#TeaserTuesday: Excerpt from Craving: Christmas

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#TeaserTuesday #99cents Read the rest of this story and many others in Craving: Christmas for only 99¢.

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Excerpt from “Crafting Christmas”

by Christine Hartmann

The temperature outside took her breath away. Her feet halted for a moment, as though shocked and unsure which way to turn. Then the world went black.

She fought against hands that pulled a hat over her head. “Hey…”

“Use these.” Familiar fingers wound a scarf around her neck and pulled it tight.

The tug threw her off balance. She tottered on unsteady heels.

Rayne caught her. His arms wrapped possessively around her. “You mean what you said? About how you’re done fantasizing?” His lips brushed the back of her neck. “I’ve been wanting you back so bad.”

His possessive touch sent a thrill down her spine. She spun in his arms, her expression eager and expectant. Then, without knowing how it happened, whether she raised her face to his or he pressed his to hers, their lips met. And her world transformed from cold to heat, as though a summer breeze eddied around them. She leaned into the steadying, warm, and grounding kiss.

“I need you, Rayne.” She mumbled endearments as Rayne nibbled her neck. The tension of his longing forced itself against her.

He lifted her from the ground, squeezing her body until she gasped. His mouth lifted at the corners. “Need you too. And know just how to warm you up.” He swung her toward the door.

But as her candy cane-thin heels hit the cold ground with the force of her weight, they snapped. Her legs careened sideways, slithering on the icy sidewalk like a dancing rag doll. She clung to him, laughing.

“Wanted you out of those anyway.” He half carried, half dragged her into the store.

In the dull light of the darkening winter afternoon, the string of multi-colored Christmas bulbs behind the counter glowed a festive welcome as Rayne deposited her on the counter. She wiggled her feet out of her shoes, watching them drop to the floor like broken Christmas tree ornaments. Her lips still tingled from the kiss. They wanted more. She reached for him. But he patted her on the thigh and avoided her grasp. Instead, he marched to the master switches and shut off all the lights, leaving the room lit by only the rapidly deepening dusk that filtered in from the street. Brooklyn watched misty figures slouch by the window. Only moments before, she had been one of them, cold, lonely, and directionless. Now a familiar warmth rose from her stomach and flowed with radiant coils through her limbs.

She jumped when Rayne encircled her from behind and spun her around like a top so her legs dangled into the prep area. He tugged her to him. With a grin, she shoved him away. “I thought customers weren’t allowed back here.” “New rules.” His hands skimmed her face as though reassuring themselves she was his.

She closed her eyes and sighed…

#TeaserTuesday: Excerpt from Craving: Secrets

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#TeaserTuesday #99cents Read the rest of this story and many others in Craving: Secrets for only 99¢.

Universal Buy Link: myBook.to/CravingSecrets

Excerpt from “Lies Between the Sheets” by Christine Hartmann

She opened the drawer, grabbed a caramel bar from among the gaudy options, bit, then felt rather than saw the person behind her. She knew the scent. An aroma that wasn’t store-bought but body-made—feral and irresistible. She swiveled slowly in her seat.

Hayden rubbed the front of his slim-fit shirt, like an iron gliding over cotton, steaming wrinkles from a hard, flat surface. His eyes, quick-moving and piercing, gazed down at her from beneath furrowed brows, as though he were pulling her into focus. From her seated position, face level with his belt, she fought against a draw that pulled her eyes toward an inspection of areas she knew she had no business looking at. She tossed the candy bar into the trash and rose abruptly, her chair banging into the divider between her cube and Tanice’s.

“I need help.” His hands rubbed his thighs and searched for a place to rest, sliding distractedly around his waist until finding a mooring in his back pockets. In a similar fashion, his eyes roamed her face, hair, and chest before springing, as though caught in a compromising situation, to her computer screen. “I know you’re really good with…figures.”

Her eyebrows shot up.

He rubbed his forehead. “I really like the way your…” He glanced from her diamond earrings to the monitor and back again.

The more delightfully flustered he became, the faster blood rushed through her system. She smiled but said nothing.

“Spreadsheets look.”

If her face hadn’t been beet red, and if she hadn’t been worried about the sweat stains rapidly forming in the armpits of her white blouse, she would’ve enjoyed the moment. Cool, collected, commanding Hayden struggling to form a coherent sentence. Part of the reason people in the office latched their expectations, fears, or fantasies onto him was that he seemed too perfect to touch. In Hayden, friendly and aloof were not opposites but complements, two sides of the same personality. But she confused him. It thrilled her.

“Want a candy bar?” Her fingers hooked the drawer handle.

“I’ve got this thing.” He looked around, as though suddenly lost. “I can show you if you come with me.” He turned and, without looking to see whether she was following him, marched toward the bank of elevators at the far end of the open space, suddenly transformed into a man who knew what he wanted and knew he could get it, striding along the floor with the confidence and nonchalance of a lion in the savanna, all lithe body, bushy mane, and swinging tail. She snatched a tissue from her desk to hide her grin and followed, keeping a few paces behind, her face turned to the white boards lining the wall. She perused the latest marketing figures while pretending to blow her nose, hoping it seemed natural to multitask.

The elevator doors slid open as she arrived. A cluster of coworkers edged themselves between her and Hayden. She was grateful for the distance and distraction. On successive floors, the others got off. After the sixteenth, she and Hayden stood in opposite corners, alone. Her gaze focused involuntarily on the security camera in the ceiling, wondering whether anyone was watching them. When she peeked at Hayden, she saw him staring at it, too. They traveled in silence to the roof, where he held the door open and ushered her out with a brush of his hand against her lower back that made her draw in her breath.

Outside, the damp, cold San Francisco wind made her blink. A gust whipped the forgotten tissue from her hand. They watched it flutter through the sky like a lost bird, wheeling over potted shrubbery and aluminum tables and chairs until it flew over the glass walls lining the edge of the roof and dove to the street. Hayden motioned with his chin at a bank of tall, sculpted boxwood rectangles that formed a corner. He sauntered toward it, a thin, straight compass needle drawn to north. Janessa linked her hands behind her back and followed in the slow, undulating motion of a runway model, placing one foot deliberately in front of the other in a straight line, as though she knew exactly what she was doing.

Five On Friday: Interview with Author Christine Hartmann

RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK, CRAVING- MAYHEMChristine Hartmann joins us today for a quick 5 question interview. You can check out one of her stories in Crave’s, Craving: Secrets (myBook.to/CravingSecrets) On sale for only .99 cents.

1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

When I was thinking about writing my first book and was terrified I could never finish such a long project, my husband told me, “You don’t write a book. You write a chapter.” He’d authored seven books at that point. He figured he knew what he was talking about. He did. You write a book one chapter at a time. It was a huge relief to me to think of it that way and a major reason why I was able to complete my first project.

2. What is one of your favorite characters and why?

I love all my characters, including the bad ones. I think my favorite is always my most recent main character, so in this case, Bree from Wild Card. She’s spunky and funny and very much like all the rest of us–a little unsure of herself, self-conscious about her plump figure, but willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. And when push comes to shove, she stands up for herself and those she loves. It was really fun writing her, because she grows a lot in the course of the story and finds inner strength through difficult situations. I love when people tell me they laughed out loud when reading the book and really identified with Bree as she was moving through her adventures.

3. What’s one of the craziest things that has happened to you?

In terms of writing, one of the most crazy things that ever happened to me was having my first book appear on the front page of The Daily Beast for a week. It was completely unexpected and only happened because an editor who heard about my book and wanted to profile it in her big-name magazine moved to The Daily Beast and took the idea with her. I couldn’t believe my story was in their Women in the World section. I had friends walking up to me pointing to their phones. It was crazy and embarrassing and wonderful, all at the same time. But it also taught me that publicity like that isn’t everything. Building your author platform, a solid base of readers who really like what you write, is actually much more important.

4. What is something you’re really good at that few people know about?

I have a 2nd degree black belt in judo. You wouldn’t know it to look at me. But I’ve lifted 200 pound men above my head and thrown them to the floor. I don’t practice it anymore, because I’m too scared of breaking things–i.e., my bones! But back when I was young and carefree and didn’t mind periodic trips to the hospital, I worked really hard at getting better. It was my favorite hobby for a long time.

5. How long does it take you to write a book?

I work full time and can only write on the weekends, so it takes me three to four months to get a book ready to send to the publisher. These days I dictate my books, which reduces the time a bit. The dictation software is good, but it’s not perfect, so it also results in some really strange mistakes that are difficult to catch. When you read a book, you actually read it to yourself out loud in your head, so it’s hard to notice wrong words and phrases that sound correct. There have been some funny ones. In the most recent book, Wild Card, for example, someone was supposed to “stalk” to the counter. But the dictation software wrote “He stuck to the counter.”

Learn more about Christine on her website: https://chartmannbooks.com/