Welcome to sister Wild Rose Press author Darlene Deluca and her cookie collection book!
—“Here, let me take your coat. Just dump your bag. I’ve got tons of chocolate and snacks.” Helen steered Alana into the spacious great room, which opened into a fabulous light and airy kitchen. Alana loved her aunt’s home—old and stately on the outside but completely updated and contemporary on the inside.
“Wow, Aunt Helen, this is gorgeous. You didn’t tell me you changed your color scheme. That tree is amazing.” The towering Christmas tree shone with white lights and hues of blue plus silver and white. “It’s festive and, I don’t know, tranquil at the same time.”—
That’s one snippet from my new Christmas novella, Cookie Collision, just released by The Wild Rose Press. It’s a sweet romance that’s part of a 50-some collection of holiday stories that all feature a cookie theme.
Isn’t it amazing how every Christmas tree has its own look? Almost like snowflakes or a fingerprint, no two are exactly alike. A thousand people can start with the same basic tree with green branches and make it fit their personality, taste, style and decor.
When my husband and I first got married, we had no particular style. We bought basic glass balls for ornaments and hand strung popcorn-and-cranberry garland to decorate our early Christmas trees. (We didn’t have much money, either.) Through the years we changed it up. For a while, we chose a red and silver color scheme. Then we switched to a more sophisticated look with rose and gold ribbons and ornaments. Then one year I found some blue and green ornaments that I absolutely loved, and a whole new “look” was born.
I love seeing how people trim their trees—colored lights or white, solid or flashing, handmade ornaments from the kids or high-end designer baubles. In the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of fun trees in pink and white and some beautiful, more traditional trees in reds and golds, and it makes me wish I could have a different tree in every room!
Do you have a favorite theme or color scheme? I’d love to hear about them!
And here’s another little peek at Cookie Collision, my newly released Christmas cookie novella.
—“Ooh, I love these. Sweet and savory at the same time.” Alana picked up a pretzel rod dipped in dark chocolate and set it on a small dessert plate.
“Yeah, those are good, but I’m in the mood for something sweet.”
“I think I can help with that.” She plucked one of her frosted snowman cookies from the plate.
A slow smile spread across his face. “Nah, I’m going to need that red stocking.”
“Well, okay. Picky, picky.” She placed the snowman on her own plate and lifted the other one.
“Reminds me of you.”
Her brows pulled together, and she gave a little laugh. “A Christmas stocking? And why is that?”
“Reminds me of how we met.”
“Ah, yes. Those snazzy red slippers. Those are some keepers, for sure.” She remembered his warm hands on her leg as he’d gently slid the socks on. She glanced back and saw they were partially blocked from view by the Christmas tree.
Justin bit into the cookie and chewed. “Yeah, that’s good. But I was thinking of something even sweeter.” He pulled her closer and brushed a thumb across her cheek.
When her eyes fluttered closed, his lips covered hers, and she wound her arms around his neck. Mmmm. Sweet, indeed.—
Before she can let up and enjoy some holiday cheer, real estate agent Alana Drake has work to do. With Christmas moving in fast, she has clients to meet with, houses to show, and cookies to bake. Every open house deserves her special touch—homemade and hand-decorated sugar cookies for a warm welcome. And she needs several dozen for upcoming holiday events and open houses.
But a poorly timed stop at the grocery store could upend more than her bag of groceries. Running into Doctor Justin Teague—literally—shakes up Alana’s tidy world. The chance encounter leaves her with a bum ankle, forces her to reconsider some dating ideals, and reveals new information about a longtime nemesis.
When all she wanted was to bake some cookies…
Justin moved into the room, set the things on a side table, and perched on a chair. Watching her, he could practically see the pain fade from her face. Her brow smoothed, and the tension he’d noticed around her lips disappeared. He fought the urge to brush a kiss across her forehead. She looked way too peaceful to disturb. But now what? Sit here and watch her sleep? Sneak out the door? He couldn’t leave it unlocked, and he had no idea whether she’d be down for the night or if she did power naps.
Finally, he took off his shoes and quietly padded to the kitchen to deal with supper. For now, everything could go in the fridge. Feeling like an intruder, he moved stealthily around her kitchen. With that task completed, he grabbed a newsmagazine from a basket and settled into a chair across from his patient…and/or dinner date.
Twenty minutes later, Alana stirred. She pulled up her arm and adjusted her position. Then her eyes opened.
“Hey,” Justin whispered.
She bolted upright. “Oh, my gosh. Justin. Did I fall asleep? I’m so sor—”
He held up a hand. “Shhh. No worries.” He handed her the glass of water and tablets. “Why don’t you take a couple of these then I’ll wrap your ankle.”
For him, the biggest issue was not the condition of her ankle but trying to stay in professional mode and ignore the feel of her smooth leg under his hands. Seated on the table in front of the sofa, he forced his eyes to focus on the strip of fabric as he wound it around both foot and ankle and secured it firmly. “How’s that feel?”
Alana nodded. “That’s amazing. It’s better already.” Luminous eyes met his. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Keeping it tight is the key.” He couldn’t help himself. He reached out and touched her hair. “Sorry you had a bad day.”
A light sparked in her eyes, and she sat straighter. “I didn’t have a bad day.”
Frowning, he cocked his head. “You didn’t? Looks like the ankle was, well, a big pain.”
She grinned. “It was. Except for this stupid ankle, I had a great day. I got two offers on the house, and another couple that’s interested is supposed to let me know tomorrow. That means we could have a bidding war and get more than our asking price. And that is a good thing.”
Justin couldn’t help laughing. He held up his hand for a high-five. “Very nice.” He loved her triumph-over-adversity attitude.
“Hey, food’s in the fridge. Easy to heat up whenever you’re ready.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” She glanced toward the kitchen then met his eyes again. “Are you— Can you stay?”
He felt a pull deep inside as those questioning blue eyes leveled on him. Yeah, he wanted to stay.
Darlene Deluca writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and likes to explore relationships – what brings people together or keeps them apart.
Her intent is to bring to life interesting characters that readers can relate to in real-life situations that combine a little fun, plenty of drama (with perhaps a tear or two), and big helpings of friendship, love and self-discovery, and will leave readers either cheering or sighing with a satisfied smile as they turn the final page.
The Kansas City author enjoys getting lost in a good story with a glass of tea, a bit of dark chocolate and a warm, sunny beach.
Hair stylist Scarlett Kerrigan lost her job and her apartment. To alleviate a touch of self-pity, she succumbs to her stepmom’s pressure to attend a wedding in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Unfortunately, she runs into the vacation fling who promised the moon but disappeared without an explanation. Months have passed, but she is not ready to forgive and forget.
After a chaotic year, executive Wes Harley settles into his family’s event venue, The Timeless Manor. His carefully structured world is shaken to its core when Scarlett arrives for the Victorian Christmas wedding weekend. The feelings he never quite erased flood to the surface.
When secrets are revealed, will a magical chateau and a sprinkle of tinsel be enough to charm Scarlett?
Lights flashed in the side view mirror. Another car parked behind them, but snow blocked all visibility through the back window. Boots crunching through snow announced the hulking figure before he appeared at the door. A scarf and hat covered most of the stranger’s face, and only a pair of emerald-green eyes peered in.
Scarlett inched down the window a crack. The possibility of this person being a deranged lunatic couldn’t be overlooked.
“Scarlett?” The man stepped back and tugged down the scarf.
She knew that face and opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find a word. This day just kept getting better. Those eyes should have been the first clue, but never in her wildest dreams did she expect to see him again. The blur of memories racing through her mind dropped a throat-constricting concoction of confusion, hurt, and vile hope on her chest. “Wes.”
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you a little far from home?” A line formed between his eyebrows.
Clarice leaned forward to get a better glimpse of their potential knight in shining armor.
“More than a little.” Coherent thoughts took shape in the form of questions and accusations. Every fiber in her being burned at the thought of asking him for help, but alternative options were few and far between. Who knew how long before roadside assistance arrived? Fine, maybe he’d get her out of this mess, but making small talk didn’t need to factor into the exchange.
About the Author:
Jill Piscitello is a teacher, author, and an avid fan of multiple literary genres. Although she divides her reading hours among several books at a time, a lighthearted story offering an escape from the real world can always be found on her nightstand.
A native of New England, Jill lives with her family and three well-loved cats. When not planning lessons or reading and writing, she can be found spending time with her family, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and going on light hikes.
My husband and I started our married life in a tiny, rustic house at the edge of a deep woods. Not surprisingly, we had many encounters with wildlife. Here’s the story of one of them.
Mice With Green Heads
One particularly snowy winter, our house was overrun by mice. We didn’t want to kill the little critters, so we put a big plastic garbage can in our utility closet and baited it with food scraps. Mice would scramble in to get the food, but the slick vertical sides prevented them from climbing back out. Every morning we would find five or more mice huddled at the bottom of the garbage can. We would drag the can three or four hundred yards into the woods (uphill, through deep snow) and release them.
Despite our efforts, the daily mouse counts never decreased. The situation was both perplexing and troubling. How many mice were living in our walls? Dozens? Hundreds? We wondered whether the mice we released in the woods were somehow finding their way back, but dismissed the idea. The distance was too great, the snow too deep.
Nonetheless, I decided to conduct an experiment. One morning I scooped one of the captured mice into a jar and painted the top of its head with green food coloring. The poor thing winced in misery the whole time (“Why is this HAPPENING to me???”). I murmured soothing words and then hiked up into the woods to release it.
The next morning, I found the usual five or six mice in the garbage can—including one with a green head! I repeated the experiment several more times—with the same incredible results. I recalled all those stories I’d heard about lost cats and dogs making their way home over impossible distances. Did mice have the same fortitude, the same mysterious homing instinct?
We moved on to Plan B: driving our wee captives to a wooded area about three miles from our house, on the far side of a creek. (Try to get back now, you little scamps!) We always left a handful of toasted-oats cereal to get them started on their new lives. That did the trick, though our mouse problem was never entirely resolved. Eventually we moved to the suburbs, where our house was occasionally infiltrated by lady bugs, spiders, and ants. But we never again saw a mouse—green-headed or otherwise!
New From The Wild Rose Press: Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams
Annie Barkley lives next to a forest but has worse things than wildlife to contend with. Read about her tribulations in the romantic suspense novella Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams, part of The Wild Rose Press’s Christmas Cookies series.
Blurb for Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams:
When Annie Barkley discovers a boy living in the attic of her cookie shop, she’s stunned—and oddly elated. She can almost believe the universe is giving her back the infant son she lost eleven years ago.
Annie senses that something bad happened to the boy, but he won’t talk. All she knows is that he’s terrified of being found. When her long-ago crush, police captain Sam Stern, stops by to inquire about a missing boy, Annie says she hasn’t seen him.
Big mistake. Because that lie might cost her more than a romance with Sam. It also leaves her vulnerable to a ruthless pursuer, one who’s determined to silence the boy for good.
Goosebumps prickled across her scalp. Why hadn’t she thought to grab something to use for self-defense? A knife or a fork or Gram’s old cast-iron baking pan, which maybe, just maybe, would deflect bullets. There might be a metal nail file in her purse, except she had no time to hunt for it, because the trap door was creaking open, and—oh, God!—someone was coming down the stairs.
Footfalls thudded across the floor, mere feet from where she was hunkered behind the island. Squinting through the grainy dimness, she peeked around the corner in time to glimpse a slight, dark figure creeping into the room out front. She got to her feet and followed.
She came to a halt just beyond the doorway. The big neon clock on the rear wall glowed blue, giving the room a bar-like ambience. The cookie burglar was standing behind the counter to her left, cramming snowdrop cookies into his mouth.
God in heaven, it was a boy. The cookie burglar was a boy. And he was eleven. She was sure of that, even though the light was dim and she was seeing him only in profile. Something about him seemed familiar—his slouched shoulders, perhaps, or the long, straight slope of his nose. He was slender like her, though a few inches shorter. His hair was matted and dark but with a good shampooing would probably be the same tawny shade as her own.
An eleven-year-old brown-haired boy, come down from above to burgle her cookie shop…
Nowadays, Kim writes in a variety of genres. Her paranormal young-adult novel The Haunted Purse was the third-place winner in the 2021 National Excellence in Story Telling Contest (YA category), sponsored by the Central Region Oklahoma Writers. Her middle-grade novel Mall Girl Meets the Shadow Vandal was the bronze medal winner in the 2021 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Contest, Children’s Mystery category. Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams is Kim’s first foray into adult romantic suspense.
In addition to being an author, Kim has worked as a professional editor for the past sixteen years. She lives in Virginia, where she likes to go power-walking on days when it’s not too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, or too windy. On indoor days, you might find her binge-watching one of her favorite TV shows: Gilmore Girls, Friends,The Office, or Breaking Bad.
Leyla Brand has one perfect day in her life: the day she meets rock singer Arran Lake at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville. They have so much in common, Leyla is sure they are soulmates and will have a future together.
The very next morning, when Arran receives the call to hit the big time, he vanishes into the world of California rock and roll to become an international star, leaving her behind. Only a few phone calls keep them in touch — until his phone is disconnected. After that, all she has of him is every new song that hits the charts.
Five years later, she gets a message on the Internet from an unfamiliar address. Someone wants to know if she’s the Leyla of Bele Chere. Should she open that door and discover who this might be? Who else could it be? And if it is Arran, why does he want to contact her now, after all this time? Will he just break her heart again?
This excerpt has a personal connection for me– at the time I wrote it, my daughter was working as a pastry chef at the Stable, at the Biltmore–and I included her very own strawberry and lemon custard pie in the story!!
As the first colors of twilight painted themselves onto the clouds overhead, Leyla and Arran walked through the rose garden at the Biltmore’s botanical gardens, hand in hand. She could hardly believe this was happening. She’d hoped for a simple meeting, a conversation. Instead, he’d swept her off her feet.
They’d lingered over a late lunch of roasted vegetable panini, followed by strawberry-and-lemon custard pie at the Stable, a casual restaurant built on the site of the former stables of the estate, the booths constructed from the wrought iron and solid wood of the old stable panels. When the staff politely eased them out at closing, they’d left the restaurant and strolled the gardens.
She learned that he refused to wear the glasses he’d been prescribed in junior high, because he thought they made him look old; that she’d been right that he didn’t drink, since he came from a family of alcoholics; and that his fear of needles had kept him from getting the typical rock star tattoos. She shared that her mother had left just before Leyla went to kindergarten, that she’d always thought cats sucked the breath out of people while they slept, which is why she wanted a cocker spaniel puppy, and that science fiction shows had always been her favorite.
“So you grew up fast,” Arran observed, reaching out to gently touch one of the tea roses along the walk.
“Had to. My dad worked all the time, and I kept house, cooked, you know, all that.”
She walked beside him, close but not touching, noting others’ glances at them. People stared. Did they recognize Arran, or was it the smile on her face, the one she couldn’t control, her delight warm and shining through?
He laughed, but it wasn’t an amused sound, more a bond of understanding. “My parents really quit keeping track of me about the time I turned fourteen. They spent more time finding the bottom of their bottles.” He hunkered down to examine the leaves of a plant. “So it seems like we both had to grow up on our own.”
“Well, kind of.” She didn’t feel sorry for herself. She really didn’t want him thinking she was just another loser. “I had plenty of friends, too. So I got out of the house a lot. Spent a lot of time running from reality, actually.”
“Oh, I know. Me, too.” He grinned. “Some pretty bad years there, about age fifteen, sixteen. I’m surprised I’m still alive, actually.”
She wondered what he’d done that was so bad. She knew her own sins. She’d bet everything in her wallet that they’d echo each other. We’ve got time to discover all our shadows. “Amazing,” was all she said.
THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, from the Wild Rose Press in ebook format–costs less than a cup of coffee. Give it a try!
Check out all the other great books on the loop here!
Out-of-work violinist Erica Timberly decides enough is enough. She leaves her abusive boyfriend and flees the big city, but then her car breaks down in the middle of the night. Though wary of men, she accepts help from Dylan Haynes, a stranger driving by on the road, and soon recognizes him as the sexy former drummer of her favorite indie rock band. Maybe, just maybe, her run of bad luck is finally turning around.
Music teacher Dylan Haynes knows Erica is in trouble, and her black eye is only the first clue. The stubborn yet vulnerable woman needs a friend, but he’s determined to give her everything she deserves.
Will Erica listen to the music in her heart and trust Dylan, or will her past always threaten her future?
Dylan deepened the kiss and lightly tugged on her bottom lip. Tears streaked his flushed cheeks as he smiled at her. “I’m so grateful I found you, baby. I heard you screaming. When I saw that bastard press a gun to your head, my heart nearly exploded. I thought I might lose you. I promise you, Erica, I will never control you as Phil did. You will always have the ability to choose. I just want to make you happy.”
She gripped his hand and brushed her lips across his calloused knuckles. “I know. You do make me happy. You took a bullet for me.” A sob constricted her throat, but she pushed it down.
A blast of noise rent the air. Fireworks filled the sky, visible in the alley from the narrow stretch of space between the buildings.
Erica loved the bright colors and designs, but hardly cared about watching the spectacle. She dropped her gaze back to Dylan.
A grin spread across his face. “It’s been one wild Fourth of July. Why don’t we do something more low-key next year? How about no guns and crazy exes? Just us, the creek, and a bottle of wine. Clothing optional.”
She laughed softly, amazed he could make light of the situation. “That sounds perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
Series: Deerbourne Inn (book 4)
Narrator: Georgia Allens
Audiobook Rights Holder: Amber Daulton with Daulton Publishing
Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.
After a run of bad relationships, Lily Pearl Evans has finally become an independent woman. In the New Mexico desert town of Chaparral, she works for herself, sets her own rules, and is determined no man will hold her back again.
Gene Nicholas worked for more than a decade to achieve his dream to be a doctor. Wanting to share his gifts with those less fortunate, he leaves south Florida to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders in Mexico.
When Gene provokes a showdown with the local Mexican drug cartel, he becomes a man with a price on his head. On the run, he ends up on Lily’s doorstep–a mystery man forced to conceal his past to protect them both. With the cartel’s dangerous web drawing tight around them, can Lily and Gene survive a drug lord’s revenge?
The women weren’t dressed in what he expected as usual afternoon casual wear in suburbia. No culottes or capris here. Their hair curled loose around bare shoulders. Two wore cocktail dresses; the rest some sort of silky lingerie. They seemed perfectly comfortable as his gaze crawled over their exposed bodies. Most wore no makeup, they were all beautiful.
Gene’s diagnostic brain clicked forward along some trail of logic. “Is this a…?”
The woman smiled. “Bordello? You could say that.”
The redhead walked across the room toward him, the front of her skirt flowing open, revealing legs that couldn’t possibly be on the upward side of thirty, although his trained eye recognized subtle evidence of her age. She held out a peach-nailed hand. “I’m Lily Pearl Evans. Welcome to the Sassafras Social Club.”
He automatically took the extended hand, felt the softness of her skin against his. Up close like this, he could see she had cultivated an early beauty into striking middle-age allure. “I’m sorry to impose.”
“So, Mr. Richards, I’m curious what brought you to us.” Her fingers held his hand, turned it over to examine it.
He tried to pull away, but she held tight, her grip stronger than he’d expected. “What are you looking for?” he asked. What if the bordello had ties to Agustin’s cartel? Several of the girls had olive skin, dark hair and eyes. Thinking he was safe, he could have landed in the snake pit.
“Your fate line is very strong,” Lily said, tracing the midline of his palm.
“Is it now?” He didn’t look at his hand, his mind’s eye still seeing it covered in blood.
The warmth of her hand didn’t leave his. “An itch under my skin tells me there’s more to you than meets the eye, Mr. Richards.”
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