About Me

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Vancouver, Washington, United States
Married for 19 years (and still madly in love) 2 kids. For excerpts from The Civil War Brides Series, or the Cauld Ane Series, visit: www.traceyjanejackson.com

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bound by Tears - Chapter One

Present Day

JESSKA HEARD THE doorbell peal through her little duplex and, after checking the peephole, pulled open the door. “Well, hi there, Winky.” 

Amanda giggled. “You can’t call me that anymore, you know.”

“You might have married Marc Miller, but you’ll always be my Winky.” Jesska grinned. “Come in. Where’s Kiana?”

Amanda’s four-year-old was the cutest, and busiest, little girl on the planet.

“She’s with Marc. Daddy-daughter bonding time,” Amanda said, and took off her coat before holding up a bottle of Jesska’s favorite wine. “I thought you and I could drink a little and find out who Manny sends home this week.”

“You know I love it when you just pop over,” Jesska droned.

“No, I know you hate it, but since you’ve been dodging my phone calls for almost a week now, I figured desperate measures and all that.”

“I haven’t been dodging you.”

Amanda pointed at her. “So, you have no idea what today is.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re wearing his sweatshirt, babe.”

Today was the tenth anniversary of Brady’s death, and Jesska had been inconsolable most of the day, as she was every anniversary. Her friends and family knew to leave her alone… except for Amanda, who inserted herself whenever possible.

Jesska huffed. “Fine. Okay. I’d hoped to be by myself, but if you insist on joining my pity party, you better get comfortable. You’re just lucky you brought the wine—you’d never have gotten in without it.”

Amanda handed her the bottle. “It’s Bachelor night. We can watch it together in real time.”

“I was thinking I might just watch it, drink some wine, and take a bath.”

“Yeah, your obsession with tubby time’s a little weird.”

“You’re just jealous.”

Amanda sighed. “You’re right. I never have time to relax like that anymore. Plus, I don’t have a kickass claw-foot tub at my disposal.”

Jesska laughed. “Is it weird I chose my house based on the tub?”

“Oh, babe, you surpassed weird about a lot of different things a while ago.” Amanda grinned, flopped onto the couch. “Come on. Which lady will it be this week, hmm? Enquiring minds want to know.”

“I think ‘lady’ is generous. Especially when talking about that Rosa chick.”

“Yes, probably.” Amanda giggled. “Got ice cream?”

“Do I have ice cream?” Jesska snorted. “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

Amanda cued up The Bachelor while Jesska prepared bowls of ice cream and poured wine. Manuel Garcia was the new bachelor and the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. He was the Latino dream, with his chiseled body and beautiful face, complete with dimples that Amanda and Jesska were convinced he used as weapons. Manny was the most popular bachelor in six seasons, and the women were horrible. All but a couple of them, anyway.

By the time the show ended, and Jesska and Amanda had discussed Manny’s date with Alana, one of the ladies both Jesska and Amanda liked, they’d gone through an entire carton of ice cream and a bottle and a half of wine. Jesska had even broken down and grabbed a box of tissues.

“I should have had that,” Jesska complained.

“The chance to vie for a guy’s love and devotion against twenty-four other psycho women?”

“I’m not psycho.”

“Oh, right, sorry. Twenty-four psycho women and you.”

Jesska snorted. “Do not tell me you didn’t think Alana’s date was über romantic. Manny was adorable. And Brady did stuff like that all the time. I should have had that.”

“I know, buddy,” Amanda agreed. “But maybe there’s someone else out there for you. Maybe God has a bigger plan.”

Jesska bit back an insult. It wasn’t Amanda’s fault she still believed in some old man in the sky who liked to devastate young women by killing off the people they loved. It also didn’t matter that even though Amanda had graduated with a degree in rocket science and had just quit her job at NASA, Jesska always thought she was very, very pretty, but lacked a little in the brains department. She was far too loving and trusting to be a genius. But outside of Amanda’s paltry street smarts and her religious views, Jesska adored her.

“I see you’re trying to reconcile my looks with my brains again.”

“Don’t talk to me like you know me,” Jesska retorted.

Amanda laughed as she checked her phone. “Marc’s wondering what time I’m going to be home.”

Jesska smiled. “How much have you had to drink? I’m not sure you should drive.”

“I had two glasses, lady. You drank the rest.”

“Shut up.”

“Serious.” Amanda rose to her feet and stretched.

“So you’re okay to drive?”

“I’m great to drive. My directive has been achieved.”

“Which was?”

“Keeping you distracted for a few hours.”

Jesska sighed, realizing she felt quite a bit better after girl time and a good cry. “Again, Winky, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to me like you know me.”

Amanda laughed. “Too late. Will you go straight to bed, or do you need me to stay and sing you a wuwwaby until you fall asweep?”

“Suck it, Winky,” Jesska joked as she rose to her feet. “I wish I could say you’re annoyingly mommy-ish now that you’re actually a mom, but that trait started long ago.”

“Guilty.” Amanda grabbed her purse and coat. “Oh, would you be able to watch Kiana on Wednesday night?”

“Totally. It’s my turn to drive for the carpool, so I can pick her up after I drop off Kim, if you like.”

“You’re a life saver!” Amanda exclaimed. “Marc and I need a date night and he has tickets to a movie preview.”

“Ooh, fun. Which one?”

“Okay, don’t laugh.”

Jesska laughed.

Amanda raised an eyebrow. “I said don’t laugh.”

“Which makes me want to do it all the more.”

“That’s true. My bad,” Amanda conceded. “Anyway, his high school buddy did this documentary on Portland and its history, and he’s premiering it for family and a couple of close friends. Marc was invited.”

“That’s actually really cool,” Jesska said.

“I hope so. If it sucks, Marc and I’ll just make out in the back row.” Amanda grinned. “Anyway, thanks again. I’ll text you when I get home.”

“Sounds good. Hey, thanks, Winky. Seriously.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.” Jesska hugged Amanda and watched her walk to her car before closing and locking the door. She was exceedingly grateful to her best friend as she fell asleep relatively quickly.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Scavenger Hunt, Day Two - Clue #1

Have you ever wondered how authors find covers? Where they go for images or who they use as their artists?

I am very lucky to be married to a graphic artist who does all my covers. He is able to take my jumbled idea and make it beautiful. In the case of the Civil War Brides series, we had originally thought to use an image of Jackson and me at a masquerade ball, but the photo wasn't as crisp as we would have liked and it just didn't quite work, but when he adjusted it and made it a silhouette, it popped beautifully, so the "brand" was born.

When it came to the Cauld Ane Series, I wanted something different, but I had to rush to get Bound by Blood released, so I chose a photo I liked from iStockphoto and went from there. I used to be a photographer in another life (I suppose I still am, I'm just no longer doing it for money), so I had this brilliant (insane) idea to shoot my own covers. As you can see, I have gorgeous friends who were somewhat easy to cajole into  posing for me, and setting up shooting sessions and getting together to laugh and take a few photos is a blast!

What is the title of Book #5 in the Civil War Brides Series? (Hint - the cover is purple) 

I need to be able to find your name easily, so if your username is abbreviated, please add your first and last name. Thanks!

Good luck!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bound by Dreams - Sneak Peek!

Bound by Dreams releases June 10, 2014, and is available for pre-order at several places!

Amazon does not allow pre-orders for Indie authors, so watch for it June 10th! 

Read the first chapter below!


Anaheim, California
Three Months Ago                                                                    

CHARLOTTE WHITMORE STOOD in the ladies’ dressing room of Disneyland’s staff area and ended a rather frustrating phone call with her best friend, Grace Wilson. Charlotte’s thoughts ran rampant as she processed the fact that Grace had just been visited by the object of Charlotte’s own desires… Niall MacMillan, the incomparable drummer for her favorite band, Fallen Crown. Well, technically, his brother Max had visited Grace, but Niall had been with him, and Charlotte scowled in irritation that she wasn’t there too.

She sighed and adjusted her Princess Ariel costume as she stared at herself in the mirror. She supposed she should be grateful she was wearing the dress rather than the tail, but still, it seemed like adding insult to injury that she was being forced to portray the most pathetic princess in the Disney lineup.

“Stupid, vapid girl who sells her soul to an evil witch for a boy,” she muttered to herself as she walked out of the dressing room in search of her “prince.”

Charlotte had moved to Los Angeles six years ago in an attempt to “make it” as an actress, but with blondes aplenty and roles not so abundant, her dream meant working at Disneyland. She enjoyed her job, crazy as that might sound, she really loved the variety…except for today. She would have much preferred to be hiding in the air-conditioned back office rather than out in the cancer-beckoning sun.

“Hey, Charlie,” Don called.

Don Leavitt was six feet tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and also trying to make it as an actor. He and Charlotte met when they moved into their apartments across the hall from each other on the same day. He was what most women swooned over, but not Charlotte. She leaned toward the dark-haired, blue-eyed, drummer variety. Besides, after two failed relationships, one of which put her in the hospital, she’d put dating on hold.

The bottom line was, she wasn’t a serial dater, but she was also away from her family and Grace, which meant she didn’t have anyone giving her daily reality checks…and Lord knows, you won’t find any kind of reality in L.A. During her hospitalization Don had sat vigil by her bedside and then spent a week fawning over her. He’d become the brother she’d never had and the confidante she really needed at the time.

“Hey, Donnie.” She chuckled at his dark wig. “Your hair’s crooked.”

“Dang it,” he said, and faced the mirror, shifting Prince Eric’s wig. “Good?”

Charlotte nodded. “Much better.”

“Ready to look like you’d sell your soul for me?”

“Oh, you’re hilarious.”

“Thank you, m’lady. I’m here all week.” He gave a princely bow and smiled. “So. What’s new in the land of Charlotte? We haven’t talked in over a week.”

“I know,” she said. “So very unlike us. Let’s see. Um, Grace just called to tell me that half of Fallen Crown showed up at church.”

“Fallen Crown the band?” Don asked. “Didn’t she meet them in Scotland?”

“Yep, she sure did…which is why we hate her, right?”

Don laughed. “Right. I hate your best friend…whom I’ve never met.”

“Good answer. Anyway, the lead singer and his dreamy brother made a special trip, apparently to visit her.”

“Wow. She must have made an impression.” Don cocked his head. “Of course, from the many pictures I’ve seen, she is super hot, so I can see why she would.”

Charlotte punched him on the arm.

“Ow, what was that for?” he asked.

“It was because I had to hit something. I should be there meeting Niall MacMillan.” She lowered her voice. “Not here, portraying an idiot. Grace doesn’t even like them!”

“At all?” Don asked. “But they’re really great.”

“Preaching to the choir, buddy…but, no, she’s not a fan.” Charlotte shook her head.

“What’s her jam? Does she love country?” he retorted.

“There’s no such thing as real country music anymore,” Charlotte complained. “She loves pop, whether it falls into what the industry calls “country” or not. Granted, she loves good pop, not the auto-tuned crap radio tries to feed us, but still, Fallen Crown’s a bit out of her comfort zone.”

“So, is she dating the lead singer or the dreamy drummer?”

“Neither yet, but Maximilian seems pretty determined to get to know her.”

Don rubbed his bicep with a grimace. “Damn, girl, you hit like a man.”

“Oh, please. That was merely a love tap.”

Don laughed. “Would now be a good time to say how sorry I am that you didn’t get to meet the object of your obsess—I mean, affection?”

“Yes. Thank you. You just made everything better.” Charlotte smiled. “You’re not really hurt, are you?”

“That depends. Can I milk the injury? Get you to do my laundry for a week due to my broken arm?”

“Hells, no.” She laughed. “And don’t ask me to cook you anything either.”

“I would never! That could be dangerous for me,” he murmured. “So, no, you didn’t really hurt me.”

Charlotte laughed. “You really should go into acting.”

“That’s good advice. Thanks. I’ll think about it.”

The couple’s handler, Ryan Smith, arrived to lead them to their meet-and-greet, effectively cutting off their banter. “Ready?” he asked.

“As I’ll ever be,” she grumbled, and glanced in the mirror with a sigh. The signs on every mirror read, “Check your smile,” so she forced her best princess grin and took Don’s elbow. The day was in the nineties, unusual for winter, and it drove home how much she hated the southern California weather.

* * *
Two weeks later, Charlotte let herself into her apartment just as her phone rang. She checked the caller ID and saw it was her best friend. “Hi Grace.” Charlotte heard sniffling in the background. “Gracie, what’s wrong?”
“Um, hi…ah…something’s happened,” Grace rasped.


Grace sniffled again.

“You sound miserable. Everything okay with your new man?” Charlotte dropped her keys in the dish on the counter and poured herself a glass of wine. “Is he your new man? I’m still not getting a read on that.”

“I guess,” Grace whispered. “Yes. He is.”

“What’s up, Gary? Really. Tell me.”

“It’s Maggie.” More sniffling. “She has cancer.”

That was all Charlotte could make out, because Grace turned into a blubbering mess after that. Nothing coherent came out for several minutes, and Charlotte used the time to process. At twenty-three, Margaret Marie, “Maggie” as everyone called her, was Grace’s youngest sister, and as far as Charlotte was concerned, as close to her as her own sister was. Closer, probably. Even Spencer, Grace and Maggie’s brother between them, was a great friend to Charlotte. She lowered herself onto her bed and squeezed her eyes shut.

“Are you still there?” Grace asked.

“Of course I am.”

“Oh, good. Thank you.”

“I won’t hang up until you do,” Charlotte promised.


Charlotte sighed. “What do the doctors say?”

“She has to have chemo and Spence and I are going to be tested…um, to see if we can donate bone marrow.”

“Oh, Gracie, I’m so sorry.”

“I just had this amazing and slightly confusing time with Max in Scotland, but none of that matters, knowing Maggie might die.”

Charlotte forced back tears. “Oh, honey, let’s not go there, huh? Maggie’s going to be fine.”

“What if she’s not? I can’t lose my sister, Chuck.”

“You won’t.”

“Do you promise?”

Charlotte grimaced. “I promise.”

“Well, you can’t make that promise,” Grace snapped. “You’re not God.”

“You got me there.” Charlotte rubbed her forehead, ignoring her best friend’s bark. Grace had every right to feel like crap, and if she needed Charlotte to be her punching bag, she’d happily take the beating. “What does Max say?”

“Basically the same thing you did.”

“Well, he sounds like a smart man.”

Grace snorted. “Says the woman who’s their number one fan.”

Charlotte let out a lackluster giggle. “Sadly true.”

“Why sadly?”

“Because even if meeting them was an option, I’d never be able to be in the same room with Niall MacMillan without saying something incredibly stupid.”

Grace snorted. “Well, that’s entirely untrue…and you’re going to have to meet him eventually, if this thing with me and Max works out.”

“I’ll cross that bridge then.”

“Fair enough. Thanks, Charlie.” Grace sighed. “She’s gonna be okay.”

“Yes, she is. Absolutely.”

“I should go,” Grace said.

“I love you, sister from another mister.”

“Love you too.”

Charlotte hung up and sat staring at the floor for she didn’t know how long. It was only the buzz of her cell phone that jarred her out of her trance. “Hello?”

“Charlotte Whitmore, please.”


“Miss Whitmore, this is Martha Reynolds. I’m Allison’s new assistant.”

Allison Rodriguez was Charlotte’s agent…the not-so-hard-working agent to the “wannabes.” Martha was Allison’s eighth assistant in less than a year, and Charlotte thought she might have had double that since she signed with her three years go. That fact probably should have been a red flag, but Allison was the only person who’d even looked at her, let alone signed her, so Charlotte stuck around.

“Oh, yes?” Charlotte said.

“I’m calling to let you know that you didn’t get the callback for the NBC pilot.”

Charlotte sighed. “Oh, okay.”

“Sorry. We’ll be sure to keep your name on the list for anything that comes up.”

“Okay,” Charlotte said, as evenly as she could. “Thanks anyway.”

“No problem. ’Bye.”

Charlotte hung up, and without a second thought, she fired off an e-mail to her poor excuse for an agent, severing all current and future ties, e-mailed her landlord, and typed up her two-week notice for Disneyland. Then she called Don.

“Hey, Charlie,” he said after the first ring. “You okay?”

“No, not really.”

“I’ll be right there.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she said.

“Try and stop me.” He chuckled. “Open some wine.”

She smiled. “Okay. See you in a bit.”

Less than two minutes later, Don let himself into Charlotte’s apartment after an obligatory knock and wrapped his arms around her. He’d obviously used the spare key she’d given him for emergencies. “Okay, tell me.”

She burst into tears, but managed to force out everything Grace had told her plus the news about her failed attempt at getting the part.

“Oh, buddy, I’m sorry,” he said, as he rubbed her back.

“Wine. We need wine.” Charlotte pulled herself together and headed into the kitchen, returning with two glasses of her favorite red.

“Thanks,” Don said, and took the glass she offered. “So, what now?”

Charlotte grimaced.

Don raised an eyebrow. “What did you do?”

“I kind of quit.”

“Quit?” he asked. “Quit what?”

“Disneyland, my agent, my apartment,” she said, and lowered herself onto one of her overstuffed chairs.

Don frowned, sitting down on the sofa beside her. “Thinking about quitting, you mean?”

She bit her lip. “No. I quit, quit. Sent the e-mails about twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh, Charlie, seriously? This isn’t you. You’re not impulsive or reckless. What are you going to do for money?”


He laughed. “Okay, show me what you got.”

She kicked his leg. “You wish.”

“A man can dream.” He grinned. “Where are you going?”


He frowned. “What? Seriously?”

She nodded.

“When do you go?”

“Two weeks.”

“You’re supposed to give thirty days notice here,” he pointed out.

Charlotte shrugged. “Mrs. Morrison let me out of this month early. You know they need units, and they can rent it for a lot more than I’m paying.”

“Damn it!” Don snapped, and rose to his feet, setting his wine on the coffee table.

“Why are you so mad?”

“Shit, Charlie!” Don walked out her door without another word.

Charlotte shook her head in confusion. The only time she’d ever seen Don mad was when he’d picked her up at the hospital. It was a night she’d managed to put behind her, although, it was never forgotten. After an argument with her boyfriend, she’d been sideswiped by a fist in the face, and suffered a couple of bruised ribs and a broken wrist. He was a popular actor at the time…not as big as he was now, but he had a sense of entitlement even back then, and when she wouldn’t sleep with him, he became enraged.

One of his goons intervened and pulled him off her, while another scooped her up and drove her to the hospital. He’d stopped something much worse from happening, and she’d always be grateful. He’d slapped down a wad of cash on the emergency room counter, walked Charlotte to a chair, and then left. She never saw him again.

The doctor had set her break, bound her ribs, and loaded her up with heavy-duty painkillers. They wouldn’t let her leave without someone to drive her, so she’d been forced to call Don.

 Her door opened again, pulling her from her memories, and Don leaned against it. “Sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I should have talked to you about everything before I made any decisions…I just…I don’t know…”

He raised his hands in surrender. “Don’t, Charlie. You don’t owe me an explanation. It’s your life. I guess I just don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Find a nice girl and settle down.”

“But I’ll always compare them to you.”


“I love you, Charlie. I have since the day we met.”

She blinked back tears. “No, don’t say that.”

“Why not? If you’re leaving anyway, I at least need to tell you how I feel while I have the chance.”

“But you’ve dated like, a gazillion women,” she argued.

“I have. All of them a poor substitute for you.”

“Now I feel like an idiot.”


She let out a deep breath. “Because I never knew. Never even got an inkling.”

“Well, that was the point,” he said, crossing his arms. “If you’d been ready to reciprocate, I’d have been there to take advantage. But after…well, everything…I knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. And I wasn’t going to be the bastard who tried to convince you otherwise.”

She dropped her face in her hands. “Donnie, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey.” He gently pulled her arms down. “There’s nothing to apologize for. Seriously. If all we are is really good friends, I’ll deal.”

“Oh, great, thanks for ‘dealing,’” she droned.

“Poor choice of words.”

“Ya think?” she challenged.

He smiled. “Okay, enough of this unrequited love talk.”

“Oh, that’s so much better.”

He chuckled. “Anyway, I’ve got you for two more weeks. You are mine. Got it?”

“Will you help me pack?”

“Of course I’ll help you pack. It’s what the pathetic guy does when he’s in love with the hot girl next door.”

She smacked his arm. “You’re the most horrible person on earth.”

He laughed. “Which is why you won’t date me.”

Donnie,” she said in exasperation.

“I’m kidding.” He gave her a quick hug.

She sighed. “I really am sorry if I hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention.”

“I know it wasn’t. Don’t worry about it.” He checked his watch. “I have to run right now, but seriously, let’s spend some time together before you go, okay?”

“I’d like that.”

After closing and locking the door behind Don, Charlotte spent the next two hours packing up a few things in her tiny apartment, glad her Toyota was an SUV, because it meant she didn’t have to tow a trailer. Sadly, everything she owned would more than likely fit in her car. For the moment, she set her boxes in the corner of her living room in anticipation of her move out date.

Tell me where you are and I’ll find you.

Charlotte jumped at the sound of the voice in her head. The voices kept coming. No, not voices…one voice. It had started on her twenty-fifth birthday, and it would come at the most inconvenient times. Like in the middle of an audition…usually when she was feeling the most nervous or stressed. The voice was sexy, deep, and very Scottish, something she’d always been a sucker for. What girl wasn’t? No one she knew, that was for darn sure. She flipped off the bedroom light and climbed into bed, hoping sleep would come quickly.

The following morning, she handed printed versions of her e-mail notice in to both her landlord and boss. She made the most of her time left with Don and then, two weeks later, she pulled out of the Disneyland staff parking lot and headed north. It took her almost two days, with a stop at a dive motel when she was in danger of falling asleep at the wheel, but she arrived home just after eleven p.m., grateful her mother was a night owl and sentimental. She had kept Charlotte’s room exactly as she’d left it. Falling into the familiar warmth of her childhood bed, she slept until after lunch the next day and then went about trying to reestablish her life in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who Wants a Contest?

Well, Bound by Song is officially released and some of you crazy people are definite speed readers! So, with that said, who wants a contest?

Leave a NEW review (any left since December 1st are eligible) at either Amazon or Goodreads (good, bad, or indifferent) and either email me or leave a comment below with the following information:

1. Book you reviewed;
2. Name the review is under;
3. Date of review.

If you do this, I will enter you in to win a signed paperback (US residents) or free download (Int'l) from any of my books (your choice). The more reviews you leave, the more chances you have to win. You can read the first chapter of all of my books at my website.

Good luck everyone and thanks so much for reading!

Contest ends December 15, 2013.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bound by Song - Sneak Peek


Grace Wilson taped up the last of her packing boxes and set it in the corner with the others. She couldn’t believe her life had come to this. She felt like she’d done everything she was supposed to do and yet, here she was, twenty-four years old and being forced to move back in with her parents. She felt like a failure. But after losing her job four months ago, and being unsuccessful in finding a new one, she had to face facts.

She was broke.

Maybe not broke, broke, but her savings was dwindling, and with half the country in the same state as she was, or worse off, finding another job was proving to be impossible. She was one of the lucky ones, really. Her parents had a large home and had graciously offered for her to move home again until she got back on her feet.

This meant moving back home with her siblings. Joy.

Truth be told, she loved her family, but she loved her peace and quiet as well, and her siblings didn’t seem to be interested in leaving the family nest. Her brother, Spencer, was two years younger and still living at home because…well, because he could and her baby sister, Margaret, was in her second year at Washington State University and planning to live at home until she finished school.

“Grace!” Spencer called from the front room. “Ready?”

“No,” she grumbled under her breath.

He appeared at her bedroom door, a grin on his face. “Hey. It’s not the end of the world, you know.”

“I know, Spence.” She smiled. “It’s all first-world, white girl problems. I get it.”

“Just so long as you remember that,” he joked. His chestnut hair fell over his forehead and his hazel eyes sparkled with both mischief and reassurance. He held his hand out. “You dropped your phone.”

Grace took the bane of her existence from him with a groan and shoved the phone into her pocket. “Thanks.”

“You’d be a perfect candidate for a microchip of some kind,” Spencer retorted. “I’m sure the technology to surgically implant a phone isn’t that far off.”

Grace rolled her eyes. “Hey, I’m not the one who insists on me having one of these stupid things. Your father bought it for me.”

“Oh, he’s my father now, hm?” Spencer laughed. “He just wants us safe, but with the number of phones you’ve lost in the last four years, he could probably have hired a bodyguard instead.”

“Oh, you are hi-larious,” she droned as she picked up one of the lighter boxes. “Grab a box, weird one.”

Spencer picked up the box labeled “kitchen” and followed her toward the front door. “Did I tell you I got tickets to the Fallen Crown show on Friday night?”

“Really?” Grace asked. “I thought it was sold out.”

“I managed to get in just under the wire.” He pushed open the door and waited for Grace to precede him to the truck. “Aisha’s coming, and I was gonna ask Maggie, but thought you might wanna go instead.”

“We just saw them.” Grace set her box in the bed of his truck and pushed it to the front.

Three months ago, their parents had surprised them with a trip to the United Kingdom. Their mother had been secretly squirreling money away each month for the last ten years in an effort to pay for the lavish trip. Having never left the United States, the siblings jumped at the chance to see another country, particularly Grace, who needed a distraction from job and boyfriend woes.

Maggie nearly lost her mind when Spencer informed them that he was able to purchase tickets to an exclusive Fallen Crown show in Edinburgh. Grace wasn’t much of a fan, but the Wilson threesome was a team…and Spencer had bought three tickets.

“So?” he challenged.

Grace rolled her eyes. “So, once is good enough for me, and Maggie would absolutely kill you if you didn’t take her.”

“She doesn’t scare me,” Spencer joked as he set his burden into the truck bed, grabbed a roll of twine, and handed Grace an end. “You loved them. Admit it.”

“I’ll admit the band put on a good show,” she said as she tied down her end of rope. “But that doesn’t mean they made me a fan.”

“Oh, really? You seemed like a fan when you spent almost an hour with Sir Maximilian MacMillan.”

Sir Maximilian MacMillan?”

“Yep. Knighted and everything.”

“Well, in any case,” Grace snorted, “it was twenty minutes, dude. Not an hour.”

At the end of the show in Scotland, Maggie had flirted her way backstage and Grace had been singled out by the Fallen Crown’s lead singer. At first she’d been a little taken aback by his attention, but brushed off her thoughts when security moved them through the line and out the back door. Max probably spent that much time with every woman. He was, after all, a notorious womanizer.

“Well, he seemed to like you,” Spencer said.

“Oh, please. That man likes women, period. I’m no one special.”

“You were attracted to him, admit it.”

“Who wouldn’t be? He’s beautiful.”

“He spent more time with you than anyone, Gracie. Pretty sure he liked you.” Spencer chucked her the roll of twine and she tied off the end and threw it back to him.

“I’m pretty sure he likes anyone with boobs.”

Spencer laughed again. “Well, you weren’t watching him watching you, because you were too busy looking for an escape, but he couldn’t take his eyes off you.”

“You’re high.”

“No, seriously.”

Grace sighed. “It doesn’t matter if the lead singer of some stupid band spent time with me, you weirdo. He’s a degenerate rock star, and I’m a good girl. Besides that, even if he was remotely interested and available, I’m not looking. Why this sudden need to set me up with someone?”

“I don’t know. You’ve just been kind of sad.” He shrugged. “You could always get back with Trey.”

Grace had broken off her relationship with her boyfriend just after she’d returned from Scotland. Putting distance between the two of them had made her realize they were going nowhere, and she wanted something more than football games and testosterone-filled bar and grill dinners.

“Not gonna happen,” Grace stressed, and then forced a smile. “You can still be friends with him, Spence. He’s a great guy. He’s just not the right guy for me. And I’m fine. I promise. I’m just working some stuff out.”

“Okay. On the Trey subject, though, he was kind of a jerk at the end there, and you know me, sisters before misters,” Spencer quipped.

Grace giggled. “That’s why you’re my favorite brother.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Once Spencer secured the final loop of rope, he dropped the remainder into the truck. “Is there anything in here you don’t want stowed in the basement?”

Grace shook her head. “Nah. It’s all good.”

“Okay. I’ll drop this off and then I’ve got a date.”

“Thanks for all your help.” She hugged him and then wrinkled her nose. “Oh, and make sure you shower before your date, mm-kay? I don’t know how Aisha puts up with you.”

“Get a good whiff, sis.” He raised his arm and leaned into her. “My manliness is a beautiful thing.”

Grace groaned and shoved him away just as Maggie drove up. “Your ‘manliness’ should be considered a deadly weapon.”

“Hi,” Maggie called as she climbed out of her ’90s Honda. Her dark hair, the same color as Grace’s, was cut in a bob just above her shoulders. Even though she had on her oldest pair of jeans and a paint-stained sweatshirt, she still looked like she was stepping out of the pages of a fashion magazine. “Sorry I’m late.”

Grace smiled. “No problem. We just got the last of it loaded. Now we can clean.”

“Yay,” Maggie droned. “The best part.”

“See you guys tomorrow,” Spencer said. “I’ll be out late.”

“How is that different than any other night?” Maggie asked.

Grace shook her head. “Careful, Magpie, he may give you a whiff of his ‘manliness.’”

“Oh, he already did. His smell lingered in the house for several hours this morning.” Maggie shuddered. “You are disgusting, Spence.”

He gave them a mock salute. “And my job is done.”

“Thanks again,” Grace called as Spencer climbed into his truck. “You’re a life saver.”

Spencer waved out the window and took off toward home.

“What’s left to do?” Maggie asked as Grace led her back into the apartment.

“Just a final deep-clean. Kris’ll be here in about fifteen minutes to help, and then I’ll turn the keys into the landlord.”

Kristen Armstrong and Grace had been close friends since meeting at church six years ago. Both were on the worship team and often found themselves paired up. The timing of their friendship had been perfect as Grace’s best friend, Charlotte, had just moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

Maggie sneezed and pulled a tissue from her pocket. “Ugh.”

“Are you sick?”

“I think something’s starting,” she said. “Been feeling a little run down. But it’s no big deal. I’m too excited about you moving home to let it bug me. This is going to be awesome. You know that, right?”

Grace nodded. Sometimes her sister looked so much younger than twenty. “I think spending more time with you will definitely be awesome.”

Maggie grinned and hugged her. “Good answer.”

* * *

Maximilian MacMillan flopped onto the sofa in his well-appointed Portland, Oregon hotel suite and glared at his brother, Niall. “How hard is it to find one woman in this damned country?”

Niall grinned from his place at the desk and shrugged. “Broc did find her. She just doesn’t live there anymore.”

“He bloody well missed her by one day,” Max snapped. “He should have gotten a forwarding address.”

“Her landlord wouldn’t give it to him.”

Max scowled. “You know, for a man whose name means ‘badger,’ he’s lousy at badgering people.”

Niall laughed.

“What the hell are you laughing at?”

Niall raised his hands in surrender. “Nothing.”

Max shook his head. “Sorry, Nye.”

“There are other ways to find her, you know,” Niall said.

“I know.” Max sighed and dragged his hands through his hair. “But Pepper insisted I not stalk her. The problem is, at what point does looking for my mate cross over to stalking? You’re the one who seems to have a problem with me using a satellite to track her.”

“Yes, you’re right. I do have a problem with that.” Niall chuckled. “But I think you’ve already crossed the stalking line.”

“I shouldn’t have let her go in Scotland.”

“It’s not like you could have made her stay,” Niall pointed out.

“I could have tried.” Max scowled, knowing Niall was right. “Anyway, I’m open to suggestions, brother.”

“We could hand out raffle tickets to random people at the show on Friday night.”

Max frowned. “Random people?”

“Well, random given that the staff would give them to women who match her description.” Niall shrugged again. “Better yet, draw a picture of her.”

“I’ve already done that,” Max admitted.

“Of course you have.” Niall smiled. “Will you let me see it?”

Max shook his head. His art was something very personal to him, and he rarely shared it.


“Not ‘never,’” Max said in exasperation. “Just not yet. Anyway, I think your idea falls under the stalking definition. Besides, what if she doesn’t come to the show? I’ll be stuck playing nice with a bunch of annoying females.”

Niall’s mouth dropped open. He rose to his feet, opened the blinds, and stared out the window.

“What are you doing?” Max asked.

“Just looking to see if the world’s ending.”

“What are you talking about?”

Niall turned from the window. “I figured the day you didn’t want to do a meet-and-greet with gorgeous women would be the end of the world.”

Max swore as he grabbed a pillow from the sofa and chucked it at his brother. Niall caught it with a laugh.

“Do you know if she’s an empath?” Niall asked.

Max shrugged. “I don’t know anything about her, other than what I found out when we met. But even if she is an empath, I won’t be able to speak with her telepathically until her Ár mökun.”

Niall nodded. “When’s her birthday?”

“Two weeks from today,” Max said in despair.

“So, you have stalked her.”

Max glared at him.

Niall grinned as he crossed his arms. “We could always talk to that reporter.”

“You want to talk to a media shark?” Max sneered as he stood and paced the room.

“She seems nicer than most…and easier to control.”

“They’re all blood-sucking vultures.”

“Just think about it, Max. If you do the interview, you could slip in Grace’s name, offering her…and maybe her siblings…tickets to the show.”

Max continued to pace the floor. His brother had a bloody good idea. Not that he wanted to admit that, but he’d done everything else he could think of, and he just wasn’t willing to start their life off with stalking…as tempting as that might be. According to Pepper, Grace needed to have as much say in this as Max.

“Fine. Set it up,” he said. “Just make sure Kenna understands this isn’t an invitation to anyone else.”

 “She gets it, Max,” Niall said. “She’s the best in the business.”

“Bloody hell, the shite’s gonna hit the fan.”

Niall chuckled and dialed their publicist’s room. “Hey, Kenna. You still have the number for that local reporter? Aye. We’ll do the interview. But no one else. Aye.” Niall laughed. “Of course.”

Max had a feeling Kenna was saying something uncomplimentary about him, and was glad Niall was the one calling her. Everyone adored Niall.

“Yeah, tomorrow’s fine. Thanks. ’Bye.” Niall hung up.

“And how’s Kenna today?” Max droned.

“She’s good. But you may want to be nicer to her from now on,” Niall said.

“Why? Because her brother bound the princess?”

“No, but that wouldn’t be a bad reason.”

“You’re forgetting my best friend’s the spare.” Max pulled on his coat. “And your best friend’s been bound by the third in line. Fiona’s fourth, not to mention illegitimate, so she’s all the way at the bottom.”

“You’ve given this some thought, I see.” Niall’s phone buzzed. “Number three,” he said, and answered the call. “Hey, Brodie. No, nothing major. We’re just heading out to dinner.” Niall grinned. “Aye. Of course I can. Alaska’s the last show for a couple of weeks, then D.C., then home. Aye. Just keep me posted. Okay, thanks. ’Bye.”

Max raised an eyebrow. “That was cryptic.”

“Brodie’s planning a secret wedding for Payton,” Niall explained.

“What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”

“Nothing really.” Niall laughed. “Brodie wants me to be there, because he knows Payton will want me there.”

“We don’t do weddings.”

“I know we don’t,” Niall said. “But Payton loved Samantha’s. She enjoys the human custom, so Brodie wants to do this for her.”

Max slipped his wallet into his back pocket. “He’s going to all that trouble?”

“Of course he is. He’d do anything for her,” Niall said.

“Just seems over the top.” Max rolled his eyes. “Ready?”

Niall nodded. “Would now be a good time to point out that you’re doing an interview in order to get the attention of your mate?”

“I plan to find her, bind her, and bring her home where she belongs. Once she’s settled, things will go back to normal.” Max held the door open and motioned Niall out.

His brother let out a guffaw as he left the suite. “Oh, this is going to be bloody brilliant.”

* * *

The next afternoon, Max, Niall, Oliver Bardsley, Fallen Crown’s bass player, and Henry Keys, strangely enough, their keyboardist, all sat in producer’s chairs facing Christine Beach, the pretty blonde reporter from KRTV. Cameras and lights had been strategically placed around Kenna’s suite, and she went over the last minute list of questions with Max and Niall as the band was mic’d up.

Max hated interviews. In all honestly, he’d rather have his teeth pulled, so when Kenna told the rest of the band he’d agreed to an interview, they suspected he was up to something. Which he was. Just not what they thought.

Before Max could dwell on whether or not this was a good idea, the director counted down from three and the camera’s red light popped on.

“Fallen Crown. Welcome. I must say, this is a rare treat,” Christine said. “I understand you’ve only done one interview in the last six years and that was in London. Thank you for taking some time out from your busy tour to meet with me.”

“It’s our pleasure, Christine,” Max said. “Thank you for having us.”

He saw his brother grin at him out of the corner of his eye. In the rare times Fallen Crown had done an interview, Max let Niall or one of the other guys speak. He would sit, silent, sunglasses on, and brood. According to the media, it added to the mystery surrounding the band and led to six-figure offers for an exclusive. “So, how do you like Portland?” She glanced at her notepad and then at Niall. “I understand you’ve never played here before.”

“We’re loving Portland, Christine,” Niall said. “And it’s true, we’ve never been here. The closest we’ve played is Seattle.”

“That’s right. In fact, your last American tour was almost a decade ago. What made you wait so long to come back?”

“We’ve been recording and focusing on shows in Europe,” Niall explained. “We just never made it back.”

“Well, gentlemen, the city’s abuzz with your arrival. What made you choose Portland this time around? I understand you canceled your Seattle show not long ago.”

Niall chuckled and Max forced himself to keep a blank expression on his face.

“We did, Christine,” Niall confirmed. “We decided to spend a little extra time here after meeting a family from Vancouver at our last show.”

“The other Vancouver.” Christine giggled. “But in all seriousness, there are quite a few Washingtonians who claim to be from Portland, you know. But who wouldn’t? We take great pride in our city.”

Max and Niall shared a familiar look which the outside world probably wouldn’t be able to translate. Even Niall, as nice as he was, didn’t like pretension on anyone, and Christine Beach was full of it.

“So,” Christine continued, “you’ve had to add another date to your tour schedule. Friday’s show sold out in three minutes, which is unheard of here. You’re playing the Rose Garden Saturday as well, correct?”

“Aye,” Niall said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

“Any plans to reschedule Seattle?”

“Not at this time,” Max said. “But we would like to take this opportunity to invite Grace, Spencer, and Maggie Wilson to one of the shows this weekend. We’ve got backstage passes for them.”

“So, which one of them made such a huge impression on you?”

Kenna cleared her throat and shook her head at Christine. This question was off-limits.

Christine took a deep breath and then smiled. “Right. So, I understand that you, Max and Niall, were knighted by the queen several years ago…”

Now that he’d let the Portland Metro area know that he wanted Grace to come to the show, Max was confident she wouldn’t be able to resist him. His job was done. He let the guys finish the rest of the interview and then went back to his room for a drink.

* * *
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