How about a whole lot of chemistry for Christmas?


One of my favorite tropes in romance is the character who doesn’t “get” sex or enjoy it but finds themselves attracted to someone on a deeply chemical/animal level and doesn’t know what to do with themselves. There’s probably a concise term for that but I only went to two years of actual college then got a degree from the Army in something that’s only useful if you work for the government. Next week, I’ll write about Choices. But back to one of my favorite tropes: Welcome to Sex, nerd! I’m kidding and it’s not just nerds, even though hot nerds is another one of my favorite tropes. There are lots of perfectly reasonable reasons why a character might not care for sex, including asexuality and abuse, but the nerd awakening is fun for all readers. Which is what we’ve got with Meredith Crane. He was perfectly happy with his asexuality and being a dapper nerd until he met Decker. Our sweet, shy librarian doesn’t know what to do with himself. Literally. “What is my body doing and WHY?” is how I signal to you, the reader, that it’s about to go down like a house on fire. Especially when you add a strapping sheriff with a heart as big as his hands and a very healthy beard. There are mysteries to solve and a holiday festival to prepare for but our heroes can’t keep their hands off each other. Thank goodness. Here’s an excerpt from Merry & Wright:

“You’re right on time, dear! I’ve just sat down for some tea and cookies and could use the company,” Mary called from the sitting room as Meredith hung his trench coat. The fire was roaring and Meredith groaned ecstatically as he rubbed his hands together and headed straight for it. He grew up in New Hampshire but this winter was turning particularly cold and damp and his body was not tolerating it as well. “How was your first week as librarian?” She asked as she pointed her needle at the armchair opposite hers, in front of the fire. She was knitting something in a charming oatmeal and red striped pattern but she set it aside and poured a cup of tea for Meredith.

“Everything’s been lovely,” he replied then gave Mary a grateful nod as he took the cup and saucer from her.

“I added some chocolate chip cookies because they’re your favorite,” she informed him and slid the plate of cookies closer to him. He stirred in four cubes of sugar then thanked her as he took a cookie and sat back. “Marvin’s in the kitchen, listening to one of his podcasts while he does the silver,” she added and Meredith hummed as he took a drink of his tea. He often found one of them in the sitting room when he returned from the library in the evenings and they’d insist that Meredith join them. Tea, if it was Mary, or a cup of soup, if he happened upon Marvin. Meredith wasn’t sure if it was their normal habit or if they adopted it to make sure he had something warm to return to, but he enjoyed his evening chats with them. They were a gentle, nurturing couple and Meredith was becoming very fond of the charming and impeccably tidy inn. He felt guilty, paying only $350 a month, especially when they went so far out of their way to make sure he was comfortable and warm.

“Everything has been lovely, particularly this inn and my hosts,” he said and Mary gasped in delight.

“I’m so pleased to hear that, Meredith! We never know if Eliza’s little antics will scare people off but it’s so nice when we have guests. It’s usually just us and Edith and she turns in early and often misses breakfast,” she said and Meredith smiled at the mild judgment in her tone. Mary and Marvin were delightful busybodies and from what Meredith gathered, Edith was the center of her own universe. Meredith had yet to meet her because of their very different schedules but he’d met Edith’s husband, Fred. They were a peculiar couple, Meredith quickly learned. They divorced some years ago, after a very tumultuous marriage, then fell in love again after Edith moved out of their home and into the inn. Apparently, their love flourished during courtship and distance kept the heart fonder, so she remained at the inn and Fred called on her every day.

“I’m learning to include multiple options for my outfits each morning,” he said then checked to see if his cookie had reached optimum softness. The chips weren’t as melted as he liked so he dunked it back into his tea. Planning backup ties and socks was a minor inconvenience, compared to the many benefits of staying at the inn, he decided. “Eliza is a nuisance but I’ll find a way to make peace with her,” he vowed then gave Mary a firm nod.

“I’m sure you will,” Mary chuckled as she leaned forward and gave his hand a pat. Her eyes became calculating as she sat back and returned to her knitting. “I hope that means you’re thinking of staying.” She did her best to be coy but Meredith humphed.

“It’s only been a week but I am considering it,” he admitted carefully. He didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up but the old library was quiet and cozy and Meredith found the town’s history fascinating, the more he learned. His little research project with Decker had much more meat on its bones than Meredith predicted. He thought it might make a good display for the library or possibly make it into one of the city papers but Meredith was mostly doing it to distract Decker and the other townspeople Emmet Haynes had hurt. “It would be nice if I could find something new about the Wilkeses and the Mortons,” he said to Mary and she made a thoughtful sound as she gazed across the room.

“You never know, in an old place like this. People are always finding things hidden under floorboards and behind bookshelves. They found a secret door in what’s now the Visitor’s Center! It went all the way down to a cave in the cove. It’s left over from when they smuggled things in to avoid taxes and hid food and weapons from the British,” she explained excitedly.

“Did they really?” Meredith asked as he reached for another cookie and Mary nodded slowly.

“It was just a few years ago and they found some old ledgers and manifests. Emmet has them all on display at the Visitor’s Center and you can take a tour of the tunnel,” she said and her face fell when she remembered that Emmet was gone. Meredith sat forward so he could put down his tea and the cookie then took one of Mary’s hands. He had no idea what he could say to make it better or how he found the nerve to do it but his thumbs rubbed the back of her hand soothingly and he hushed softly.

“You make up for his evil by being generous and kind every day,” he started and his lips curved as he came up with the perfect salve for Mary’s wounds. “We have a lot of work to do but I think these mysteries and the holiday festival will help Covington close that sad chapter and give us all something we can celebrate,” he explained then cleared his throat conspiratorially. “I’ve never been all that into Christmas but Decker says he’s on a mission to make this year’s festival perfect for Covington. I think we should help him,” he said and Mary’s eyes glazed over as she began to plan. She nodded then grabbed his hand and squeezed.

“That’s exactly what we’ll do! I’ll talk to the ladies at church about wreaths and baked goods,” she decided and Meredith sat back and raised his cup in approval.

“I have no idea how I’ll help so you let me know if you think of anything,” he replied but she was rattling on names of people Meredith didn’t know and assigning pies, cakes and loaves to each of them.

Meredith loved pies, cakes and loaves but his mind wandered and his responses devolved into hums as Mary moved on to wreaths. Unfortunately, wreaths couldn’t hold his attention when it could be occupied with Decker. Meredith understood sex and physical attraction about as much as he understood wreaths and until Decker, he cared about sex as much as he cared about wreaths. Meredith had never felt real sexual attraction before. For him, arousal was something closer to esteem and intellectual stimulation. His past partners were professors and scholars who fascinated Meredith with their knowledge and experience. For him, it was never physical and Meredith merely catered to their sexual preferences. He had none of his own beyond preferring men. And they were all much older men and because of their age, sex was occasional and brief. Most of his partners suffered from erectile disfunction, so sex usually involved some intimate touching but rarely required penetration of any sort.

That suited Meredith because his brain didn’t function the way most men’s did. He was never fixated with sex. The breaching of his personal space, the intimate touching, bodily fluids and odors made him uncomfortable. He was self-aware enough to know that many of his peculiarities were the result of having a distant father who demanded order and academic excellence while eschewing praise and affection. So it was baffling, to find himself drawn to someone as commanding and physical as Decker. He was large and powerful but instead of being loud and intimidating, he was gentle, affectionate and charming. Meredith enjoyed the challenge of solving the inn’s mysteries but it was Decker’s visits to the library and their chats during breakfast and lunch that were the true highlight of his week. Which suddenly became a bit of a problem for Meredith. His brow furrowed as he dipped his cookie in his tea. He’d never had a crush on anyone before. Especially with someone as inappropriate as the (most likely straight) town sheriff. Meredith didn’t know what he was supposed to do with himself or what the remedy was for such an unfortunate complication. Covington was growing on Meredith and he liked the routine he’d fallen into with Mary and Marvin and he didn’t want to ruin his friendship with Decker.

“Actually, it might be a good time for me to learn about wreaths,” Meredith said then did his best to find some way to care about wreaths more than Decker.


I LOVE Meredith. I think you will too. And Decker is stupid hot. Merry & Wright will be available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited on 11/26.




How about a whole lot of chemistry for Christmas?

It’s almost time to get Merry & Wright!


Is it too soon to wish you a happy holidays? I don’t think so. I’ll go even further and give you something to smile about. Merry & Wright is available for pre-order right NOW and will be available in just a few weeks. Here’s an early and barely edited peek at like the first chapter and a half, because it’s cold out there, my loves!

Our story opens with our hero’s arrival…

“Finally,” Meredith sighed as the cab driver hefted the last suitcase out of the trunk and onto the sidewalk. He’d never heard of Covington before he agreed to fill in as the town’s librarian but it required almost six hours of travel on a train and three taxis to reach the small coastal town.

“That’s your library down there,” the driver said and pointed at the town square as Meredith squinted through his glasses and the snow. It wouldn’t be too long of a walk. “I always liked that it looked like a castle,” he added and Meredith nodded as he pulled his wallet out of his pocket and paid the driver. Meredith glanced back at the library and nodded in approval. It was fieldstone and wrapped in ivy and had turrets on each corner. He regarded the inn and his brows rose despite the tightening of his facial muscles as his lips and nose tingled from the bitter cold. It was a stately colonial house and lamps glowed invitingly in every window and the white picket fence and front garden were draped in fairy lights. The entire town was wrapped in garland, red bows and tiny white lights. 

“It’s just for a few months,” Meredith told himself as the cab pulled away from the curb. He frowned up at the sky and a snowflake landed on his nose.

“You’d better come inside! We’re expecting a good bit of snow tonight!” A short, plump elderly woman urged as she waved wildly at Meredith from the front steps of the Malbourne Inn. She was wearing a red dress and a white apron and bounced excitedly as Meredith pulled the largest of his suitcases behind him.

“I’ll get the rest of those!” An older man insisted as he hurried past Meredith on the flagstone path through the front garden.

“Come in and have something warm to drink!” The woman said then pulled Meredith into the house. “Just leave your bag there and he’ll take care of it. I’m Mary Clark and that was my husband, Marvin. You must be our Mr. Crane,” she babbled as she hooked her arm around Meredith’s and led him to the fireplace in the sitting room.

“Yes,” he said as he warmed his hands. His neck stretched as he admired the lovingly polished antiques, the soft floral wallpaper and the wide staircase in the center of the house. The inn was bright and clean and smelled like cookies.

“Here! A few sips of this and you’ll feel nice and toasty,” she said as she pushed a mug into Meredith’s hands then gave them a squeeze. “Goodness, they’re like icicles! Where are your mittens?” She scolded up at him. Meredith shook his head then sniffed cautiously. “It’s mulled cider with a good dose of whiskey!” She whispered and Meredith’s brow rose as he took a sip.

“That’s lovely,” he murmured as sweet, spicy warmth spread down his chest and limbs. “Thank you,” he added and Mary laughed as she reached for his cheek and gave it a gentle pat.

“I thought we’d need something a little stronger than tea tonight. Winter’s finally decided to show up. We’ve barely had any snow this year!” She complained and Meredith nodded along. People were generally happy to do most of the talking if Meredith nodded along and allowed them to worry about the dips and lulls in the conversation. He didn’t the mind long, quiet pauses that made people uncomfortable. They gave Meredith a break and allowed him to enjoy his own company for a few blessed moments but he was happy to listen to others ramble. “We’re going to put up the tree soon and we’ve got the holiday festival next month. You’ll love that! Won’t he Marvin?” Mary called as she leaned toward the foyer.

“What’s that?” Marvin asked as he wrestled the last of Meredith’s suitcases through the door.

“The holiday festival!” Mary said and Marvin gasped.

“Oh, yes! Our holiday festival is always lots of fun. And we’re finally getting some snow!” He laughed breathlessly as he dabbed at his forehead with his handkerchief. His thin white hair fluttered with the breeze as he shut the door then dragged Meredith’s suitcase toward the stairs.

“I’ll get those,” Meredith said but Marvin and Mary both waved him off.

“Let him! It’s the most exercise he’s had in days,” Mary said but Meredith still felt bad, letting Marvin handle everything. “And we’re both so happy to have a new librarian after…everything.” Her voice broke and her eyes watered.

“I did hear about that,” Meredith said and she nodded solemnly and her lower lip wobbled.

“Emmet Haynes was beloved by everyone and it was a terrible blow for us all,” she whispered and Meredith’s brows fell but she flailed her hand as she took a fortifying breath then smiled. “Let’s not dwell on that! The Covington Holiday Festival is the highlight of our year! Wait until you see all the lights and decorations,” she told Meredith and his eyes widened as he sipped.

“There’s more?” He asked in disbelief but Mary snorted dismissively.

“We’re just easing into it, now that we’ve got Thanksgiving out of the way,” she said then turned and gestured for Meredith to follow her. “Let’s get you checked in and then we’ll get you settled into your room, dear. You can bring your cider. You still look a bit chilled.” She hurried back into the foyer and Meredith followed with his mug. She stopped at the desk at the foot of the stairs and opened a ledger then turned it so he could sign. “Here’s your key. You’ll be in the Blue Room. We’ve never had anything go missing for more than a day but we give tours from time to time so you’ll want to lock your door when you leave,” Mary said as she came around the desk and Meredith followed her up the stairs. “You said you weren’t sure how long you would be staying in Covington,” she prodded and Meredith nodded.

“I’m not,” he confirmed and she laughed as they reached the top of the stairs then waved at the hall on the right and stopped at the first door.

“You’re not much of a talker, are you, Mr. Crane?” She asked as she opened the door and let him pass.

“No,” he said as he leaned into the room then stepped over the threshold. “Please, call me Meredith.” He liked the blue and white color scheme, it reminded him of English china.

“Breakfast begins at 6:00 a.m. It’s just you and Edith staying with us but people often pop in for a cup of coffee or a hot meal. We can usually count on Decker, our sheriff. He lives across the street and just a few houses over.” They stepped aside as Marvin delivered Meredith’s luggage and he gave Meredith a playful nudge with his elbow.

“Make sure you warn him about our other guests!” He told Mary and she nodded.

“I was just getting to that,” she said as she crossed the room and opened a door. “This is your bathroom and there are extra towels in the linen closet in the hall. If you find anything’s missing, don’t panic. It’s just Eliza and things usually turn up in the greenhouse or wherever she sees fit,” Mary explained and Meredith’s head pulled back.

“Eliza?” He asked but she just laughed and gestured dismissively.

“Her mother drowned her in the housekeeper’s bathroom before she hung herself from the banister in the hall. Eliza’s always up to mischief. The Malbourne Inn is a popular attraction and we give tours during the day,” she stated casually, as if it wasn’t appallingly morbid and ridiculous.

“I’m sorry?” Meredith replied weakly and Mary laughed.

“Don’t let it trouble you! Eliza and Jane are harmless and like to play the occasional prank but you’ll want to avoid the attic. Billy has been known to act out and we did lose a priest during an exorcism when I was an infant,” she said breezily as she turned down the quilt.

“Right,” Meredith murmured as he frowned at the door. It was too late in the evening to look for other accommodations.

“Don’t worry, though! You’ll be fine, as long as you avoid the attic. Jane and Eliza are harmless,” she insisted then clasped her hands together as she beamed at him. “We’re delighted to have you. Let me or Marvin know if we can do anything to make your stay more comfortable,” she said and Meredith nodded.

“Thank you,” he replied then let Mary give his cheek another tender pat as she left.

“Sleep well and don’t hesitate to call if you need anything!” She said then took herself off and quietly shut the door behind her. Meredith stared for a moment then snorted.

“Ghosts,” he muttered as he shook his head. “Obviously a gimmick to attract and entertain tourists,” he decided then set the matter aside and focused on unpacking.

The following morning, Decker arrives at the inn and…

“Good morning, Decker!” Marvin called as Decker kicked the snow off his boots at the door.

“Morning, Marvin,” he said then tapped his brow as Fred waved at him from the sofa in the sitting room. “Edith taking her time this morning?” He asked and the older man chuckled as he winked at Decker over his newspaper.

“She says it’s far too cold for her venture downstairs for breakfast. She’s having her tea and muffin in bed so I thought I’d keep Marvin company.”

“What are you up to this morning?” Marvin asked as he helped Decker out of his coat and hung it on the hook.

“Breakfast and I thought I’d welcome the new librarian,” Decker said and the three of them flinched and winced and the mood in the foyer dropped. Marvin coughed softly as he wiped at the corner of his eye and Decker gripped his shoulder reassuringly. “How are you all holding up?” The last few weeks were terrible for Covington’s residents, especially Haynes’ closest friends. Like Decker, they blamed themselves for not seeing it and felt deeply betrayed by Emmet.

“There’s no making sense of it, is there?” Marvin mused quietly and Decker shook his head.

“No. All we can do is help each other carry on and heal,” he said and Marvin nodded then offered Decker a brave smile.

“But Mr. Crane seems like a very sensible and capable young man!” He said and Decker’s brows rose.

“Does he?”

“Indeed! He should be down shortly, I imagine,” Marvin stated as he guided Decker through the more formal sitting room and toward the sunroom.

“Great. I’ll see what Mary’s up to,” Decker said as he left them. He found Mary arranging the pastries on the sideboard and her face lit up when Decker leaned into the room.

“Oh, hello, Decker!” She hurried around the tables and her arms stretched as he bent to give her a hug.

“How are you doing?” He asked as he kissed her cheek and she sighed heavily.

“Some days are dreadful but I find it helps to focus on the happier news. Marvin’s going to put up more lights later and we’ve got Mr. Crane staying with us now!” She informed him and he grinned as he reached for a plate.

“I heard. I came by to introduce myself and see what we can do to welcome him,” he said then began filling his plate while Mary poured a cup of coffee for him.

“That’s so good of you. It’s always nice to have a friendly face, when you’re new in town.”

“Marvin says he seems like a capable young man,” Decker said and she gasped.

“Oh, he is! I think he’ll fit in nicely!”

“Excellent!” Decker replied then he sat by the window so he could watch the doors.

“I have a good feeling about him,” she whispered as she set his mug on the table and patted Decker on the shoulder. “Goodness! I almost forgot about the banana muffins. You keep an eye out for Mr. Crane while I run to the kitchen,” she said and Decker chuckled as he waved her off.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t get lost, if he shows up,” he promised as she rushed to the kitchen. Decker waited until she was gone then frowned at his coffee as he stirred in the sugar. The people of Covington cherished their library and revered Emmet. Under different circumstances, a new librarian would have very big shoes to fill but Decker was praying that the new librarian would just be a decent human being. He needed someone dependable and capable to help the people of Covington make a fresh start and put Emmet and the hangings behind them. “Just be normal and not a serial killer,” he begged under his breath as he stirred distractedly then jumped to his feet as a slight but starkly beautiful man with thick framed glasses and bright blue eyes cautiously peeked into the sunroom. 

“Just go right on in!” Marvin called from the foyer and the other’s man’s eyes widened when he found Decker.

“Mary ran to the kitchen for a moment,” Decker said as he stepped around the table and offered his hand. “I’m Sheriff Decker Wright, you must be Mr. Crane.” The other man nodded as he took Decker’s hand. He was tall and lean and the sharp angles of his cheeks, jaw and chin were striking as his long, elegant neck stretched as he scanned the sunroom. His brown tweed suit was severely tailored and he paired it with a Fair Isle sweater vest and a tie. It was so perfectly appropriate for a librarian but the ensemble made Decker’s uniform feel a bit too tight and the room a little too warm. Decker guessed he was in his mid thirties but it was hard to tell, Crane’s complexion was pale and smooth and the shave was immaculate.

“Please, call me Meredith,” he said quietly and Decker stifled a shiver but leaned into the warm, low murmur. Decker’s pulse became heavier, as if Meredith was sharing something far more intimate.

“There you are!” Mary said as she reappeared with a basket of muffins then beamed at Decker. “I see you’ve met our Mr. Crane.”

“Just Meredith is fine,” he insisted then frowned at their hands. Decker was still holding onto Meredith’s.

“Sorry!” Decker laughed and finally released his hand. “I wanted to introduce myself and welcome you to Covington,” he explained and Meredith’s lips curved just slightly as he bowed his head.

“Thank you, Sheriff,” he said then cleared his throat softly. “Might I trouble you for a cup of coffee, Mary?”

“Of course! Have a seat and I’ll get that for you. I’ll make you a plate as well!” She said and Decker waved at the seat across from his.

“Would you like to join me?” He asked and Meredith opened his mouth to stop Mary but nodded as he sat.

“I usually just have coffee,” he said quietly then offered Decker another weak smile as he folded his hands in his lap. His eyes followed Mary as she stacked his plate with pancakes, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. “That’s far too much…” He whispered as he held up a hand and Decker cleared his throat. Meredith’s gaze darted back to him and Decker shook his head.

“There’s no point in arguing, you’re her Mr. Crane now. She’s going to smother you,” he warned under his breath. Meredith’s eyes widened as he looked at Mary.

“Her Mr. Crane?” He whispered and he looked startled as she lowered a heaping plate in front of him then returned with his coffee. “Thank you, Mary. This looks perfect,” he said and she laughed as she gave his cheek an affectionate pat.

“He’s not very much of a talker, our Mr. Crane. Is he?” She asked and missed the tightening of Meredith’s lips and the way his eyes narrowed as he draped his napkin over his lap. Mr. Crane was a people pleaser but he bristled when he was criticized for being quiet. Probably because it required a lot of effort on his part to talk to people, judging by the way his fist clenched in his lap the slight flare of his nostrils.

“I think that would be a good quality in a librarian,” Decker offered and a grin tugged at Meredith’s lips and there was a hint of pink in his cheeks as Mary laughed.

“Of course, but you know how Emmet loved to talk and talk…” Her voice died away and she took a shaking breath as she pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve. Decker shushed soothingly as he reached for her hand.

“We’ll get through this and it’ll get easier,” he told her and she nodded then offered them a watery smile.

“We’ve got each other and we’ve got Mr. Crane to get settled,” she stated then sighed as she went back to the sideboard and covered the dishes. Decker watched as Meredith added sugar to his coffee and became mesmerized by his hands as he stirred. They were slender and elegant, like Meredith, and his touch was light and precise. He stirred silently and didn’t strike or tap the ceramic before setting the spoon on the saucer. He took a cautious sip and there was a soft hum of approval. Then, Meredith picked up his fork and prodded the potatoes and eggs. Decker’s brow rose as Meredith continued to prod and frown at his plate.

“Is something wrong?” He asked and Meredith shook his head but he looked unsure until his nose wrinkled.

“I laid all my clothes on the bed this morning and everything was there. I’m sure of it,” he mumbled and Decker found himself leaning forward again, so he could follow what he was saying.

“But…?” He said and Meredith’s teeth dug into his lip.

“Both of my socks were there and I stepped into the bathroom for just a moment and when I turned back to the bed, one was missing. I know it was there. I saw it, but then it wasn’t. I looked everywhere but it’s gone. My door was locked but I’d swear someone must have taken it,” he said. He looked so concerned and earnest, Decker had to bite down on his lips to keep from laughing.

“Oh! This is yours, then!” Mary said as she pulled an argyle sock from her apron. “It turned up in the pantry while I was making the muffins,” she stated. She held the sock out to Meredith but he stared at it as if she’d found a severed finger.

“How did my sock…?”

“Eliza,” Decker and Mary said. Meredith’s eyes swung to Mary and then Decker.

“Eliza?” He asked warily. Decker snorted as he used his fork to cut into his pancakes and Mary nodded.

“I told you about Jane and Eliza last night! Remember, dear? Eliza likes to take little things and put them in the oddest places or switch things around but she’s harmless,” she insisted and Meredith was frozen and still staring at the sock in her hand. “I’ll just leave this here. I’m going to get a fresh pot of coffee,” she said then left them.

“Jane looks pretty terrifying but she won’t hurt you. She might ruffle your hair and clothes but she usually just screams then disappears,” Decker said then took a large bite of his pancakes. Meredith pulled his gaze from the sock and blinked at Decker.

“You can’t be serious,” he said and Decker laughed.

“I know it sounds crazy…”

“Impossible,” Meredith corrected and Decker hissed.

“I promise, Covington isn’t full of lunatics.” He flashed Meredith a sheepish smile before he sipped his coffee and prayed they wouldn’t scare him off. Meredith’s lips attempted to make words before he shook his head and turned his attention to his plate. He picked up his fork and knife and Decker’s eyes kept drifting to his hands. They were so fine and smooth and his touch was so light. He drizzled syrup onto his pancakes and cut them then licked his finger and Decker swallowed a groan. If the ghosts don’t run him off, the creepy sheriff might… 


Pre-Order Merry & Wright on Amazon NOW for $2.99 and it will magically appear on your device the minute it’s available!:


It’s almost time to get Merry & Wright!

We’re going on a spooky adventure!


I lost my dog, gang. It broke my heart right in half so I went to my happiest place and Aiden and Mr. Lavender helped me heal. In the dark, I found the light. I also found the love, because it is Lake Cliff and this has become home. I know many of my readers love these characters and feel at home here too, so it makes me so happy to welcome you back. We’ve been waiting for you!

Here’s the whole first chapter:

Authorities struggle to explain 27 hanging corpses in the Rhode Island woods.

“Whoa,” Aiden said as his eyes scanned the news article from 1986. He flipped to the police report from earlier in the year. “Eleven more since the 80’s?” He checked the math again and his brows jumped. “How am I just hearing about this?”

“Hey! I’m leaving. Are you coming with me?” Lane asked as he leaned into the study and Aiden’s lips pulled tight as his eyes darted between Lane and the email on his desk. “Bring it with you. You’re not interested in football or the Chicago Bears,” Lane pointed out and Aiden nodded quickly as he sent the email and the attached files to his phone. He grabbed his hoodie as he slid out of his chair and followed Lane.

“Is that conference with the governor next week?” Aiden asked distractedly then made sure he didn’t miss the step while Lane locked the front door behind them. His thumb slid across his screen and his head fell as he squinted at a close up of a noose. “I’ve seen this somewhere…”

“Next week. We’re still getting everything ready and I’ve got to meet with the D.A. on Thursday about the Barker trial,” Lane said as they got into the car.

“That’s too bad,” Aiden murmured. He pulled his eyes from his phone long enough to buckle his belt then rested his ankle on his knee. His attention caught on a black and white photo. A woman in a sundress hung from a massive oak tree.

“Tell me about it. It’s bad enough that I’ve got to deal with Matt Bowden, but I’ve got to babysit the governor next week,” Lane said as he reversed out of the driveway. Aiden hummed along but he was reading the newspaper article. “Oh! While I’m thinking about it, don’t mention Matt’s brother, if you see him. He’s still not talking about that,” Lane warned.

“I won’t,” Aiden replied then sighed impatiently as Lane pulled into Sage and Lavender’s driveway. He shut the file and unbuckled his belt then got out.

“Did you remember to add coffee to the grocery list?” Lane asked as they walked up the porch steps.

“No. I don’t drink coffee,” Aiden replied and hugged his arms as the wind picked up then leaned to look into the window. He saw Sage and nodded.

“I do,” Lane said and he sounded a bit testy. Aiden raised a brow back at him.

“You should probably put it on the list, then,” he said and Lane’s eyes widened.

“That’s why I… Never mind,” he sighed as the door opened.

“Hey! The game’s just getting started!” Sage said as he waved them in.

“I put apple juice on the list. I tried some of Robin’s and I like it now,” Aiden told Lane.

“Aiden!” Robin cried as he ran to him then wrapped around his knees.

“Hello,” Aiden said and ruffled Robin’s curls. They were soft and Aiden liked the way Robin hugged his legs then moved on to Lane.

“Are you a foot taller than yesterday?” Lane asked as he swept Robin into his arms. Robin giggled as Lane raised him over his head. Robin stretched his arms out in front of him and made a plane sound as Lane steered him into the living room.

“Can I get you something to drink?” Sage asked as they followed but Aiden waved him off.

“I’ll get it. Go watch the game,” he said then pulled his phone out and wandered into the kitchen. Aiden went back to the black and white picture of the woman in the sundress.

“What’s that?” Lavender asked as he peeked over Aiden’s shoulder.

“Where did you…? I think it’s a case,” Aiden said then stepped out of the way as Robin darted between them. Aiden chuckled as Rose trotted after him then opened the fridge and grabbed a Sprite. 

“Show me how to do the trick!” Robin cheered as he hopped up and down and Lavender winced as he looked toward the living room.

“I suppose I could with the cutting board…” He murmured as his neck stretched and Aiden’s eyes flicked toward the living room. He didn’t know what Lavender and Robin were up to but it would probably get one of them in trouble. Aiden shrugged as he stepped back and rested his shoulder against the fridge and crossed his ankles. “If we’re very quiet,” Lavender whispered as he pulled a knife from the block then waved for Robin to come to him. He lowered onto his knee then held out two fingers and balanced the blade on its side. “The center of this knife is right here,” he said quietly as his fingers bounced. The knife remained steady and Robin’s eyes followed it as Lavender flipped it into the air and caught it by the handle. “Next, you want to…”

“Do not teach him to throw knives!” Sage cried as he hurried into the kitchen. Aiden ducked and shook his head as he stepped away from the fridge so Sage could open it.

“That’s obviously a very inappropriate thing to teach a child,” Aiden agreed then held up his hand when Lavender glared at him.

“You’ve seen the state of schools these days. It might not be a bad idea for him to learn how to throw a knife,” Lavender argued. Sage opened his mouth then shut it. He was frozen for a moment then shook his head.

“You can teach him how to react and defend himself but he’s too young for knife throwing. And not in the kitchen,” Sage added then shook his head as he pulled out two bottles of beer and a tray of raw vegetables and dips. Aiden decided that wasn’t as exciting as knife throwing lessons and slid his phone back out of his hoodie pocket and went back to the case.

“I’m going to read with Rose,” Robin grumbled and Lavender sighed as Rose followed her boy up the stairs.

“I’ll join you in a little bit,” Lavender called after them then nodded at Aiden’s phone. “What’s this case?”

“Hangings,” Aiden replied then went to the door so he could lean into the living room. “I’d like to go to Rhode Island,” he announced and Lane frowned but he waited until the players on the television fell into a pile before he looked away.

“Sure… I can look at the calendar and see when I can take some leave,” he said but Aiden shook his head.

“I need to go tomorrow. Thirty-eight people have been hanged and the F.B.I. has asked me to look into it,” he explained.

“Oh.” Lane’s head pulled back.

“Christ!” Sage gasped and his face twisted. “I guess you’d better go,” he said. Lane groaned as he scrubbed the back of his neck.

“You should but I can’t get away for the next two weeks,” he worried.

“I don’t have anything going on and I enjoy a good hanging just as much as the next guy,” Lavender offered. Sage and Lane each held up a finger. Lane decided to let Sage handle it.

“No. Nobody enjoys hangings, Jeremy,” he said then gave him a hard look. Lavender’s eyes rolled as he nodded.

“Yes, yes… It’s just an expression,” he said dismissively and Aiden frowned.

“Is it?” He asked. Lane shook his head.

“No. It’s not. No one says that.”

“Don’t they?” Lavender asked then shrugged. “Regardless, I’d love to go to Rhode Island with Aiden and help him investigate,” he said and Aiden thought that was an excellent idea.

“I could use your help! You know a lot about hangings and psychopaths!” He agreed as he pointed at Lavender. Sage swore under his breath and glared at the television as he hugged his beer bottle. Lavender shushed Aiden then offered Sage a gentle smile.

“Let’s not forget Aiden’s tendency to attract psychopaths. We wouldn’t want to risk this following him back to Lake Cliff. I’ll give him a hand with the investigation and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble,” he promised soothingly. Sage shrugged and relaxed but Lane’s eye twitched before he took a long sip of his beer.

“I guess I’ll just stay here. Again,” he added and Aiden flinched then hissed apologetically.

“Are you upset because you had to sit things out with Stedman and you missed everything in London?” He asked. Lavender cleared his throat and shook his head faintly as he rubbed his nose with his knuckle.

“Shhhhh…” Lavender whispered softly then flashed Lane a brilliant smile. “It looks pretty dry and it’s probably not worth your time. I’ll be nothing more than a glorified errand boy; just fetching chicken nuggets and apple slices,” he said dismissively and Aiden frowned.

“Actually, it looks like it might be…” Aiden grunted when Lavender’s elbow jabbed his ribs. Aiden’s eyes flicked to the ceiling and he asked himself why Lavender wouldn’t want to be contradicted. He looked at Lane and Aiden hummed when he finally caught up. “It’s probably not worth your time and I just need him to fetch my nuggets and apple slices,” he said then smiled like Lavender. Lane cringed as he leaned back.

“Too much,” Lavender said under his breath and Aiden’s face blanked.

“Shouldn’t be a big deal,” Aiden added.

“Whatever. We’ll talk about it after the game. Go in the kitchen and plan your little adventure,” Lane grumbled as he crossed his arms over his chest and scowled at the television too. Sage was still hugging his beer and he didn’t look pleased but he cocked his head at the kitchen before he turned his attention back to the game.

“Very smooth,” Lavender said and Aiden smiled.

“Really?” He asked as he turned.

“No,” Lavender replied as he pushed Aiden into the kitchen.


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We’re going on a spooky adventure!

And Now For Something Completely Different: Vampires

You scoff. I hear your dubious snort from all the way over here. Stop it.

A reader asked if I’d ever considered writing paranormal during an Ask Me Anything. Someone else said “Oh! What about vampires?” I said I probably wouldn’t because what’s left to add to the genre? Is there any way to bring something new? I didn’t think so but the thought became a tickle in my brain. Then, it became an itch that spread like a rash and refused to be ignored. I asked myself: “Sarah, IF you were going to write a vampire, what would that vampire look like? How does one become a vampire?” My first instinct was to catch up on modern vampire tropes. I was a morbid, depressed, lonely girl in high school. I’d just moved to Upstate New York and I kept my nose buried in a copy of Interview With A Vampire and it had passages highlighted in various colors, for academic reasons. I just don’t understand why I wasn’t more popular… I think those kids are considered emo and introverts now but in my day we were just called freaks. But, back to my itchy brain! I was obsessed with Anne Rice’s vampires until around Memnoch. I also read Dracula too many times but I didn’t pick up another vampire book until I skimmed Twilight to see if it was ok for my then ten-year-old. I’d missed just about everything else. I was aware of True Blood and The Vampire Diaries but they sat on my “To Watch” list and life happened. “Do I need to, though?” I asked myself, as I pondered who my vampires would be. I decided I didn’t want to get caught up on what was currently happening in vampires these days. I didn’t want to subconsciously pull from other people’s work and went in with as close to a clean slate as I could get. I pondered the beginning and my research started with the Bible. There, I found a curse.

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I am also aware that Cain is pretty popular and there are many books and TV shows with Cain-based characters but I took another step back from his story and the curse. Cain was a farmer and God took the soil from him. God told Cain he couldn’t touch the soil or rest in it. Imagine that? Taking the very earth from a man born to turn his hands in the soil and bear fruit. Cain was the first farmer and father of farmers and God cursed him with the ground and I made that the essence of my vampires. What does that even mean, Sarah? Well, take a look:


“How was the farmer’s market?” Darcy asked giddily as she dropped onto the sofa next to Sebastian and he rolled his eyes but he didn’t look up from the report on his knee.

“Delightful,” he murmured and she hummed knowingly as her arm stretched along the back of the sofa and she curled her feet under her.

“Jasper seems quite happy. He’s singing and dancing and working up quite a sweat in the kitchen,” she whispered and Sebastian looked toward the kitchen and swallowed hard as his heart began to slam against his chest and his groin tightened.

“Is he?” It came out a little hoarse and strained so Sebastian coughed into his fist then squeezed his hand tighter as it trembled.

“Don’t tell me you can’t smell him from over here,” she purred in his ear and Sebastian swore as he tossed the report on the table.

“I’m so glad you’re amused.”

“Oh, but I am! Do you know how long it’s been since you were smitten?” she cooed and Sebastian hissed for her to keep it down.

“I am not and nothing is going to happen!” he vowed in a loud whisper as his hand cut through the air and her lip pushed out.

“Why not! He looks so yummy and you could use a little distraction,” she pouted and Sebastian shook his head.

“That’s what I have Tiffany and Miguel for,” he said firmly and she made a loud spluttering sound as she waved it off.

“That’s just sex. You need more than that. You’re lonely, Seb,” she accused and he gave her a flat look.

“How can I be lonely when you’ve got your nose pushed right into every single corner and crevice of my life?” he asked sweetly and she clapped her hands as she silently applauded.

“I try my best, my love, but I can’t give you everything you need,” she said as her fingers dragged up the back of his neck then sifted through his hair. He sighed as he shut his eyes and enjoyed the tingling of his scalp as her nails scraped. “It’s been too long since you’ve let someone in and opened up,” she scolded and Sebastian chuckled.

“And you think it’s time I opened up? To a twenty-eight-year-old vegan?” he confirmed and she made a thoughtful sound as she chewed on her lip.

“Obviously there are challenges…”

“He’s a child. And a vegan,” Sebastian repeated and she hushed him.

“And you want him,” she added heavily and he let out a long, weary sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Of course, I want him. He’s beautiful, incredibly fit and probably quite flexible,” he said then gasped when she swatted his chest hard.

“That’s not it and you know it! I see how weak you get around him,” she said as she poked at his chest and Sebastian pushed her hand away.

“None of that matters because I don’t get involved with my employees,” he stated firmly and she gave him an arch look.

“You do whatever you please, whenever it pleases you,” she said just as firmly and he held up his hands.

“This time it pleases me to keep my hands to myself and my pants zipped. We are nothing but animals without our control,” he replied and she blinked at him for several moments before her head snapped back and she cackled.

“You’re going to fail miserably,” she predicted then raised a finger, halting him when he tried to argue. “You won’t be able to help yourself because he’s exactly what you need and it’s time, Sebastian. You’ve punished yourself enough and it’s time you started living again.”

“My problem is that I can’t stop living,” he muttered back and she wagged her finger at him just before Jasper’s head popped around the wall.

“There you are!” he said brightly before he stepped into the living room and pulled a tray from behind his back. “I have a surprise. I made cookies!”

“Oh! I need to call Beijing!” Darcy yelled as she clamored from the sofa and Sebastian cursed as she slipped from his grasp and fled.

“I should go with her,” he began but Jasper clicked his teeth as he pushed the tray at Sebastian. He pulled his head back and leaned away but Jasper’s eyes grew wider and more hopeful as he waited. “I wouldn’t want to spoil my dinner,” Sebastian attempted.

“Nonsense! One or two won’t hurt and it’ll be a few hours,” Jasper said as he watched Sebastian’s face excitedly. “Don’t they smell amazing?” he asked and Sebastian took a quick sniff then bit back a whimper as goosebumps rushed down his arms and the hairs on the back of his neck stood. All he could smell was Jasper. He’d worked up a light sweat in the kitchen and Sebastian trembled as his mouth watered and need burst within him.

“Amazing,” he breathed as his eyes clung to Jasper’s. They were the softest, clearest blue and seeking, so full of honest curiosity as they spilled into Sebastian’s.

“Here,” Jasper said as he took a cookie and guided it to Sebastian’s lips. He was utterly helpless as his jaw fell and he obediently took a large bite. The cookie turned to ash on Sebastian’s tongue but he moaned rapturously as he chewed and was rewarded by a bright flash of joy and pride in Jasper’s eyes as he watched him. Sebastian swallowed loudly and made his eyes appropriately wide as he took the cookie from Jasper.

“Delightful!” he said as he waved the cookie at him. “In fact, I have to take one to Darcy. May I?” he asked as he swiped another cookie from the tray then slid off the sofa and around Jasper.

“Sure! Want me to send some tea?” Jasper asked as he started to follow and Sebastian shook his head quickly as he backed away from him.

“No! These are absolute perfection!” he insisted then crammed the rest of his cookie in his mouth before he bolted into the hall. Sebastian made sure Jasper wasn’t behind him before he flew up the staircase and down the hallway to the master suite. The bathroom door slammed behind him and he collapsed against it as a plume of red dust burst from his lips and nose as he coughed. He staggered forward and tossed the cookie in the toilet as molten pain twisted his stomach and his chest began to heave.

“Sebastian?” Darcy called softly as she tapped at the door and he groaned as he leaned over the toilet and a boiling froth of red mud spilled from his lips. “Ew,” she noted as she crossed her arms over her chest and rested her shoulder against the bathroom door. “I was wondering how you’d handle that,” she murmured as he coughed up the last chunks of lava.

“Without any help from you, apparently,” he panted as he held onto the wall and waited for the room to become steady around him.

“Well… He’d be even more suspicious if we both acted like he was feeding us poison,” she said and Sebastian gave her a disgruntled look as he went to the sink. “How are you going to survive this three times a day plus snacks and tea?” she asked and Sebastian shook his head as he turned on the water and reached for his toothbrush.

“He’ll be a bit overzealous in the beginning and want to make a good impression but I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine quickly and learn to ignore each other. I just have to time it so I can be away for most of my meals,” he said and she looked dubious as she flushed then closed the lid so she could sit.

“He’s quite excited about dinner. He’s got big plans for you and some lentils,” she warned him and Sebastian whimpered as he looked toward the kitchen.

“I can tell him I’ve already got plans,” he said and she grimaced hard, making Sebastian’s stomach clench again.

“He asked and I said you’d be staying in,” she admitted sheepishly and he swore as he reached for her throat. “I’m sorry! I thought he was testing the waters to see if you were single or if we were a thing and I totally misread that. I told him you usually go for a run in the evening but the rest of your night was wide open,” she said and Sebastian muttered several more curses as he jammed his toothbrush in his mouth. The toothpaste and water evaporated almost immediately as he scrubbed then swished but it carried the taste of the dust with it and he felt stronger as he stood and dried his face with a towel.

“Do not meddle, Darcy,” he ordered then gave her a hard look. “This is just a temporary arrangement. He’s going to find another restaurant or rich client and move on soon,” Sebastian predicted. “In fact, you and I are going to do whatever we can to help him find a new arrangement as quickly as possible,” he added and made sure she was tracking before he leaned forward and checked his eyes in the mirror. The fine wrinkles at the corners were more pronounced and there were a few wisps of grey at his temples. “I’m going to change and go for a run. I need to eat,” he said and she nodded as she stood and her hands glided up his back and over his shoulders.

“You’re fading a bit. Try running by the canyon. I think I picked up his scent by the trail that goes past the overlook,” she murmured soothingly as she kneaded and he pushed out a cleansing breath.

“I’ll see if I can find him. I need something more than a few mangled cats and puppies,” he complained as he turned and let her cradle his head against her chest.

“Have you thought about hunting for something larger? It’s peak tourist season. I’m sure someone’s up to no good,” she suggested and he shook his head as he pulled away.

“I can’t afford to slip right now, not with someone like Jasper this close,” he said and her lips pulled tight.

“I don’t know how long you’re going to be able to last like this,” she worried as she brushed the hair away from his face and he shrugged.

“I’m going to be gone during lunch and I’ll see what I can learn over dinner. I want you to talk to your contacts and see if we know of anyone stupid enough to open a vegan restaurant in a town that caters to rich old people who worship red meat and wine,” he grumbled and she held up her thumbs and gave him her biggest smile.

“I’m on it, boss!” she promised and he rolled his eyes as he shooed her off.

“Hurry and find something before this vegan murders me.”


Now, some have asked why Isla Bright? I didn’t want longtime K. Sterling readers to go into Crave expecting a K. Sterling book and feel misled. Sebastian is pansexual and has sex with females. The next book in the series will follow Sebastian and Jasper’s relationship but it also splits focus with Darcy’s storyline and she’s all over the place. We’ll have f/f, f/m, f/m/m/m… sexual relationships in the series and I didn’t foresee those future books appealing to K. Sterling’s general audience. I also didn’t want anyone to love it or hate it just because it’s a K. Sterling book. Mostly, different genre, different name. Just like I write (terrible) m/f romance as Abigail Graves and m/m romance as K. Sterling, I write queer vampire romances as Isla Bright. I’ve begun the next book in the Curse of Cain series and I’m hoping to get back to it soon. I’ve just got a few Lake Cliff itches to scratch before I can jump into Seb, Jasper and Darcy’s world again but I can’t wait to go back!

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And Now For Something Completely Different: Vampires