chin jutted up. “Unlike you. You . . .”
“Ogre?” he supplied.
Unbidden, her gaze trailed past the lean definition of his face, along those broad shoulders, down his strong arms. A dark heat brewed inside her, a heat she hadn’t felt in a long, long time. What would it be like to have one night of hot, crazy sex with a man like him? He had this . . . edge to him, that whispered dangerous heartbreaker, yet at the same time, he carried an air of animal confidence that said a night with him would be amazing. Unforgettable. Curl-your-toes-and-smack-yo-momma amazing.
Clearly, she had gone way too long without sex.
She cleared her throat. Tried not to picture him in bed. Or naked. Or both. “I . . . I wouldn’t call you an ogre.”
“Oh, really?” He arched a brow, and something like a smile flickered on his face. A delicious quiver slid through her veins. “And what would you call me?”
“I don’t know, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be Mr. Rogers.”
He laughed. “On that, I would agree.”
The moment of détente extended between them. An olive branch, thin, but a start. She put out her hand. “We got off on the wrong foot. I’m Olivia Linscott. Your new neighbor.”
He ignored her handshake. “Well, Olivia Linscott, do me a favor from here on out. Stay on your side of the fence. Us ogres don’t like to be bothered.” Then he turned on his heel and headed inside.
If this guy was indicative of the typical Rescue Bay resident, then she was tempted to get back in the car and drive home to Boston. At least there the crusty New England attitude came with the zip code.
Instead, Olivia headed out to the sidewalk. She cupped her hand to block the sun in her eyes and searched the dark wooded thicket across the street for any sign of the dog. Nothing.
“It’s okay, puppy. I’ll wait. I’m here for . . .” She glanced again at the decaying buildings she had inherited, now complicated by an injured dog off somewhere licking his wounds and a run-in with a surly neighbor. She had a mountain to climb ahead of her, but the sense of purpose surged in her chest. She could do this. She would do this. “A long while.”
She dropped the treat in her hand onto the ground. There would be time to work with the dog, to earn his trust. Time to change the dog’s life.
Olivia headed back to her property. She paused in front of the dilapidated renovation project that had become her inheritance and her home and called Miss Sadie to her side. Olivia had spent the year since her divorce trying to regroup, refocus, figure out who she was and what she wanted. Here in Rescue Bay, she had a chance to do all of that, while also finding her roots and discovering the truth about Bridget Tuttle. It was an opportunity, she told herself. The one she’d wanted for so long.
Miss Sadie propped her paws on Olivia’s knee. She bent down and gave the bichon an ear scratching. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, don’t we, Miss Sadie?” Then she glanced again at the house, and the reality of the disaster in front of her washed over Olivia. The place needed a new porch, a new roof, new siding—and that was just the outside.
“I don’t even know where to start. Or heck, how to hammer a nail.” What had she gotten herself into? Her resolve wavered and she glanced at the dog, trying to convince herself more than Miss Sadie. “We can do it. Right?”
The dog barked, and the bravado that had held Olivia together for fourteen hundred miles crumpled. Burning tears rushed to the surface and spilled down her cheeks. She dropped to the ground and gathered the only friend she had in Rescue Bay into her arms.
There are more books planned in the Sweetheart Sisters series, so don’t miss this debut! You’re going to love Greta and the girls, and a special dog named Chance who not only wags his way into Olivia’s, but also Luke’s (though Luke would never admit it!). If you love the beach, dogs, wounded heroes and impossible love stories, then you’re going to love The Sweetheart Bargain.
I hope you all had a fabulous summer and found lots of great books to read! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or visit my blog. I love to hear from readers, and if you send me a picture of The Sweetheart Bargain in a store or on your nightstand, then I’ll send you a special gift!
Thank you all for reading!