Snippet Saturday — A sneak peek at some old friends

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Back in 2008, I wrote a short story, FIRST NIGHT, as part of Samhain’s newsletter The Samhellion’s Holiday celebration. Since my first book, PRIVATE PROPERTY–a story about a couple who had previously been in a no-strings-attached affair had just gotten amped to relationship status–was due to be released the following month, I thought I’d give readers a teaser about how my hero and heroine had first entered into their friends-with-benefits arrangement. I love the title because it fits in both with the theme of the New Year’s Eve party which is often referred to as First Night, and how it is the first night Jodi and Mark hook up.

Up until now, First Night has been available as a free read on my website, and as a PDF on Goodreads and Manic Readers. But with some prompting from a few people, I’ve decided to pull it down from my website and the other two sites, and revamp it. It is now twice as long as it was before, and I think gives an even better peek into Jodi and Mark’s mutual attraction.

While the original story was edited by Angela James, who edited the first two books of my Hauberk series, and the majority of my stories with Carina Press, the additions meant I wanted to ensure the new matter was properly edited too. So the new version is currently out with Anya Richards of Grammar Goggles. Once she gets it back to me, and the edits are finished, I’ll be putting it up on Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and other vendors, so more people can find it.


First Night

Copyright © 2008, 2014 Leah Braemel

It might have been the two glasses of champagne that drove Jodi Tyler to consider Terri’s dare. Or maybe, she told herself for the fifth time, she really was concerned her boss was working himself too hard.

First Night Cover ~ Final_400x600_compThough her mouth was moving, Jodi could barely hear a word Terri said over Hector’s attempts at singing and the amps blasting full-power. The music itself wasn’t bad—Juan and Tyrell both played a mean guitar but Hector needed to be muzzled.

Champagne sloshing over the side of her wine glass, Terri gestured toward their boss who stood in the farthest corner, his cell phone covering one ear, and a hand covering the other. The suit jacket Mark Rodriguez had worn earlier was nowhere in sight. His tie had disappeared too, leaving the top two buttons of his shirt splayed open. What was it about that peek-a-boo V that she found so attractive? He twisted to allow a waiter to pass which caused his shirt sleeve to pull taut. Damn, the man must work out five hours a day to maintain those shoulder muscles.

Though he had an excellent body, his recently-earned MBA spoke to his intelligence, a trait Jodi found just as sexy as his kick-ass body.

From the deep furrow in his forehead, whoever he was talking to was pissing him off. Bingo, there was his tell of running his hand over his dark hair, something he only did when he was trying to keep cool. Normally he kept it in a Marine’s high and tight, but he’d been so harried lately, he’d let the top part grow longer. Long enough that every time she’d seen him, she’d been tempted to run her fingers through it.

Poor guy. Celada Security had the best rep in the Metroplex, yet their damned competition kept swiping their clients by undercutting their rates in an effort to get Mark to sell out to him. It wasn’t that Mark was doing anything wrong—the man had a flair for keeping both his clients and his employees happy—but he didn’t have the type of money their competition had at his disposal. Which meant this might be the last party they’d celebrate together. Unless he pulled off whatever Hail Mary pass he’d hinted at during today’s staff meeting.

Terri put her mouth to Jodi’s ear and repeated, “Come on, Jodi. Mark brought his laptop to the party, and when he’s not working on it, he’s been on that damned phone. You need to get him to loosen up.”

Jodi rolled her eyes. “And just how do you propose I do that?”

Terri flattened her free hand over her stomach and wiggled her hips. “There’s no better way to start a New Year than with some hot monkey sex.”

“Terri!” Laughing at her friend’s antics, Jodi shoved Terri’s shoulder.

“Jodi,” Terri mimicked Jodi’s exasperation. “He’s not seeing anyone, and neither are you since you finally saw the light about Jace and kicked him to the curb. Sex is the perfect way to relax, and honey, you both need to relax. Besides, I’ve seen the way you eye Mark when you think no one’s looking. You’re dying to get him naked. Don’t deny it.”

“I am not!” Yes, I am. I want to pull his shirt off and run my fingers—hell my tongue—down his pecs, over his abs. To trace that line of dark hair from his navel to where it hid beneath his fly.

“It’s time you get back up on the horse and Mark’s the perfect stallion to ride.” Terri grabbed a champagne flute from a passing waiter and pressed it into Jodi’s hand. “Here. Give him this. Tell him there’s a private party and he’s invited. I bet he’ll have you seeing fireworks before the ball drops in Times Square.”

As Jodi argued internally about whether it was a good idea to have sex with the boss—which she knew wasn’t smart at the best times, Terri fumbled in her purse, withdrew a package and shoved it in Jodi’s bag. Jodi peered inside to see what her friend had given her. “Holy crap, you brought a box of condoms to the party? What the fuck were you expecting? An orgy?”

“No. But it never hurts for a girl to be prepared.”

With an entire box? Terri obviously had far more to her than she let on beneath that standard Celada uniform.

“You know you’ve been fantasizing about him for months. It’s time you go hook up with him and ride that man into the sunset.” Terri shoved her in Mark’s direction. “Or let him ride you.”

What the heck am I doing? Jodi asked herself as she maneuvered her way through the crowded room.

Taking responsibility for your own happiness, that’s what.


Keep an eye out here for when First Night is available for download from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other vendors — I’ll be making it available for a short time only, then it will be priced at 99 cents.

Snippet Saturday – One Hot (and conflicted) Cowboy

To give you a reason to vote for Jake Grady as the Hottest Cowboy in the Inner Goddess Forum’s Save a Horse, Read a Cowboy Hottest Cowboy contest, here’s a snippet from No Accounting for Cowboys…

Vote for Jake

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Ignoring the sounds of disappointment around him, he strummed the guitar and locked his gaze with hers once more. He launched into Blake Shelton’s “Who are You When I’m Not Looking.” As he sang, the lights on the rest of the band faded, until he alone was illuminated. Unsure if it was his singing or the lyrics that moved her, the hairs on the back of Paige’s neck raised, spread down her spine and along her arms. The clank and clatter of the other patrons faded away until it was just him, her and the music. As if he sang to her. For her.

Recommended Read…a sexy read that sizzled off the pages…well penned with twists and turns that added intrigue to a strong cast of characters. There’s family, love, hope, endings, and new beginnings, everything that will have anyone with a romantic heart cheering in the end. ~ Lace, BlackRaven’s Reviews

His voice grew husky as he sang about wanting to get to know her better, about how she kept herself hidden. Fear that he might actually be able to see inside her welled along with the music.

What was he doing playing at a small bar like Slick’s instead of somewhere like Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth? He was too good for Joshua Falls, damn it.

By the time his last note hung in the air, the entire bar had fallen silent, caught in his spell. Applause thundered around her, many of the bar’s patrons on their feet. Paige’s palms burned as she joined them.

NAFC_200x300“Did I tell you JT could sing or didn’t I?” Cam shouted into the mike. “Hang around folks, because we’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”

JTs shoulders hunched again as people reached out to shake his hand.

“Aw, he’s shy,” one of the girls behind her cooed.

Or didn’t like his personal space encroached, Paige silently added. Especially the way several of the women grabbed his ass. If a guy did that to her, she’d be slapping his face.

“Thanks, ladies, I’m glad you enjoyed my singing.” He wrangled himself free of yet another enthusiastic fan. “But me and my lady friend would appreciate a little space until I have to be back up for the next set.”

Paige’s eyes widened when he slid into the seat opposite her. “Hey, darlin’, thanks for saving me a seat.”

Daggers shot her way from at least four different women.

Once they retreated, he grinned, his mouth pulling up higher at one side in a crooked smile. He leaned in and lowered his voice. “Thanks for not feedin’ me to the lions.”

“How do you know I’m not their leader with even bigger claws and teeth?”

“I don’t. But then I’ve always liked to live life on the wild side.” His expression grew guarded when one of the girls from the booth behind them shoved a paper at him, demanding an autograph. Which he signed. “There you go, darlin’.”

The moment he handed it back, another woman slid into her place, and another. Though he smiled when they each insisted on having a picture taken with him, Paige wondered if any of his fans noticed there was no laughter in his eyes.

Once they left him alone, he sat back in the shadows of the booth. “Don’t worry, if your friend comes back, I’ll move.”

“That was my aunt, not my friend, and don’t worry, she’s gone.” Huh. He’d seen Reba. Which meant he’d been checking her out too. “Were you watching me, JT?”

“Hard to miss someone as pretty as you, darlin’.” He tilted his head to one side, his slate gray eyes considering her, and held out his hand. “It’s Jake, by the way. Only Cam calls me JT.”

“I’m Paige.” She shook his hand, the calluses rough against her skin, not just at the fingertips from long hours of guitar practice, but on his palms as well. As she’d guessed, this was a man used to manual labor. And to taking charge, from the way he continued to hold her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Paige. As I said, I’m obliged.”

Oh wow, a true old-fashioned cowboy right down to the manners. If she ever met his momma, she’d have to thank the woman for raising him right. And his daddy for raising a strong man.

A waitress—not the one who had waited on her earlier—slid up to the booth. She touched her bottle blond hair and simpered as if Paige were invisible, tugged at the overly tight Slick’s Swamp Box tee, then smoothed her name tag proclaiming her to be Holly in an obvious attempt to draw his attention to the bounty that threatened to overflow the scooped neckline. As if anyone could miss her double Ds. “Can I get you anything, hon? A beer? Bourbon? Jack and coke?”

Jake barely gave the waitress a cursory glance. “A Shiner Bock would be great.” He gestured to Paige’s almost empty glass. “You need a refill?”

The bill she’d asked for almost an hour ago? “It doesn’t matter.” Paige gestured to Holly’s retreating form. “She’s left already.”

“Sorry. We’ll catch her when she comes back with my beer.”

Her fingers itched to stroke the silky russet locks brushing his shoulders. She’d always had a thing for guys with longer hair. Not to mention the prickle of crew cuts never felt right compared to the brush of long locks when they lowered their heads between her thighs. “So if the J stands for Jake, what does the T stand for?”

He grinned, amusement and heat filling his eyes. “Trouble.”

Sang to her

Vote for Jake

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Snippet Saturday – Getting into the spirit

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Since we are now to less than 3 weeks until Christmas, I figured it was time for some seasonal reading. I Need You for Christmas takes place in my own back yard, and mentions places I’ve been to, and describes some of the weather we encounter around this time of year. Which makes it one of my favorite books because it has so much of “me” in it.


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I Need You for Christmas

Copyright © 2012 Leah Braemel
Instead of leading her back to his loft as she’d expected, he headed to the far end and slid aside a panel she hadn’t noticed before. She followed him up the rough wood staircase, the wood creaking with each step. Shadows shifted and moved in the light of the single bare bulb swinging on a wire from the rafters high above. The walls of the stairwell ended at the floor above, opening into what must have once been a storage area when this had been used as the sawmill barn.

Moonlight streamed through the massive window at the far end and streaked across the floor, highlighting the rough planks on the floor, the wood still bearing the tool marks from when they’d first been hewn the century before. Many of the beams on the walls had drawings tacked to them, wood and clay carvings lay half-finished or abandoned along the sides, though a few perched on cross beams as if they’d gained or sought his approval. The parachute he’d used on his single jump billowed from the ceiling, a multicolored canopy over the mattress in the corner. A swing unlike any other she’d seen hung from the central beam, moving slightly as she walked past.

An easel commanded the best view over the pond, a dozen or more drawings lay scattered on the floor by its feet. A rounded plaster cast leaned against one wall—the cast Amy had said they’d had done of her belly that Ryan had volunteered to paint. Even though the design wasn’t finished, tears sprung to Meg’s eyes at the beauty of the twin babies staring back at her, their eyes large and filled with wonder.

If she’d thought his workshop below was his inner sanctum, she’d been wrong.

“This is not just another erotic hot Christmas story, but much much more…A must read…”  ~Jeriha, Coffee Time Romance

Feeling like an intruder, she explored the room, examined the sketches, some done in pencil or ink, others in pastel. Almost all of them were of her. Usually of her asleep. In his bed or hers up north. “Are these done from memory or do you sketch them while I’m sleeping?”

“A bit of both.” He studied the pencil sketch closest to him, a profile. “I like looking at them on those nights you’re not beside me.” He stroked a finger down the cheek of the drawing as tenderly as if he’d been touching the real her. “You’re so relaxed, blissful. I keep trying to capture you, but I haven’t got it right yet.”

Oh God. Her chest ached not just from the love in his eyes, but the frustration in his voice. He walked back to the stairwell and turned off the light, leaving the moonlight as their only illumination.

“I need you, Meg.”

The rawness in his voice stirred her need to please him, to calm him. To tame the wildness stirring restlessly inside him.

“I’m yours.”


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Snippet Saturday – Characters who are thankful

This week Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving — and as I’ve been writing, I’ve found myself wondering how my characters would be celebrating. What they’d be thankful for. One character stood out in my mind — considering the horrible year he’s had, he’d be thankful for the woman who walked into his life. And stayed…

So here’s a snippet from No Accounting for Cowboys, where Jake realizes the ranch’s accountant Paige is the one person he can count on, even over his family. (If you haven’t read Jake’s story yet, Harlequin has put it on sale for just 99 cents but only until Monday.)

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No Accounting for Cowboys
Copyright © 2014 by Leah Braemel

NAFC_200x300The sky outside hadn’t changed to the slate gray it usually did when Jake got up. Another hour before the alarm clock would squawk its irritating noise. Which meant he could still catch a few minutes sleep. He flopped onto his side and waited for sleep to claim him. And waited. He switched sides again. Flipped onto his back. The damned alarm clock mocked him, telling him only five minutes had passed since the last time he’d checked it.

An hour after they’d arrived home, Ben had pounded on his door. Paige had sent him on his way, while Jake hid like a damned fugitive in the bedroom, his brain whirling as if someone had stuck his mother’s hand blender into it and cranked it to high. A half hour later, Gabe had shown up. Once more, Paige had intervened.

Around midnight, his brain had fritzed out. He’d stared at the ceiling for another hour, thinking…nothing. But he still couldn’t sleep. He’d spent the last hour watching Paige sleep, the way her hair drifted over the pillow, at the soft curve of her mouth, the arch of her eyebrow. Sexy. Confident in who she was.

Peaceful.

Peace he thought he had yesterday. Now his life was complete chaos.

Well, except for her. She was the calm in his storm. While he ranted, she listened. Really listened. Heard not only what he said, but what he was too afraid to say.

Not just last night, but before too, when he talked about his music and worried about Ben’s reaction. She made him feel like he could say anything and she’d stay by his side.

Defend him. Support him.

Impossible to put down; No Accounting For Cowboys was filled with twists, turns, and secrets new and old making it another fine offering from author Leah Braemel. ~ Slick, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

Outside of the family, no one else had cared enough to defend him unless they thought they’d get something out of it. But Paige? She was in his corner every step of the way. Since the first day they’d met.

If it hadn’t been for her last night, he would have stormed off the ranch. Kept driving. Maybe that’s why he’d taken the ATV to the lake instead of climbing back into his truck. Maybe he’d wanted her to follow him. While the impulse to flee was still strong, he wouldn’t leave without her by his side.

Shit.

Holy hell, she’d wiggled into his head until he’d fallen in love with her. No. She’d just been herself. He was the one who’d tumbled over the relationship cliff, and he liked it. When had that happened? But if he told her what he felt, this soon, would it freak her out? Panic rose in his chest at the thought of her running away, scared that he’d gotten too intense, too fast. Yet the words welled up in his throat, unwilling to stay unspoken. His heart racing, he brushed his lips over her curled fingers and whispered, “I love you, Paige.”
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Snippet Saturday _ Men (and Kisses) Hotter Than Flame

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I’m not surprised by how smokin’ hot this set is nor am I surprised by how well written and awesome these short stories are, so have a fire extinguisher nearby as you read because these ladies aim to set your panties on fire!”

~ Slick, Guilty Pleasures 

Feeding the Flames
Copyright © 2014 Leah Braemel

“Wait a minute. Do you really think you can just show up and drop that type of bombshell and then walk away and leave me hanging? Not a chance, bud.” She tugged on his collar and stepped backward, leading him to the back of the diner. After pausing to flip off the remaining lights, she resumed their trek toward the rear exit. Well, she’d intended to. They’d made it as far as her office when Zac banded her wrists with one hand, dragged them above her head and pressed her against the wall with his body. With her trapped, he captured her mouth.

Even her most erotic fantasy hadn’t prepared her for his kiss.

Her eyes drifted closed so she could concentrate on the pure sensation. From the hardness of his chest pressing against her, holding her in place, and his breath on her skin, to the soft prickle of his stubble on her cheek. That he was showing a side of himself she’d never seen before was just as erotic. She’d seen him playful before, but there was an intensity to him, as if carefully stoked embers had ignited.

His long fingers slipped to the back of her neck. A quick tug and her apron sagged to her waist. Cool air from overhead brushed bare skin as he unbuttoned her shirt. The heat of his touch as he pushed the fabric aside caused her nipples to harden into tight buds.

Feeding the Flames is knock your bobby socks off sexy and worthy of a happy ending (and when you read it you’ll understand both those references)! ~ Slick Reads, Guilty Pleasure Reviews

He released his grip on her wrists and shoved her bra beneath her breasts, the fabric rasping over her sensitive nipples. She lost herself in how his eyes were now nearly black with desire.

His groan rumbled through her chest. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve wanted to see these?”

As long she’d wanted him to touch them? Why had she settled for Bill when she should have admitted to Zac she was attracted to him back in high school? All those wasted years.

Her knees trembled when he cupped her breasts, his long fingers toying with the hard buds. Between the kissing and his attention to her breasts, her body heated and softened.

Free of restraint, she brought her hands down, gave into the need to thread her fingers through the silky strands of his hair. It was just how she’d expected it to feel. And this wasn’t a fantasy, wasn’t a dream. She leaned in to resume the kiss, only to have him pull away.

“Behave.” Once again he banded her wrists with one hand and hauled them above her head.

The command in his tone had her immediately obeying. Strange, considering she usually balked whenever someone tried to take over. “But I want to touch you.”

“Kitten, you touch me right now and I’ll go off like a bottle rocket.”

Huh. Who knew she had such power over him?

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