Ali Archer is the last one standing.
One by one she has watched her siblings fall in love after getting one of her Grandmother’s Rings from their mother. She is determined not the let the last ring get her.
Jake Daultry is on 30-day leave before going back to his unit in Iraq. All he wants is to enjoy his family and decompress for a while. But it seems as though a bigger skirmish begins the day he meets Ali.
At first it is a classic clash in a contest of wills, but when it culminates in a kiss on the front porch, each feels an attraction that can’t be denied. As Jake gets ready to return to his unit, Ali discovers he’s taking her heart along with him.
Can the environmentalist and the solider find some neutral territory in order to follow their hearts or will Ali and Jake just have to settle for some combat wounds that may never heal?
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Contemporary Romance series
Available now from Avalon Books
Widow Tess Archer, a 55 year-old mother of three who is not willing to abandon her flower-child roots, has decided she wants to be a grandmother. After all, all her lady friends have grandchildren! Deciding that her children need serious help to find their perfect mates, she calls a family meeting and gives each of them one of their Grandmother’s Rings.
AMETHYST (Book One) – promotes calmness and is given to the oldest, Somer. Somer, a newspaper reporter, must tackle her disconnected side in order to have the career she always wanted. Little does she know that in order to do that, she first has to tackle the problem of Nick Daultry, a New York police officer who has come to New Jersey as part of a Homeland Security initiative that allows rural police officers to train in the city while the city officer trains in a rural setting to help understand the differences between city and town situations. While cops and reporters are natural enemies, Somer and Nick find out that they can’t solve the problem of local home invasions without each other; she has the local knowledge, he has the resources. And along the way, they also discover that they need to solve the problem of their growing attraction and admit that they just might be made for each other.
SAPPHIRE – (Book Two) - promotes harmony and loyalty – given to Trent. Trent is unhappy enough that Sommer has fallen under his mother’s spell and is marrying Nick, but now he also has to be in the wedding party along with his sister, Ali. Ali and Trent vow not to let the same thing happen to them, but Trent didn’t count on meeting Linda Wolff, Trent’s partner on the New York police force. Linda is a streetwise cop, toughened from years on the beat. She is also sure that no guy wants a hardened police officer for a wife. She has set aside any plans she might have had for a family and is focusing on moving up the ranks. Linda and Trent start out as rivals, each ready to one-up the other at every turn and sparks fly; competitive sparks and passionate sparks. When Linda goes back to New York, Trent admits that she just might be the one he’s been looking for. He follows her intent on making her see that not only can a tough lady cop be an asset, but she can also be a wife.
CITRINE – (Book Three) –cools excess anger – given to Ali. The last one left, Ali is determined not to let Grandmother’s Ring get her. But first she has to go to her new nephew’s baptism and face the whole family, including Trent and his new fiancée, Linda. No way is she going to be in that wedding. One was enough. As everyone coos over the baby, Ali pastes on her best face and accepts the teasing of her brother and sister about the last holdout. When she retreats to the backyard to escape them, she finds another deserter, Jake Daultry, Nick’s cousin. Jake, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, leave joined the family festivities on his way home to enjoy a thirty-day leave. Ali, a self-proclaimed peace activist like her mother and Jake, a red-white-and-blue soldier, clash in a contest of wills that ends culminates in a kiss on the front porch. Shaken by her sudden reaction to Jake, Ali leaves. Later that day she finds Jake waiting outside her townhouse to apologize. For the rest of his leave, each tries to get the other to see the other side of war and peace as the attraction between them becomes enough to melt any cold war. As Jake gets ready to return to his unit, Ali discovers he’s taking her heart along with him. Can the peace activist and the solider find some neutral territory in order to follow their hearts or will Ali and Jake just have to settle for some combat wounds that may never heal?
This will work out just fine, Jake said to himself as he approached the car. He watched the woman back out of the trunk and stand, one hand on her hip, looking at an impossibly huge gift-wrapped box stuck apparently inside.
She was slender, but not too thin judging by the way she filled out the blue jeans. She wore a like pink top that complimented unruly red hair streaked with blond.
He stopped about five feet away from her and set down his duffle bag. He was close enough to see her profile with its finely sculpted nose and flushed cheeks. She turned to look at him and her large, vivid blue eyes made his heart begin a hard, unrelenting beat.
Suddenly he felt nervous. Imagine that. Him! At age thirty-five he knew how to get a woman’s attention. But he had made this one into a game; something he would normally never think of doing. Why did he let Davis goad him into it?
Because Davis tossed in the Academy Honor Code, that’s why, Jake answered for himself. Nothing more macho that West Pointers on leave trying to out do each other. For a moment he thought about letting Davis win, but the woman turned fully toward him and crossed her arms over her chest. She pursed her full lips and his pulse jagged like a bullet ricocheting in a tin can.
“What are you staring at?” she asked. “You never saw someone trying to get something out of a trunk before?”
For a moment, just from looking at the way her hair tumbled around her small shoulders, it seemed as though he lost his ability to speak. Silky strands of red and honey blond curved into crescents against her top. The bangs across her smooth forehead emphasized her thickly lashed eyes. Part girl, part woman, he thought as he stared at her, wondering which one he was reacting to.
She walked over to him and snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Are you mute or something?”
Jake gave his head a small shake. “No, I can talk.”
“But can you carry things?”
“Then how about making yourself useful and helping me get a box out of my trunk.”
Jake tossed his head. “Sure. I’m always ready to rescue a damsel in distress.”
He started to walk to her car when she stopped him with a hand to his chest. “Let’s get something straight first. You are not Dudley Do-Right and there is not a railroad track in sight, so I am not a damsel and I am not in distress. Normally I would not need help, but the darn thing got stuck in there somehow.”
Jake raised his hands in a don’t-shoot pose. “I was only making conversation.”
“Less talking and more doing would be better.”
By the curve her of mouth, the fire in her eyes, you would have thought that he had said something horrible to her instead of agreeing to help her. His mind whirled with a politically correct response to her gibe. Urban legend said that red-haired women could turn into screeching harpies when confronted sometimes, but, to him, unpredictability was their allure. They reminded him of the jets he had trained on before becoming a blackhawk pilot. When he flew the F-16 to the edge of the envelope, he tested its strengths and weaknesses, but never really knew them until he pushed too far. He sort of felt that way right now.
“Sorry, ma’am,” Jake said. “I meant nothing by it.”
She dropped her hand and crossed her arms over her chest. “Ma’am? Just how old do I look?”
“Well, let’s see now,” He stepped back and gave her a lazy once over intended to make her wonder exactly what he was looking at, instead he only succeeded in making his own interest in her rise as he took in every attractive line and angle. A wide grin set on his face. This red-haired harpy was getting under his skin, and he didn’t mind it at all. “I’d saw twenty-five,” he finally said.
“Twenty-eight,” she corrected. “Too young to be a ma’am.”
“A lady is never too young to be shown respect” Jake replied without an instant of hesitation.
“Call me Ali,” she said.
“My name’s Ali.”
“Well then Ali, what has you so annoyed today?”
“Who says I’m annoyed?”
“I do, and by the look of you, so would anyone in a ten-mile radius.”
Ali walked back to her car and looked in the side mirror. “What’s wrong with the way I look?”
The question made Jake’s gaze sweep her form once more. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the way she looked. He would probably remember every vivid detail, but that’s not what she wanted to hear right now.
He walked to her as he spoke. “Your cheeks are flushed, your voice is probably an octave too high when you speak and your body language says I better be ready to move back at a moment’s notice.”
Ali grimaced. “That bad, huh?”
Jake just nodded.
“Okay,” Ali said, leaning her backside against the driver’s side door. “I’m probably never going to see you again after today so I’ll tell you why I’m annoyed.”
“You may see you again sometime,” Jake corrected.
“I’ll chance it,” she replied immediately. “Besides, I was rude and you deserve an explanation. Fact is, my mother wants me to have her grandchildren.”
Jake took a step back and held up his hands again. “I barely know you.”
Ali rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean right now and I don’t mean with you. I mean sometime in the future.”
“I guess every woman wants that from her children.”
“Yes, but my mom is on a mission. My sister and brother have already fallen victims to her plan, and I’m next.”
“A curse you say?” One of Jake’s eyebrows rose with the question.
“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Mom called a family meeting and gave us these rings and before you knew it my older sister met this cop and got married, my brother is getting married and I have a nephew. I tell you, mom unleashed some kind of cupid-like force that can’t be stopped when she gave us those rings.”
” That’s quite a story.”
Ali could hear the skeptiicsim in Jake’s voice. “It isn’t a story,” she insisted. “It’s a Stephen King novel and I’m the only person left alive.”
“Are your brother and sister happy?”
“Then what’s so bad about it?”
Ali’s eyes widened. “Were you not listening?” She pointed to herself with both forefingers, stabbing the air as she spoke. “I-am-doomed.” She began to pace. “I have this strange feeling something’s going to happen. Like when you’re watching a horror film and the heroine is walking up to the spooky, old house. You’re screaming to her ‘don’t go in there’, but she goes in anyway and wham! The next thing you know the vampire is chewing on her neck.”
Jake nearly burst out laughing with the look of terror on her face. “It’s daylight. No self-respecting vampire would be up yet.”
She dropped her shoulders and sighed. “It was an analogy.”
“Don’t you want to get married someday?” Jake asked, trying hard not to laugh at her protests.
“Someday. Maybe. But not because of some family curse.” She saw him cover his mouth to smother a grim. “Never mind. Why did I even tell you any way?’ She swiped at the air with her hand. “You could never understand the power of those rings unless you saw it in action. I swear my Grandmother must have been a gypsy.” She took two steps away and then came back, hands on her hips. “But the fact remains, I have to get the box out of the trunk and into my sister’s house. So, Mr.-Knight-In-Shinning-Armor, are you still going to help me?”
“The name’s Jake,” he replied.
Ali nodded. “Okay, Jake then. So how about that box?” she asked, hitching her thumb over her shoulder at the car.
Jake smiled. “As long as it doesn’t mean we’re engaged.”
“Very funny.” Sarcasm laced her voice. “Just get it out and then you’re free to go.”
Jake walked to the back of the car, rapid-fire thoughts racing through his mind. Should he tell her that they were going to the same party? Naw, he quickly answered himself. It would be much more fun to let this redheaded spitfire find out for herself and see what happened when she did. He just needed to make sure he was out of the line of fire.
He got about a step from the trunk and stopped. “What’s in there anyway?”
“A gift for my new nephew. He was Christened today”
“What is it? A tank.”
“No, a drum set.”
Jake’s eyebrows furrowed. “The little guy can’t be more than a few months old.” He watched a devious expression race across Ali’s face.
“It’s payback for my sister starting all this and I intend to add a piece every year for his birthday until he had a percussion section the size of the Philharmonic’s.”
“Isn’t that a little extreme?”
“No. In my family, it’s expected.”
“Must be something at your house on holidays.”
“You would not believe me if I told you.”
Jake leaned into the trunk. He tugged at the box. It didn’t move very much. “You got this in here somehow, so we should be able to get it out,” he said, rocking the box back and forth.
Ali leaned over him. “Don’t rip that paper.”
“I’ll try not to,” he replied pushing on the top, attempting to compact it a little to see if he could gently push it back into the trunk and somehow get it out without ripping it open.
Trying to help, Ali leaned in closer and freed the edge of the bow from underneath the latch. When she did, her hip brushed his. It was a pleasant sensation. Jake held his ground and didn’t step away. A strand of her incredible hair moved like silk over his arm when she reached inside the trunk and the scent of her spicy perfume caught him by surprise. He hadn’t smelled good perfume in almost a year, and he’d almost forgotten how pleasant the aroma could be. He wouldn’t be forgetting this scent for a long time.
After a few minutes more of trying, he managed to get the box out. “It’s free,” he said, surprised on how heavy it was. “I’ll carry it in the house for you.”
“You don’t have to. The deal was just to get it out of the trunk.”
“I wouldn’t think of letting you take this inside alone.” He looked at her puzzled face. “A do-gooder has to always finish the job.”
Ali shrugged. “If you insist.”
Jake’s smile grew. “Oh you bet I do.”
Ali walked next to Jake as he carried the drum set up the walk toward the front door. Shoulders back, head up, his stride was long and relaxed. She liked that. A walk like his exuded confidence. She also liked his hair. Dark, short, cropped close around his ears but slightly longer on top, it framed his oval face perfectly. He had a straight nose and dark-blue eyes that seemed lit with amusement by the laid-back grin that made his lips seem much too enticing.
At the door he stopped and held the box directly in front of him. She turned and looked into his eyes. She saw a mixture of delight and interest that made her wonder for a moment what he might be thinking. But she had no time to contemplate the possibilities because the front door opened.
Nick looked from her to the box. “What have you got there?” he asked Ali.
She smiled. “Oh that’s a surprise.”
“Not as much as this one,” she heard Jake say.
She turned in time to see him set the box down on the stoop and hold his arms out. “Surprise!”
“Jake!” Nick exclaimed as he threw his arms around his cousin and patted him on the back. “We didn’t expect you for another couple of hours.”
“I caught a ride instead of waiting for the bus,” Jake explained.
Ali looked from Nick to Jake and then back to Nick again. “You two know each other?”
“He’s my cousin,” Nick said. “We haven’t seen him for over a year.” He glanced at Ali. “But I didn’t know that you’d met him.”
Ali’s head swiveled ever so slowly to Jake. “We just did,” she said between clenched teeth.
Her narrowed eye gaze caught Jake full force. When their eyes locked, Jake couldn’t help but feel that if looks were laser beams, his head would have exploded.