Sizzling Romance...Small Towns
Simply Irresistible

 


Welcome To Redemption ~ Excerpts

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A Fair of the Heart A Fair to Remember The Perfect Blend
Grounds for Change Home is Where the Heart Is The Heart of the Matter


A Fair of the Heart: Donna Marie Rogers

***
"I think this moment has waited long enough, don't you?"


Caleb cupped the side of her face, his thumb tracing along her cheekbone as he leaned in and gently pressed his lips to hers. It was a chaste kiss, all too brief, and Lauren barely held back a whimper of frustration. Had he decided he'd had enough from just that small sampling? Had there been no spark on his end? Because, good God, the man had practically melted the mascara from her eyelashes with just that one simple kiss. Her heart pounded furiously against her ribs as she waited for his next move.

He pulled back slightly and met her gaze, almost as if gauging her reaction. Then he leaned back in and reclaimed her mouth—this time with ravenous need. Finally, the kiss she'd been craving all week!

Lauren wrapped her arms around his neck and held on for dear life as he slanted his mouth across hers and proceeded to kiss her breathless. His lips were soft and coaxing, yet firm and demanding as they worked their magic, sending needles of pleasure to every nerve in her body.

Caleb maneuvered them so he could sit down on one of the chairs and pull her onto his lap, never breaking the kiss. Lauren met the rasp of his tongue stroke for stroke, caressing the nape of his neck, tunneling her fingers through his thick, baby-soft curls. She couldn't remember ever being this turned on before, this into a kiss. Holy fricken wow, talk about worth the wait!

She moaned, leaning into him, dissolving into his heat, pulse roaring in her ears. Lauren turned in his arms, bringing her leg around so she could straddle his lap and snuggle even closer, plastering herself against his broad, hard chest. Caleb answered her silent plea with a growl of his own, crushing her in his arms, his hands caressing a fiery trail down her back, cupping her butt in his big hands. Their mouths meshed with escalating hunger, their tongues moving in a dance as old as time, both giving as much as they took. Lauren felt sure she would drown in the heady sensations coursing through her.

The proof of his desire was nestled between them, and it took all her self-control not to move against him. It had been so long since—

Caleb tore his lips from hers and rested his forehead against hers, his breath coming out in ragged pants.

"Wha—?" Lauren could barely draw air into her lungs to speak. "Is something wrong?" she finally managed to whisper.

"I think Emma woke up," he whispered right back.

Lauren pulled back in alarm and shot a look toward the stairs. How could she have not heard her? "I'll be right back," she murmured, unable to meet his gaze. She climbed off his lap with as much dignity as possible and raced up the stairs.

Emma had indeed woken up, but Lauren rubbed her back for a few minutes, and she fell right back to sleep. She stuck her head in the bathroom on her way back to check her face in the mirror, make sure the words "bad mother" weren't etched into her forehead.

Caleb stood as soon as she entered the kitchen. "Is she all right? It wasn't her hand, was it?"

"No, just fussing. She fell right back to sleep." Lauren wrapped her arms around herself and walked past him to the sink for a glass of water.

Caleb came up behind her, but didn't touch her. "Is something wrong?"

She took a sip, then another, too embarrassed to turn around and face him. "I didn't even hear her. What does that say about my maternal instinct?"

He frowned and took her in his arms. "You're a wonderful mother, Lauren. You got wrapped up in the moment, which, to be honest, is a pretty big compliment."

She gazed up at him, hoping her heart wasn't in her eyes. "But you heard her. Does that mean you weren't as...that it didn't affect you the same way…?"

He silenced her with a quick kiss. "Shh. All it means is I'm a military man who's attuned to the sounds around him. The kiss knocked my socks off, lady."

A hopeful smile tugged at her lips. "Really? Well...good."

Caleb chuckled softly. He reached up and cupped the back of her head, as if ready to prove his point, but then dropped his hands with obvious regret. "If I don't leave now..."

"You won't be able to leave at all?"

He kissed her on the forehead and took a step back. "Exactly."

~*~

A Fair to Remember: Stacey Joy Netzel

Chapter One
There was no such thing as love at first sight, but Tara Russell needed someone to explain that to Sugar. Her arm was ready to detach from its socket as her brother's nine-month-old Great Dane pulled her along the fairway, intent on her latest infatuation. So far, Tara had managed to keep Sugar from attacking the man as he ambled past the games and rides with their flashing lights and cajoling carnies, but her strength was waning.

Truth be told, so was her will. Sugar's target was easily the sexiest guy Tara'd seen in a long time, and believe you me, she'd been looking. Unfortunately, the small town of Redemption, Wisconsin, didn't provide its women with much to choose from--in her opinion, anyway.

But this guy--mmm. The sun picked up a suggestion of auburn highlights on the top, but the shorter sides were dark brown. A faint shadow of a beard darkened his jaw, softening his chiseled profile and enhancing his rugged appeal. She hadn't caught the color of his eyes, though he'd glanced in her general direction a time or two.

Before she started drooling, she forced herself to acknowledge the most intriguing thing about him: his black suit that fit his six-foot, nicely built body like it was tailored especially for him. Wait a second. Intriguing? No. A shake of her head made her long ponytail swish against her back.

Off-putting, that's the word she meant. Because, really, who wore a suit to a fair? She started imagining likely explanations and came up with lawyer and--um--nope, that was it. Bummer. Imagine trying to bring a Suit home to her Hog-loving family? Bad enough she didn't fit the Russell mold, they might disown her if she fell for some uptight, bloodsucking, sexy--

Geez, wasn't he hot in all that material? Because just looking at him made her hot.

~*~

The Perfect Blend: Donna Marie Rogers

***

By the time four o'clock rolled around, Matt wasn't much in the mood for socializing. Maybe he'd just swing past Lauren's to say 'hi' and head home. Maybe he'd pack his bags and head to L.A., see for himself that his father was all right. And hell, maybe he'd stay. After today he was fairly certain he didn't have a future in Redemption anyway. The one woman who heated his blood could barely remember his name. Yep, he'd made some impression on Ms. Carrie Lowell, hadn't he?

Matt pulled into Lauren's driveway and killed the engine. He sat for a minute, hands clutching the steering wheel as he debated whether or not to stay. He was torn, especially if this turned out to be the last meal he shared with these two. In just a few short months, Caleb Hunter had become one of the best friends he'd ever had. And Lauren Frazier was a dream; kind, generous, funny, not to mention knock-out gorgeous.

Thank God neither of them knew what a damn fraud he was.

"Hey, you daydreaming or what?" Caleb said, slapping the hood and scaring the hell out of him. "Come on, I got an ice-cold Bud waiting for you."

Matt shook his head as he climbed out of the old Jeep Wrangler he'd purchased on his first day in town. The cheapest vehicle he'd ever owned, and by far his favorite. "Sounds good." He guessed it couldn't hurt to stay for a beer.

Matt followed Caleb inside and froze when he heard an all too familiar voice. Sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee was Carrie, laughing at something Lauren had said. Matt felt a ridiculous surge of jealousy. How come the ornery woman never cracked a smile when he was around?

Carrie looked up and saw him, her smile fading. She shot Caleb a look, then Lauren, who in turn sent Matt a sheepish grin. A set up? A blind date? He almost laughed, but caught himself. Carrie looked ready to blow. A grin tugged at his lips.

"Please tell me he's not the" Carrie made air quotes "great guy you've been raving about."

Caleb grabbed Matt a beer out of the fridge as Carrie glared daggers at her friend.

Lauren cleared her throat and looked to Caleb, who shrugged. "We just thought...you know, that you'd hit it off. And we'd planned this before..."

Lauren glanced over at Matt. He took a fortifying sip of his beer and supplied, "Before I opened my big mouth and became her least favorite person in Redemption?"

Carrie scowled at him. "Don't talk about me like I'm not here. And you did more than open your mouth, you pompous ass."

Matt took a step forward. Infuriating woman. "I offered you sound business advice. But hey, you wanna lose your shop? End up in bankruptcy court? Be my guest."

"It's summer!"

"Okay," Caleb said, moving to Lauren's side, "time to calm down. Matt, why don't you have a seat. Carrie, please," Caleb added when she started to rise. "Lauren spent a lot of time and effort making this meal. The least you two can do is sit and eat it."

"You're right," Matt said, embarrassed by his childish behavior. He shot Carrie a look. The woman brought out the worst in him like no one ever had. "Lauren, dinner smells incredible, thank you."

Carrie crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. Matt, hard-pressed not to laugh, took the seat across from her and openly stared. Let her squirm, he thought, admiring the view. He took a swig of his beer. The woman was sexy as hell with those big blue eyes and waist-length auburn hair. She wasn't tall and stick thin like Lauren. Carrie had curves...lots and lots of luscious curves. His gaze unwittingly dropped to her chest. He couldn't help it. Matt was a breast man, and Carrie Lowell filled a T-shirt so well it should be a crime.

"Hey, perv, you wanna quit staring at my boobs?"

Matt choked back a laugh. "Kind of hard to do when you put 'em on display like that."

Her eyes grew round with indignation. "I do not!"

Matt gestured toward her chest. "Well, could that T-shirt be any tighter?"

"Now you're calling me fat?"

Matt thunked his beer down on the table. "Don't put words in my mouth, woman. I was merely--"

"Enough," Caleb said. "Jesus, we're going to have to put you both in a time-out if you don't start acting like adults."

"He started it," Carrie pouted, eyes narrowed.

"No, you called me a pompous ass."

"You are a pompous ass...perv."

"All right, one more word and you're both getting your mouths duct-taped," Caleb threatened.

"Fine." Matt swiped up his beer and took a long pull.

"Fine."

~*~

Grounds For Change: Stacey Joy Netzel

Chapter One
Charlie Russell scowled at the bright afternoon sun and wished he hadn't had so much to drink at Rowdy's last night. That, and Sugar's hell-bent-for-leather path down the sidewalk, intensified the headache pounding at his temples. Most days he could keep the ten-month-old Great Dane in check, but today she was like a souped up Harley on nitro.

At least she pulled him in the right direction—straight to Carrie's Coffee to Chai For on Salvation Street. In front of the shop's window, he lifted his sunglasses and squinted inside to see Carrie wiping down the half-dozen or so tables. He raised his hand to knock on the glass, only Sugar jerked his arm, and tugged him toward the door as it opened with the tinkling of a bell.

"Sugar, no. Come here, girl," he admonished, catching his balance after stumbling a step. He managed to stop the dog seconds before she accosted the woman walking out with two iced coffees in her hands. "Sorry."

"No problem."

The woman looked up from Sugar to him with a smile, and Charlie blinked when he saw her startling light green eyes. Long blonde curls rioted about her face and shoulders, and she wore a white sleeveless blouse with a frilly collar and a pair of tan pants. Dropping his sunglasses back into place to cover his bloodshot eyes, he tried not to stare, but found the combination of wild curls and sophisticated clothes on a beautiful woman impossible to resist.

She sidestepped in her strappy high heels and walked toward a metallic green Toyota Hybrid parked in front of the shop, her gaze sweeping over him before her smile faded. He ran a self-conscious hand through his dark hair that needed a trim, wishing he'd showered and combed it before taking Sugar for a walk. Maybe worn something other than a ratty tee shirt, cutoff jeans and holey tennis shoes. Yeah, so what, he'd brushed his teeth, but he should've shaved, too. Not that she'd look twice at him anyway, but still.

He turned back to the coffee shop and saw Carrie hold up a hand to let him know she'd be out in a minute. Anticipation for the reviving cup of French Roast she'd bring out made his mouth water.

"Excuse me?"

Charlie heard the feminine voice and turned to see the beautiful blonde standing by her car. She lifted the iced coffees, and with another smile, asked, "Would you mind getting my door?"

His heart skipped a beat. "Of course."

He took a quick step forward, then, too late, realized Sugar came with him. She rushed forward and shoved her large black nose under the woman's hands in an excited demand for attention. With a gasp of surprise, the woman's fingers clenched on the plastic cups, popping both clear tops off. Charlie pulled on the leash, but watched helplessly as one cup dumped down the front of her shirt and the other spilled along the length of her right thigh.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry." Charlie couldn't help but notice the lace of her bra now one hundred percent visible through her wet, previously white, blouse. The ruffles that'd swayed with her walk moments earlier hung limp against her breasts. As he watched, she leaned forward, plunged her hand into the front of her shirt, and then pulled out a handful of ice cubes.

~*~

Home Is Where The Heart Is: Donna Marie Rogers

***

Drew's footsteps echoed up the stairs at a rapid rate. He strode into the room carrying her lamp, looked around, then walked over to the south facing window and set it on the sill. "All done, Hot Stuff. Enjoy your soak. Come on, Matt, let's go."

"See you tomorrow, Sis." Matt gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Feeling impish, Lindy asked Drew, "Can I give you a tip this time?"

He held her gaze for several heartbeats, and Lindy suddenly wished she hadn't poked the proverbial tiger.

"Matt, would you give us a minute, please?"

Lindy's heart tripped when Matt shrugged. He gave Drew a thump on the back, tossed her a smile, and whistled his way downstairs. Lindy bit the inside of her cheek as she lifted her gaze to meet Drew's. "I was only kidding, geez. I mean—"

Quick as a whip, Drew hauled her against the solid expanse of his chest and slanted his mouth across hers with near punishing force. Stunned, Lindy simply settled her hands against his chest. Then her senses returned, and she shoved with all her might. He broke off the kiss with a muttered curse, but didn't let her go. Lindy's pulse kicked into overdrive as she looked up and met his gaze.

Hypnotic blue eyes stared down at her, holding her gaze captive as if by physical force. Deft hands traveled a scorching path from the curve of her shoulders to the flare of her hips, leaving every inch of her body tingling in their wake. The need to feel his lips on hers again, to taste him, nearly overwhelmed her. A real kiss, though, not in anger, not as punishment. Before she lost her nerve, Lindy twined her arms around his neck and pulled him down for the real thing.

With a deep growl, Drew crushed her in his arms. He coaxed her mouth open as his tongue slid inside with skillful ease, exploring, seeking hers. Shivering under his touch, Lindy grew dizzy with yearning. Her heart thumped as his spicy masculine scent wrapped her in sensual bliss. The man was certainly no slouch in the toe-curling kiss department.

As quick as it started, he broke the kiss and tore free from her embrace, surprising her off balance. He grabbed her upper arms to steady her, stared at her lips as if he wanted to kiss her again, cursed, and...strode out the door. She flinched as the bedroom door slammed behind him. What the hell?


~*~

The Heart of the Matter: Stacey Joy Netzel

***

Allie folded her arms across her chest and lifted her chin while staring straight out the windshield. "There's a lot you don't know about me."

Direct hit. He grimaced and put the truck back in drive so he could turn down her street. Despite it feeling like ninety-degrees in the truck with the heat blasting, her tone threatened to give him frostbite. And now they were at her house. He couldn't let the night end like this, but she was already out of the truck and slammed the door before he shifted into park.

Man up!

Opening his door, he called, "Allie, wait."

House keys in hand, she whirled on her front porch as he approached, looking smaller than ever against the large columns supporting the overhead roof. "Don't expect me to thank you for ruining my evening, Rick, because it's not going to happen. Now go away."

He ruined her evening? A defensive reply formed on his tongue until he remembered he still needed to apologize for his unintended insult. Before he could come up with those more difficult words, he saw her shiver again. So he said the first thing he could think of to get both of them inside her house.

"I was going to ask if I could use your bathroom."

She turned to insert the key into the lock and spoke over her shoulder. "Use a tree."

He let out a disbelieving laugh. "Oh, come on. I'm not Bennie."

She opened the door and stepped inside. She wasn't really going to leave him outside like the Bassett hound she dog-sat every week, was she? He cocked a brow and offered a hopeful smile to counter her glare.

Her shoulders dropped, and she huffed out an annoyed breath. "Fine. Come in."

Boy, did he have his work cut out for him.




Welcome to Redemption Series
~*~*~*~*~*~

****************** REVIEWS ******************


Welcome to Redemption

Reviewer: Brenda Talley from The Romance Studio
October 18, 2007
Sensuality rating: Mildly sensual

Overall rating:  5 HEARTS

This marvelous book was a compilation of four couples who meet and fell in love; what they all had in common (in addition to being kin to each other, in some cases) was that either one or both of them lived in Redemption, Wisconsin. Redemption was a small town which was typical of all the small towns across the U.S. Ms. Rogers and Ms. Netzel each wrote two stories; they intertwined together flawlessly. The first two stories intersected at the town fair...I loved the book and highly recommend it!   Full Review

~*~
Jane Toombs, multi-published, award-winning author says...

"Welcome to Redemption by, Donna Marie Rogers and Stacey Joy Netzel offers four refreshing and heartwarming stories. These stories bring readers right into the heart of this town, and the lives of its people, with four happy and romantic endings. Reading this book was a real pleasure." 

~*~
 
Reviewed by multi-published, award winning author, Barbara Raffin

Welcome to Redemption is an anthology of four interwoven, heart grabbing, love at first sight stories written by Donna Marie Rogers and Stacey Joy Netzel. The book opens with Ms. Rogers' utterly enchanting A Fair of the Heart followed by Ms. Netzel’s totally charming A Fair to Remember, then continues with Ms. Rogers' witty battle of opposites in The Perfect Blend and ends with Ms. Netzel’s heart warming Grounds for Change.

A FAIR OF THE HEART by Donna Marie Rogers

From the moment Caleb Hunter hands Lauren Frazier the doorknob to the front door of her house and beauty shop, I was in love with this couple.  In spite of being a divorced mother of an angry pre-teen son and trying to hold together a crumbling house, Lauren faces life with witty-tongued optimism.  Her sense of humor is a perfect match to Caleb’s.

Immediately charmed by the short-on-funds Lauren and her adorable toddler daughter, the at-loose-ends handyman Caleb offers to fix her doorknob among other things in exchange for a home cooked meal.  Enter Lauren’s angry son and she figures Mr. Perfect Handyman will be gone in a heartbeat.  But Caleb understands the boy better than anyone realizes.  It seems Caleb had returned to Redemption for his mother’s funeral and too late to ask her forgiveness for his past digressions. 

Behind the witty dialogue and crackling attraction, a real family works out real problems.  The very talented Donna Marie Rogers not only gives the reader an endearing romance in this compact format in A Fair of the Heart, but a heartfelt story worthy of healing wounded souls.

A FAIR TO REMEMBER by Stacey Joy Netzel

Tara Russell doesn’t believe in love at first sight, but the Great Dane puppy dragging her through the fair crowd toward the hunky guy in a suit was wearing on her strength and her will.  Wes Carter didn’t know what hit him.  One minute he’s standing eating a hamburger and the next he’s face down on the ground being puked on by a lactose intolerant Great Dane. Whether this constitutes a “cute” meet or not is best left to the reader. But our hero has a sense of humor about the dog…eventually and that’s all the reader and Tara Russell needs to know.

Of course Tara, who lives only a few blocks from the fair, takes Wes home to clean up. Tara has already decided she wants to get to know Mr. Sexy with a sense of humor by the time Wes strips off his suit jacket and shirt. His athletic build just adds to his mystique, as does the bullet wound scar in his back and the dazzling tattoo on his shoulder. At least the tattoo should soften the blow with her biker family when she brings home a ‘suit’ to meet them.

Wes’ first impression of Tara is crazy beautiful. He wants to relocate his business in Redemption and find some quiet normalcy in his life. A biker chick isn’t in the plan. He doesn’t know Money-Manager Tara’s tats are airbrushed on and her biker babe Daisy Dukes and skimpy tank top a costume. Still he can’t resist her and ends up back at the fair watching fireworks with Tara.

Enter Tara’s over-protective brother who recognizes Wes’ tattoo as a gang tat. Now Wes is up against Tara’s alpha brother and father. But he’s no slouch in the alpha department, himself. Still, in the end, the only thing that matters is whether or not Tara believes in him. And if Tara doesn’t want him, I’ll take him…please.

Ms. Netzel’s characters don’t leap off the page and into your heart, they invite you into theirs. Tara doesn’t react to Wes’ mixed messages with the usual romance heroine’s foot-stomping fits but real, adult straight talk. Wes responds to her with honesty. His alpha protectiveness, though feral quick, isn’t controlling. Nor is he the usual angst-suffering hero as he figures out, whatever the outside package is telling him, it’s the woman inside he loves.  A Fair to Remember, though played out in a very short time period, is a love story that is completely and satisfyingly believable.

THE PERFECT BLEND by Donna Marie Rogers

Carrie Lowell is up to her eyebrows in mortgage payments all because she had to pay off her ex-husband to get him out of her life.  Men were scum.  Though, some were still yummy looking, like the librarian across the street from her shop, Matt Jacobs.  The man gave glasses a whole new sexy appeal. 

But he is full of business plans for her place and no man is ever going to get his hands on her Coffee to Chai For. Unfortunately, money flow problems force her to take on a partner and the only man up for the job is Matt Jacobs.

Promising her she can trust him, she hesitantly lets down her guard as they work together, very hesitantly.  After all, he’s gorgeous and she has unfashionable curves, not to mention a temper that scares away most men…but not Matt. Things are going so well, she even opens her heart to him a wee bit and then a bit more until she’s confessing the horrible history of her former marriage.

Just when Carrie is ready to cast caution to the wind, Matt’s sister arrives in a Ferrari, followed by the paparazzi, and Matt’s mother and father in a stretch limo. Matt Jacobs true identity is about to be revealed. So much for honesty, and forgiveness is in the hands of the wounded by lies Carrie.

Once again, Ms. Rogers tantalizes the reader with witty dialogue and layered characters.  The Perfect Blend is just that. A blend of two characters meant for each other.

GROUND FOR CHANGE by Stacey Joy Netzel

Opposites may attract, but not without a few shared likenesses.  In Charlie Russell’s and Dana McClain’s cases that would be a fondness for coffee from Coffee to Chai For and a love of an unruly, nine month old Great Dane.  Liking long morning jogs, fishing, and football…even if for rival teams proves helpful at pulling these two reluctant lovers together.  Now if only psychologist turn animal behaviorist Dana will accept the job offer from the local vet and turn Charlie’s life into happily ever after.  Or as happy as he can be considering he’s spent the last fourteen years secretly harboring the belief he’s responsible for his sister’s death.  At least it’s a secret until he bares his soul to Dana.

But Dana gave up psychoanalyzing people because she was too empathetic with her clients.  She even had two relationships that ended when the men no longer needed her to fix them.  She’s not falling into that trap again, no matter how much Charlie turns her on.

Stacey Joy Netzel’s writing shines in this wonderful story of redemption.  She makes me want to know what Charlie Russell’s kisses are like.  My toes tingle at the mere thought.  I’m also a sucker for any story that includes a dog as secondary character.

Stacey Joy Netzel’s and Donna Marie Rogers’ Welcome to Redemption has turned me into a fan of these two new writers.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


Copyright © 2005- Donna Marie Rogers.
All rights reserved.