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Cover Reveal and Chapter One of CHASING MOONLIGHT

Release Date: January 6th, 2017

Interracial Romance * Standalone * Historical * Full-length

❤ The Cover ❤

ravenstpierre_chasingmoonlight_450x675

❤ Blurb ❤

Jesse Peterson lives by the sweat of his brow and doesn’t hold back from defending his beliefs—even if that means getting dirty and breaking a few noses in the process. It goes without saying that his tendency to let his fists do the talking hasn’t come without a price. His family’s intolerance of his behavior, and his own distaste for the town’s corruption, have set him on a downward spiral from which he can’t seem to recover. With the growing sense of his personal convictions being too big for such a small town, he wonders if there’s still good reason to stay.

That question is answered the instant Quinn Dixon crosses his path.

As strong as she is beautiful, Quinn steals Jesse’s heart right away. But in Honeywell, Alabama, the horrors of Jim Crow are an everyday occurrence. Forced to settle for passing glances and secret rendezvous, neither has forgotten that these stolen moments could cost them everything.

Their freedom.

Their lives.

Once they’ve fallen, there’s simply no such thing as a life apart. Their love is forbidden, but is the truest either has ever found. For that, they’re willing to risk it all.

His conviction gives her hope. Her strength makes him believe. Their love defies reason.

*AUTHOR NOTE: “CHASING MOONLIGHT” is the third standalone novel within the “AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME” family saga. This is a full-length, interracial romance that takes you back to 1940s Alabama. Due to the nature of the story, as well as the era and locale in which it takes place, please be advised that this work of fiction contains sparse, racially-charged language and incidents some readers may be sensitive to. However, if heartfelt love stories with happy endings are what you crave, then this is the book for you!

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❤ Prologue ❤

Quinn Dixon

Towns like mine don’t breed trouble. Well, at least not the kind that couldn’t easily be swept under a rug or hidden behind a closed door. Folks here are too concerned with keeping up appearances and keeping down gossip. For that reason, they did their best not to step too far out of line, fearing that people might take notice. It suited them well enough to seem perfect, at least in their neighbors’ eyes, even if the good Lord knew better.

With little more scenery than the miles and miles of dusty road carving through the countryside, things around here seemed quiet. A little too quiet, Momma used to think. ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop’ was one of her favorite warnings for my sisters, my brother, and I. For this reason, she made sure to keep us busy either helping her inside or helping Daddy outside.

None of us ever hesitated to believe there was truth behind the words she spoke concerning our little sliver of Alabama known as Honeywell. If there was one thing Honeywell had a lot of, it was idle hands. From the greatest to the least, these people had skeletons in their closets… and their basements, and a few out back in their yards, too.

There was something else Momma used to say, something that stayed with me even now, years after she passed. She’d say that ‘what’s done in the dark will come to the light’.

Those words… they felt like being sentenced for committing a crime even when what you were hiding wasn’t criminal. That statement was carved into the far reaches of my mind because of a predicament I found myself in; one that started the summer of 1941.

According to Momma, my secret—albeit one worth whatever punishment might await me—would inevitably be brought to the light.

If she was right about this like she seemed to be about everything else… Lord, have mercy on my soul.

❤ Chapter One ❤

Honeywell, Alabama

June, 1941

Jesse

Kyle Bates stared from across the table; an unspoken dare in his eyes, a smug grin on his face. He waited, watching even the slightest of my movements, likely wondering if I’d leap on him or walk away.

The smell of stale cigarettes and cheap liquor hung heavy in the air of the windowless building, no doubt clinging to my hair and clothes, too, now that I’d been here for the better part of an hour. My fingertips pressed into my palms when I balled them into fists beneath the table.

“What you gonna do? Hit me?” he taunted with a smirk, turning around to make sure his goons were all in place. “Know what I think, fellas? I think Jesse here’s been whoopin’ on these little boys around town and they got him thinkin’ he can throw down with a real man. That’s what I think.”

Laughter filled the air and I didn’t say one word. Instead of getting caught up in the pissing match Kyle was trying to drag me into, I took note of my surroundings. One of his buddies had a knife tucked in his boot strap. Another was stretching his neck in preparation for whatever was about to go down, and the third signaled someone near the exit to close the door. I assumed that was to make sure I didn’t try to run.

Something I’d never done a day in my life.

That look on Kyle’s face was familiar. I’d seen it before. It was the look of doubt. Other guys often had the same expression when testing me, trying to see what I was made of. Despite my reputation around here, most seemed to think being the mayor’s grandson had softened me, made me a pushover. However, not a single one who took me on walked away without their minds being changed.

As I saw it, there was only one way out of this. Blame it on my ego, call it pride or whatever else you might think of, but walking away from Kyle wasn’t an option anymore. Not after he’d talked so much trash.

All sound left the room in a vacuum. No one moved. No one breathed. The rush of anticipation nearly had me hysterical.

Hell, yeah… I lived for this.

Kyle’s gaze went to the left, following the half-full beer mug I shoved off the edge of the table. I counted on him being just simpleminded enough to fall for that. With him distracted for that fraction of a second as the glass shattered, I overturned the table into his lap, sending the deck of cards fluttering down onto the floor around him.

His goons came at me fast, but a blow to one’s gut slowed him down. The other yelled out as I took him by the back of his head and introduced his face to a barstool. Out cold, his body slumped to the floor in a heap. Everyone else, even the last of Kyle’s backup, moved out of the way, realizing this fight was mine and Kyle’s alone.

Normally, I preferred to have my brother, Eddie, or my buddies, Thomas and Henry, around when fights broke out, but life had a way of being unpredictable. If I’d known Kyle had plans to cheat me out of a pocketful of money at the poker table, I wouldn’t have come alone. Now, I’d have to wing it.

Kyle finally leapt to his feet, fists in the air to block his face. He danced around a bit, but I stood firm, waiting for him to take a swing. A low grunt moved up his throat when he went for my face and missed. The motion made him stagger a bit. When he fell forward, my elbow came down hard into the center of his back and he hit the floor with a thud. It’d been so easy to take him down I was almost disappointed.

I could’ve ended it there, but where would the fun be in that?

A mixture of fear and shock filled his expression when I helped him up off the floor. As soon as he was steady on his feet, my knuckles met his nose and blood sprayed from it like a fountain. He stumbled back, reeling from the blow, but I gave him a break, letting him get his bearings. Fists in the air again, he squared up to defend himself.

I’d been fighting all my life, literally and figuratively, to prove that being Mayor Bartell’s grandson hadn’t made me less of a man. In fact, all the adversity had probably made me a bit harder than I needed to be. But the way I saw it, I’d make the men of this town believers one at a time if necessary. I figured they’d eventually stop trying me like this.

…but I secretly hoped they wouldn’t.

Kyle fell against my shoulder when I sank a fist into his gut. An ugly groan puffed from his mouth as all the air left his lungs. I stepped aside and let his body fall to the floor. He lay there, moaning and mumbling idle threats while I patted him down for the cash he’d cheated me out of. I shoved the bills in the pockets of my jeans and stood upright, staring down on him, listening as he continued to talk trash while he bled on the floor.

I eyed his friends, flashing the two who were conscious a smile as I straightened my shirt.

“Thanks for the game, fellas. It’s been my pleasure.” Grabbing my hat from the floor, I dusted it off before placing it back on my head, giving the men a nod. “Until next time.”

I’d just turned when a response came from the crowd. “On the contrary, Mr. Peterson. There won’t be a next time.”

Hell… I knew that voice. Knew it well, actually.

The hollow steps of Sheriff Daley’s boots came my way as the crowd parted. As the last of them stepped aside, Daley stared me down. After shaking his head in disappointment, he looked down at Kyle lying on the floor.

“Is this going to be an every weekend event for you, Jesse?” he asked, sounding even more frustrated with me than last time, which I didn’t think was possible.

I chuckled a bit, which I soon realized was a bad idea, and straightened my face again.

“Outside. Now,” he demanded.

Every eye in the building was on me as I exited and made my way down the dusty steps out front.

“When are you gonna learn—”

“Sheriff, this wasn’t my fault,” I reasoned. “Kyle had it coming to him. Used to be a time that cheating a man out his money was punishable by death. As I see it, a little whoopin’ was getting off easy.” I smiled again; couldn’t help it.

Sheriff Daley wasn’t amused. “Turn around,” he said, straight-faced as a set of cuffs dangled from his fingers. The last few times we’d done this, he didn’t bother with them, but I figured this was to teach me a lesson. He knew I wasn’t dangerous, not really. Hell, we were practically family after all the years he’d served under my grandfather.

“Is that really necessary?” I protested.

His answer was nothing more than a blank stare, so I turned and put my hands behind my back. I had to listen to him lecture me the entire ride to the police station, knowing I’d only get more of the same from my grandfather when he got word of what happened.

“Get comfortable; you’re spending the night this time.”

I wasn’t sure I heard him right. “Come again?”

He escorted me through the front door, bypassing Officer Jennings’ desk, which meant there wouldn’t be any paperwork, no record of this, but still.

“Don’t you think you’re being a bit unreasonable?” I countered. “Kyle is—”

“Kyle is probably still trying to find all his teeth on the floor back there,” Daley interjected.

A laugh almost slipped. “I didn’t even hit him in the mouth,” I rebutted, as if that was going to change anything.

First removing the cuffs, Sheriff Daley unlocked one of three empty holding cells for me. When I didn’t go willingly, he shoved me a bit.

“Sleep it off, and if you’re not too much trouble, I might let you go home in the morning,” were his parting words.

He rejoined Jennings in the front of the building and I stood there, resting my forehead against the cool bars. How was it that Kyle was the cheat, and yet, I was the one spending a night in jail?

“Fighting again?” Jennings asked, his voice echoing down the hallow hallway I’d just walked. I couldn’t see them, but could hear pretty clearly.

Sheriff Daley sighed. “What else? Boy can’t seem to get out of trouble without using his fists.”

That was a line I’d heard before, from my grandfather.

“You gonna call the mayor?” Jennings added.

There was a long pause. “S’pose I’m gonna have to, but I don’t know what good it’ll do. Don’t think anyone can talk sense into that boy.”

I wasn’t bothered by hearing them discuss me. I was used to it. People had their opinions, but I didn’t pay them much mind.

Daley took another deep breath and I settled on the thin mattress. “Seems like the whole town’s going insane today.”

“Got that right,” Jennings added. “First the incident in town, then Reverend Haywoods’ wife coming in here with her skirt in a bunch over nothing, now this.”

Jennings chuckled a bit. “That woman’s even got my old lady beat. Makes sense the reverend’s so religious; must take the grace of God to put up with her.”

The two shared a laugh and I settled in, listening to their conversation, my only source of entertainment for the night.

“What was she squawking about this time?” Daley asked.

A chair creaked and I assumed one of the two officers was making himself more comfortable. “Who knows? I was half-listening, to be honest with you. Something about a little colored boy ‘looking suspicious’ outside the market.”

“Did you check into it?”

“Uh huh,” Jennings replied. “Wasn’t nothin’ to it. I told the kid to run on home and he did what he was told.”

The conversation went quiet for a second and I pictured Daphne Haywood, reverend Haywood’s wife, barging into the station like the officers described. If I had to guess, she laid the dramatics on pretty heavy as usual.

“Sounds like you let him off too easy. He was probably casing the joint,” Daley stated, immediately jumping to conclusions. “If you ask me, letting them get away with that kind of behavior is a mistake. Makes ‘em uppity and nothing good’ll come of it. If I had been here when she stopped in, I would’ve gone down there to teach that boy a lesson myself.”

Jennings chuckled and I rolled my eyes at the sound of it. “Well, maybe next time we’ll both get lucky and you’ll be around if the Reverend’s wife stops in again.” He made a shuddering sound at the mention of another visit from the woman.

They moved on to talk of sports and the latest updates on the war. I stared at the ceiling from my cot, waiting for morning. At some point that lumpy, musty mattress put me to sleep and I was awakened by the gruff sound of my grandfather’s voice.

“Get the hell up, boy!”

I sat up with a start, squinting at the light filtering in from outside my cell. My eyes focused and settled on the scowl set on Grandfather’s face beneath his white beard.

“If you weren’t my kin, I’d take you round back and put this cane to your head.” As soon as the sentence concluded, he lifted said cane into the air for added effect.

Slowly, I stood from the cot, feeling the soreness in my neck and back right away. I took steps toward the bars just as Daley approached with his keys to unlock the cell. I stepped out and Grandfather had me by the collar the next second, toting me alongside him. As soon as we were outside, he snatched his hat from his head and slammed it down into the dirt as he began to pace.

I stood there and watched, waiting for the inevitable.

“What in tarnation goes on inside that head of yours? There couldn’t possibly be a brain in there, ‘cause if there was, I wouldn’t be gettin’ calls at the crack of dawn to drag your sorry rear-end out of jail!” he yelled.

I folded my arms over my chest and rested against the hood of his car, just listening.

“This might not mean anything to you, Jesse Ray Peterson, but I’m a hardworking man.”

I knew he was really pissed when he used my full name.

“It takes a lot of effort to gain and keep the respect of the town’s people,” he went on. “And every time you decide to go out and act like the hooligan you are, it means I have to work that much harder to prove to folks ‘round here that I’m capable of doing my job! Do you have any idea how much trouble you cause? Or do you not care?” he spat.

My hand went to the back of my neck and I rubbed it, trying to keep calm. He was mad, yes, but so was I. Far too often, he seemed to forget that I was a grown-damn-man myself and he’d talk down to me like some kid. His only concern was always for himself and how other folks saw him. It never came down to us being family, but I’d come to expect that.

“No disrespect, Grandpa, but… I never asked you to come to my rescue—not today, not ever. Now, if you were really all that concerned with ‘your town’,” I said snidely, “…then maybe you should go round up that no-good cheat, Kyle Bates, and throw him in a cell.”

His face turned red as a beet, standing out even more against his pristine, white suit and dress shirt. He never liked being talked back to, meaning he and I had quite a rocky relationship because I’d never been one to keep my mouth shut.

Not for him.

Not for anybody.

Just when he was getting ready to respond, a car pulled into the lot, the sound of tires on gravel causing his expression to straighten. I knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t argue in front of anyone. It’d sully his image.

“Get in the car,” he said through gritted teeth.

I pushed off the hood of his car. “Don’t need a ride.”

Without looking back, I walked in the direction of the store. Eddie and I had plans to make a drop of fresh eggs first thing this morning, so I knew he’d be here. I might be waiting an hour, but that was a better option than sitting in the car and being forced to listen to my grandfather’s rant all the way to my house.

From the sidewalk where I sat, I watched the old man pull off twice as fast as he should’ve been driving. I’d gotten under his skin like always. It burned him up that I was so much like my dad. He never liked him either, never thought he was good enough for my mother; his only daughter.

The sun was already high in the sky, beating down on top of my head while I sat there waiting, watching down the road for the faded red truck my brother would be driving. There was no telling how long he’d be. Cicadas buzzed high in the trees that’d been carved away for our small stretch of specialty shops and the diner. I looked left when the faint sound of a metal bell chimed over the door of the tailor’s shop. Mr. O’Malley tipped his hat my way and then went on to his car. I stared at the building he’d just come out of, or rather at the sign mounted in the window: ‘Whites Only’.

I looked away, choosing to stare down the road again instead. The familiar rumble of our truck could be heard long before it was seen. I was on my feet in an instant, brushing the dirt from my jeans at the realization that my ride was almost here.

Eddie was shocked to see me when he pulled up. He turned off the engine and stepped out, coming toward me.

“Rough night I heard,” he said with a bit of a grin.

I ran a hand through my hair. “Yeah… you could say that.”

It didn’t surprise me that he already knew what’d gone on. If word hadn’t come down from my grandfather, someone who’d been there last night must’ve been running their mouth.

I caught the door when Eddie opened it and followed him inside when he went to talk to the store owner, Mr. Jessup. I waited off to the side while they did their business. With a blood stain on my shoulder and still reeking of booze, I figured that’d be best. When Eddie was done, he brought the crate inside and then we were headed back home.

There was a lot on my mind, so I didn’t do much talking. He noticed and started asking questions.

“From the looks of things, I take it you won.” He chuckled.

“I guess if you consider spending a night in jail winning, then yeah,” I replied. “I guess I did.”

Eddie glanced over at me and then looked back at the road. “Grandpa come down hard on you?”

I exhaled sharply. “The usual,” was all I said.

I’d been getting into trouble since I could walk, according to my mother, so my grandfather and I had this routine down to a science. At this point, I was kinda numb to it all.

I rested my forehead against the window and stared out of it while my brother drove. I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Honeywell. I loved the town itself, but could’ve done without most of the people. Kyle’s cheating ways and my grandfather’s self-centeredness were a small sample of what this place had to offer, but the two represented the population with surprising accuracy. It was enough to push thoughts into my head that I don’t have often.

It was enough to make me wonder what is it, exactly, that holds me here.

 ❤ Chapter Two ❤

Chapter Two

Quinn

Cooking, mopping floors, washing clothes, and mending dresses made for a mundane routine. By the time the sun rose, my shadow had already darkened the Haywood’s doorstep. My feet were still tired from the previous day’s work, but I was here, ready to serve the Reverend, his wife, and their two daughters, Macy and Lydia, all the same.

My bike was barely stable against the wood siding of the porch when Miss Daphne flung the front door wide open and started in on me.

“Well, good morning, young lady. Look alive! No one wants to watch you mope while breakfast is being served.” Miss Daphne’s soft, wispy voice gave the illusion of being in the presence of a gentle, kindhearted, southern belle. However, only Momma and I knew that to be a lie. There was nothing gentle and kindhearted about this woman and now I knew that firsthand.

All the years my mother had worked doing this very same job for the Haywoods, I found that my complaints about the Reverend and his family only mirrored hers. They were an insufferable bunch—spoiled and ungrateful. However, letting them know what I thought of them wouldn’t exactly make my job here any easier. So, with that, I secured a loose bobby-pin in the side of my bun and did what momma had done all those years… smiled big and reminded myself not to speak unless spoken to.

“The Reverend would like eggs and toast this morning with a side of bacon. He’ll take his breakfast in his study because he’s working on a sermon for Sunday,” Miss Daphne rattled off. “So make sure to keep quiet while getting your chores done, you hear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh! And only two sugar cubes in his coffee this time. I’m not sure how you could’ve forgotten that, knowing us as long as you have,” she continued to ramble. “But the Reverend says you must’ve added a third yesterday and that simply won’t do, Quinn darling. He’s very particular about how he takes his coffee.”

Glancing back over her shoulder as we walked the narrow corridor to the kitchen, Miss Daphne cast a smile my way. I managed to return it, but was still pondering her false accusation; the one about me adding an extra cube of sugar to her husband’s coffee. However, defending myself would’ve been a waste of breath.

Just smile and keep that mouth of yours shut, Quinn Dixon. The sound of my mother’s voice filled my thoughts and I gritted my teeth together.

“Will you and the girls be eating anything, Miss Daphne?” I asked, swallowing my pride.

She smoothed her hands down her white apron, one she wore despite the fact that any work to be done around her home would be done by my hands.

“Yes, but I’m not in the mood for eggs.” She thought for a moment and then her eyes lit up. “Why don’t you whip us up a batch of those blueberry muffins you make?”

Whip up… she said that as if no real effort went into preparing special order meals for her and her family.

Another smile. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll get right on that.”

I kept my eyes trained on the yellow flowers that dotted the white linoleum covering the kitchen floor, wanting to keep my conversation with the lady of the house as short as possible. However, just as I thought I might get away, my name was called.

“Quinn?”

I blew out a breath before turning with a smile on my face. “Ma’am?”

Low-heeled shoes clicked and clacked against the floor when Miss Daphne closed the small distance between us. Her perfect, blonde curls bobbed gently on her shoulders when she did. There was a coldness that existed behind her gaze whenever we made eye contact, so it didn’t surprise me to see it there now.

“When you finish up in the kitchen, be a dear and press Macy’s yellow dress, would you? You know the one I mean—buttons down the front? Has that cute, little flower embroidered near the shoulder?” A smile spread across her face, parting her pale lips. “She’s got special plans this evening and I want to make sure she looks her best. You don’t mind doing that for me, do you, honey?”

I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or insulted that she always worded these special requests as if I had a choice.

“No, ma’am. Of course not. I’ll do that as soon as breakfast is on the table.”

She looked me over with the slightest hint of distaste behind the gaze, assessing my uniform to make sure nothing was out of place, I guessed—opaque stockings, knee-length, gray dress starched, white apron tied around my waist. Realizing that nothing concerning my attire was out of place, her eyes found mine again.

“And one more thing; I know you like to get home before dark, but… tonight’s real special for Macy,” she reiterated. “You do such lovely things with her hair; I was hoping you could stay a little later and make sure she looks her best?”

Words didn’t come immediately, mostly because I was taken aback by the fact that me riding home in the dark, alone on my bicycle, was of no concern to Miss Daphne as long as her little princess’s hair and dress were perfect.

“N-no, ma’am. That won’t be any trouble,” I stuttered, realizing I’d taken too long to answer.

Her head cocked to the side. “Now that’s what I like to hear. Macy will be real happy when I tell her you’re staying to help her get ready. She’s got a date tonight with Edward and Hazel Peterson’s boy? Jesse?”

When I didn’t answer, Miss Daphne giggled. “Quinn… for Pete’s sake, he’s Mayor Bartell’s grandson!”

Bartell was, of course, a name I was familiar with, but I hadn’t bothered to learn the names of our mayor’s extended family. I nodded once and smiled, being as polite as I could while secretly wishing she’d just leave me to my work.

“Well, at any rate, he’s escorting her out on the town this evening and she’s just tickled pink about it.”

My cheeks hurt form all these pretend smiles.

“But I’m boring you and holding you up from feeding that husband of mine, and we both know how cranky he can get when he’s kept waiting too long.”

With that, Miss Daphne turned to head toward the steps. My eyes were set on the spot where she stood long after she’d gone, wondering how my mother had done this day in and day out since as far back as I could remember. I’d only been here for a little over a year myself, but at twenty-one years old, I imagined I still had many more with the Haywoods ahead of me.

When Momma passed, the Reverend and Miss Daphne insisted that I come work for them just like my mother had. With no other job prospects in the foreseeable future, I accepted the offer. There was, of course, the money I brought in the few nights a week I served at Dixon’s—the barrelhouse my sisters, my brother, and I ran on our family’s property—but that was hardly enough. The wages the Haywoods offered were decent and I already knew this house like the back of my hand, so it only made sense.

Their oldest daughter, Macy, and I were practically the same age, give or take a couple years. We’d somewhat grown up together, although our distinct differences were never far out of sight. Miss Daphne made sure that line was never blurred, made sure I never forgot my place even as a child. To her, and to Macy, I was nothing more than the daughter of ‘the help’.

Two slices of bread popped up from the toaster, lightly browned just like the Reverend liked it. I spread a pallet of butter on each before reaching for the jam. Strawberry—one I made and jarred myself about a month ago. It was his favorite and I hated that I even knew that, hated that I had this family’s likes and dislikes memorized. It was one thing to do for folks out of love, but another to do for them out of obligation. The deep-seated resentment growing in my belly seemed to spread with each passing day.

With a heavy sigh, I dropped not three, but two lumps of sugar into Reverend Haywood’s coffee and situated the tray against my hip so I wouldn’t have trouble opening the door to the study. I knocked first and then waited for his reply.

“Come in,” he answered, and I took another breath before entering. “You’re timing is impeccable. I was just growing impatient smelling your cooking and not having a plate in front of me.” He smiled, but I was fresh out of false niceties and the day had just begun.

Without a word, I hastily made my way back toward the door. If asked why I was rushing off, I could blame it on Miss Daphne requesting that I be mindful not to disturb him. However, I knew there were other reasons I wanted out of this man’s study as quickly as possible.

“You didn’t even give me a chance to thank you,” Reverend Haywood crooned, unfolding his napkin to find the fork there. “Everything looks delicious,” he went on, eyeing his plate as I stood on the opposite side of his desk with my hands clasped before me.

“Thank you,” was all I said in return, waiting to be dismissed.

Reverend Haywood added a dash of pepper to his eggs like always, and then placed the crystal shaker back down on his tray.

Why does he still have me standing here? I had muffins to check on, a pot of tea on the stove, and…

“Your hair looks lovely,” he said, cutting into my thoughts as he bit off the end of a bacon strip. His eyes dragged over me from head to toe, finally coming back to my hair pulled away from my face into a bun.

“Thank you,” I repeated dryly, fidgeting a bit.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear it loose,” he added casually, tasting his eggs now.

I did my best not to check over my shoulder for Miss Daphne, but I knew she’d be down at any moment to make sure I was keeping busy.

“Do you wear it like that at home? Loose, I mean?” the Reverend added.

Why is he asking me all these questions?

“Uh… sometimes, Sir. All depends.”

He nodded and bit a slice of his toast, moaning with delight when the jam finally reached his taste buds. A look of sheer pleasure filled his expression. “This is exquisite. I’m positive it’s your best batch thus far.” He chewed and continued to enjoy his food. “I’d ask you your secret, but I’m sure you’d never tell me,” he added with a laugh.

The sound of floorboards creaking from above made us both aware of someone making their way toward the stairs. Reverend Haywood’s eyes fell on me after leaving the place on the ceiling where either his wife or one of his daughters had just crossed on the second floor. A smile was set on his lips, one that conveyed much more than the usual pleasantries, one that made me want to hurry out of the confines of the office I’d already spent far too much time in. He seemed to sense my uneasiness, but continued to hold my gaze.

“I’m taking up too much of your time,” he commented, perhaps suddenly becoming aware of something I’d realized long before. “Don’t let me keep you from your chores.”

I nodded once and immediately turned to leave without a word, feeling his eyes on me as I walked away with hasty steps. I’d barely made it back to the kitchen when Macy stepped in from the corridor, rubbing her fists against her eyes as she yawned. A mess of blonde hair, the same shade as her mother’s, flew in every direction; a sure sign that she just climbed out of bed before making her way downstairs.

“Something smells delicious,” she sighed, bending to peek through the small window on the oven door. I grabbed a teacup down from the cupboard just in time to see the dissatisfied look on Macy’s face.

“Muffins again?” she frowned. “Ugh… didn’t we just have those on Monday?”

Quinn… quiet.

“Yes, but your mother asked me to make them again,” I replied.

Macy shuffled away from the oven and plopped down in a chair at the kitchen table, apparently overcoming the need to complain about the breakfast menu. From the corner of my eye I watched her pick at the ends of her hair aimlessly while she thought.

“Did Mother mention that I need my yellow dress ironed?” she blurted when the question entered her mind.

I nodded and bobbed a teabag in the steaming-hot water. “Yes, ma’am, she did.”

“Good, ‘cause everything has to be perfect for tonight. Everything.”

I stared out the kitchen window at the empty clothesline as the first light of morning cast the yard in a pale, orange glow. “I understand.”

“I was thinking you could do my hair like you did it for the spring festival, you know? Nice, but not too over-the-top?”

I walked the ceramic cup over to her and placed a spoon down beside it. “I can do that.”

My answer seemed to satisfy Macy and she paused just long enough to sip her tea. “Mother told you I had plans, but did she tell you with whom?” Her face lit up again.

“She did. Mayor Bartell’s grandson, I believe. His name escapes me at the moment, though.”

The size of Macy’s smile doubled, letting me know she didn’t mind refreshing my memory. “Jesse Peterson. And yes, his mother is Mayor Bartell’s daughter. His daddy owns the big farm just south of the bridge.”

I didn’t respond because I wasn’t sure what farm she was speaking of.

“Oh, come on, Quinn. You don’t live under a rock. You must’ve seen it. You pass it on your way here every day. And you’re always on that god-awful bike, going slow as molasses in January, so it’s not like you could miss it.”

She took my silence as confirmation that I still couldn’t picture it. She waved a hand dismissively in my direction. “Well, anyway, he’s taking me to that dance at McKinley’s in town.”

I couldn’t have cared less what her plans were with this man, but I listened all the same. Didn’t have much choice.

“His mother had him bring by a few items to my mother the other night and, apparently, he was ‘smitten by me’. Mother’s words, not mine,” Macy added, unable to contain her smile. “She ran into Hazel, that’s Jesse’s mother, and they set the whole thing up.” Macy beamed from across the table as she rattled off the details. “What if we really hit it off, Quinn? What if he’s the one?”

Sweet Lord, please shut this girl up.

We weren’t friends, never had been, which meant she was only bragging, not bouncing her thoughts off me. With any luck, she and this Jesse would fall in love and get married so I’d have one less person to straighten up after.

Fingers crossed…

“Macy Jean Haywood,” Miss Daphne called loudly, breaking her own rule of not disturbing her husband while he prepared his sermon. “What on earth did you do with your white high-heels, child? I can’t find them anywhere!” There was a pause before she added. “Am I the only one who cares how you look when that boy shows up tonight?”

Macy rolled her eyes as I set the pan of muffins on the stovetop to cool. “They’re at the back of the closet, Mother,” she yelled back, rising from her seat to aid in the search. “I swear this woman aims to drive me insane, yelling like that this early in the morning. It’s no wonder Daddy’s hiding out in his study.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when Macy walked away. There was no time to sit here and listen to her pine over this Jesse Peterson, or whoever he was, all day. There was plenty of work to be done around here.

*****

To find out what happens when Quinn and Jesse meet, make sure I have you on my email list before the rest of chapter two and chapter three are released next Friday (Dec. 16th)

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to grab a copy of CHASING MOONLIGHT when it releases January 6th. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

OVERDOSE is LIVE!

Grab your copy of my latest release, “OVERDOSE: A British Bad Boy Romance” while it’s available for only 99 pennies!! One-Click it today!!!

❤ Blurb ❤

**Special Notice: This romance is of the darker variety, contains adult themes, and sexually explicit content. The hero is flawed and dirty. Consider yourself warned**

Insomniac. Narcissist. Sex addict.

…the only description sex therapist, Vanessa Ferris, was given of her newest patient, a fellow psychologist, Dr. Zander Hale.

From the moment he entered her office, she knew he’d be trouble—possibly the good kind. What she wasn’t prepared for was how he’d blindside her; how he would challenge everything she thought she knew about her profession, about herself.

There are certain lines a doctor is warned never to cross with their patients, but she didn’t listen.

Now, they’re both addicted.

One hit was all it took.

***AUTHOR NOTE: “OVERDOSE” is a full-length standalone, bursting at the seams with sexual heat, thanks to one smoking hot bad-boy and his feisty, no nonsense therapist. Expect a dark tale of erotic romance with no cliffhanger. This story is not for the faint of heart and is definitely intended for readers 18 and older.
(130,000+ words)
***TRIGGER WARNING: Be advised, this book contains a brief, nondescript reference to sexual abuse and other violent acts that some readers may find offensive.

❤ The Official Trailer ❤

poster

“OVERDOSE” Cover and Trailer Reveal

OVERDOSE: A British Bad Boy Romance

Release Date: October 9th, 2016

**Special Notice: This romance is of the darker variety, contains adult themes and sexually explicit content. The hero is flawed and dirty. Consider yourself warned**
Insomniac.
Narcissist.
Sex addict.
…the only description sex therapist, Vanessa Ferris, was given of her newest patient, a fellow psychologist, Dr. Zander Hale.
From the moment he entered her office, she knew he’d be trouble—possibly the good kind. What she wasn’t prepared for was how he’d blindside her; how he would challenge everything she thought she knew about her profession, about herself.
There are certain lines a doctor is warned never to cross with their patients, but she didn’t listen.
Now, they’re both addicted.
One hit was all it took.
***AUTHOR NOTE: “OVERDOSE” is a full-length standalone, bursting at the seams with sexual heat, thanks to one smoking hot, bad-boy and his feisty, no nonsense therapist. Expect a dark tale of erotic romance with no cliffhanger. This story is not for the faint of heart and is definitely intended for readers 18 and older.
(130,000+ words)
***TRIGGER WARNING: Please be advised, this book contains a brief, nondescript reference to sexual abuse and other violent acts that some readers may find offensive.
The Cover
(Designed by Raven St. Pierre)
COVER REVEAL VERSION_OVERDOSE
The Trailer
To receive an exclusive sneak-peek of the first two to three chapters of OVERDOSE when they’re shared next month, and to be notified when it releases with a limited time, early launch discount, click here to be added to my email list 🙂
About the Author:

A native of the Midwest, Raven has been writing for most of her life. Dreams of becoming a full-time writer seemed afar off, but she’s ecstatic to say that dream has been realized. In addition to growing her list of completed works, she also does some writing/publishing/marketing consulting on the side. With several novels already published, she looks forward to adding many more in the years to come. If you enjoy stories told from the heart with beautifully flawed characters, then she definitely has something just for you.

Where to find her:

Cover Reveal_”Brody” by Victoria H. Smith

Guess what! Fans of Victoria H. Smith’s “Found by You” series are in for a treat this fall. Yep! This October another Chandler man is having his story told and you’re not going to want to miss it! Check out the blurb and awesome cover below! Be on the lookout for this one this coming fall 😀

❤ Blurb ❤

He saved me…

Brody Chandler.

At a time when I was at my lowest, and cared far less about myself than anyone else possibly could.

But I can’t tell him everything and I have a feeling he’s doing the same behind that semi-truck’s wheel.

Who is this big, strong guy taking me away, and could I ever fathom a world in which he’s with me?

VHS-BRODY-3

New Release, “Matt & Brooklyn”, Now Available!

Whew! It feels like this has been a long time coming, but I’m so glad today is finally here! Release day was technically supposed to be Thursday, August 6th, but I couldn’t wait that long LOL. Anyway, I hope you grab a copy of this contemporary, summer romance and enjoy! When you finish, reviews are always appreciated ❤

M&B Amazon

A Behind the Scenes Look at “Matt & Brooklyn”

Hey, everyone! I did a “Behind the Scenes” post when I released “Again for the First Time” in January, so I thought it would be fitting to do that for this story as well. I sometimes get questions from readers about my characters and my stories in general, so I thought I’d just share a few things with you all right out the gate 😀

First, a couple reminders:

  • Matt & Brooklyn” will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and in paperback formats by August 6th, 2015. To receive a notification when the book goes live on Amazon, follow me 😀
  • Also, for my Facebook friends who signed up for an ARC (Advanced Review/Reader copy), the book will be in your email inboxes on Thursday, July 23rd. TWO DAYS! That came really fast and I’m so excited!

❤ Now, on to the actual post. As always, feel free to comment below and I’ll be happy to answer any questions ❤

  1. Their story takes place 2 to 2 ½ years after “Again for the First Time”, so Matt is now 26 and Brook is 24.
  2. Yes, Matt has quite a bit of money since his career has taken off, but you may not even notice it throughout the story. There are a few indicators, but I purposely don’t harp on what’s going on with his bank account because it isn’t about that. Neither he nor Brook are focused on that. Money isn’t what drives him to do what he does; it’s passion.
  3. Brook HAS NOT CHANGED lol. So the same career-focused, smart-mouthed, stubborn person she was in the previous story, expect that same woman to be within the pages of this book. That was intentional. I did my best to make these characters stay in their true form because those were the same characters readers seemed interested in exploring further. So is she cold sometimes? Yeah. Callous even? Possibly, but I promise she’s the same person you read previously. However, she has grown up and this story is very much about her emotional journey and learning to be open.
  4. “Matt is not Luke 2.0” one of my betas said… and I loved that. I was concerned readers would expect Luke all over again and that was her response. Matt is not Luke. No more than Brook is Lissy. While, yes, my previous and current heroes are siblings, they are two completely different people. Matt is the laidback, fun-loving one, but he’s also grown up. Since the last book ended he’s aged two years AND now works in his profession, so that would mature anyone to a certain degree. Matt is also a straight-forward, doesn’t hold ‘em up kinda guy. He says what he means and means what he says (which I LOVE about him). There are no pretenses about him and he never deviates from who he is. No lies. No secrets. No drama. I must say, he was refreshing to write!
  5. You will get updates on past characters in this story (All the crazy James sisters will be there) and you’ll also get a glimpse into two other avenues I plan to explore within the family saga—one that’s very obvious and one you’ll have to read between the lines in order to see that something’s brewing 🙂 The reason this series has zero cliffhangers is because it wasn’t intended to be a series. I ended up falling in love with Matt as I wrote him as a supporting character in the last book and, likewise, I saw potential for other characters to have their stories told while crafting “Matt & Brooklyn”. Both have already been started and I plan to release one of the two later this year. It all depends, though, because I have several other projects in my queue waiting to be finished lol. Updates coming soon!

❤ That’s it for now. I’ll let you all explore the rest when you read ❤

XOXO

Raven

A Snippet from “Matt & Brooklyn”

Hey! So, I already shared the first two chapters of “Matt & Brooklyn” with my newsletter subscribers, but I wanted to share a sneak peek here as well; something different. Just a reminder: “Matt & Brooklyn” will be released August 6th! Follow me on Amazon to be notified via email when it goes live!

❤ This one’s from Matt’s point of view. Enjoy ❤

*****

“Brook… what the hell are you so afraid of? It’s always some crap about messing up our friendship, but there’s more to it than that,” I accused, daring her to be straight with me for once.

My question shocked her into silence and I took advantage of those precious seconds before she spoke again.

“Listen to what you’re saying! We’re not children! God forbid that we, two adults who’ve known each other for two—almost three—years, realize that they want more than—”

“Speak for yourself,” she cut in hastily. “I don’t want more. I don’t want anything other than what we have now,” she lied. Even if she couldn’t say it, I saw it all over her—when I showed up at her graduation ceremony, when she first arrived here, when she almost kissed me last night, even now. No matter what she said, she wanted me, wanted us, just as badly as I did.

The power this woman had to infuriate me was unreal. I stared at her as she basically scowled at me. She rested her hands on her hips to drive home the fact that she’d already made this decision… for the both of us. However, unlike usual, I wasn’t in the mood to let her call the shots, which I typically allowed so she didn’t have to venture outside of her comfort zone. I tiptoed around her feelings and demands long enough, though.

“Why can’t you just accept th—”

I don’t know what happened… honest to God I don’t.

One minute I was standing there, listening to Brook getting ready to make yet another declaration and then the next, I had the taste of her lip gloss on my tongue. I breathed her in deep, hearing the air rush into my lungs as one hand gripped the back of her hair. The other clutched her waist. I couldn’t pinpoint the moment I leaned in and chose to own her, but I had. I pulled her body closer to mine until the deep intakes of breath she inhaled made her breasts press into my chest.

She parted her lips and surrendered to me more willingly than I ever imagined she was capable of. A woman like her didn’t give in to anything or anyone easily, yet her body seemed to be following my lead. With every tug I gave, she let me bring her closer, and with one wordless commanded I now had possession of her tongue. I’d never seen her like this—defenseless. She had to know she could trust me, though; had to know I wouldn’t make her regret admitting what she felt. I’d spent our entire friendship proving that.

A soft moan filled her throat, vibrating through her chest and mine. She tasted so good, so sweet. The feel of her full lips against mine, between mine, against my tongue, had me gripping her tighter. When her hands came to rest at either side of my face, the kiss slowed and deepened. Her touch was restrained at first, but then her fingertips wandered toward my hairline, and eventually, she got up the nerve to fill her hands with it, my hair, pulling just a little.

The tension that’d been pinned up inside her, the anger, the frustration, seemed to melt away. She relaxed against me and in that moment, I realized this could’ve gone very differently. Brook could’ve easily snatched away when I initiated the kiss, but she hadn’t. Instead, she was mirroring the same emotion, the same intensity that I was.

“We can’t do this, Matt. We have to stop,” she said in a breathless whisper, but then contradicted herself the very next second when warm moisture from her mouth coated my bottom lip. She slowly pulled it between her own, sucking and tugging at the flesh, sending every drop of blood in my body rushing in one direction—south, making me want more from her, much more; I wanted everything.

*****

The song I had on repeat while writing this scene–and whatever went down right after 🙂 : “Body Party”_by Ciara

New Release, “Matt & Brooklyn”, Coming August 6th!

Heyyyy!! I’ve got something new being released August 6th!

Matt & Brooklyn

If you read my contemporary, interracial romance, “Again for the First Time“, you were already introduced to Matt and Brooklyn in that story. However, if you DIDN’T read the first book to see how they met… it doesn’t matter LOL. “Matt and Brooklyn” is a full-length standalone within the series so they definitely don’t have to be read in any particular order.

Blurb

She tells herself he’s just a friend, but in her heart he’s so much more…

Matteo Valente is an up-and-coming filmmaker whose award-winning documentary put him on the map two short years ago. It was that very documentary that also led him to the beautiful, intriguingly elusive Brooklyn James. From the moment he laid eyes on her through the lens of his camera, he couldn’t shake the feeling that their meeting was no mistake. Their connection was instant, but Brook has been hell-bent on keeping him in the dreaded “friend zone” while she chases after her own dream.

When Matt pays a surprise visit to Brook the day she graduates with her master’s degree, she is forced to take a second look. “Come with me” were not the words she expected to hear as Matt prepared to leave town again. The invitation to spend a week in L.A. left her breathless, but there were so many reasons to turn him down; so many scenarios that could ruin their close friendship, but… at the risk of regretting it later… she said yes.

“Matt & Brooklyn” is the second STANDALONE in the “Again for the First Time” family saga.

If you’d like to receive the first two chapters of the book to sample this coming Thursday, June 25th, subscribe to my newsletter before it’s too late! (Go ahead… don’t be scared. I promise not to spam you lol) While you’re at it, feel free to check out my inspiration board on Pinterest and add “Matt & Brooklyn” on Goodreads today! Also, if you didn’t already read “Again for the First Time”, check out the trailer here 😀

XOXO

Raven ❤

Full Cover Reveal!! “Loved by You” ~ Author Victoria Smith

Loved by You

LBYFull Cover

VHS-LBY

❤ Ain’t it PRETTY!!! ❤

Photo by: The Reed Files

Cover Design by: What Georgie Did

~ Release Date: 4/27/15 ~

Blurb:

The world moves with him…  Griffin Chandler.  He’s on his own wavelength, creator of his own destiny. He took that drive and accomplished his dreams on the court. He made the world see him, adore him as much as I do.  And he adores me too. He does so through the good, the bad, and even the very worst that causes me to lose myself. He found me once, though. In a way, I also found him too, but am I strong enough to keep him?  Is he strong enough to keep me? 

LOVED BY YOU is book two in the Found by You Series. 

LBY Teaser

 Pre-order your copy now on Amazon by clicking here!!!

❤ Author Bio ❤

Vic

Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the characters she writes give her an earful about it. In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, reading, watching Scandal, and general geekery in the form of Sherlock and DC Comics. She’s a bestselling author and the 2014 Swirl Award winner for Best New Adult Romance, as well as the recipient of the 2015 AMB Ovation Award for her new adult romance FOUND BY YOU. She writes both new adult and adult fiction in many genres, but mainly focuses in contemporary interracial and multicultural romances.

To connect with Victoria, link to her social media sites: BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

XOXO

~Raven

Cover Reveal!!! Loved by You ~ Author Victoria Smith

Victoria Smith has decided to give us snippets of the cover for her upcoming release, “Loved by You”, one day at a time until the big reveal tomorrow. So make sure you stop back by to have a look!

Are you ready for book two? If you haven’t read the first installment of the bestselling, interracial romance series, “Found by You”, click here and check it out before Roxie and Griffin return on April 27th, 2015 🙂

Ok, now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s get to it! Here’s my piece of the “Loved by You” cover puzzle:

RSP

Below, I’ve listed the blog schedule. To check out the first three images on the other participating sites, just click 😀

Monday, Feb. 9th: Brazen Babe Reviews

Tuesday, Feb. 10th: Musings of an IR Romance Junkie

Wednesday, Feb. 11th: Nerd Alert Book Blog

Thursday, Feb. 12th: Raven St. Pierre, youaresowrite.wordpress.com

Friday, Feb. 13th: Big reveal hosted on all four blogs, so make sure you come back here!

But wait! Before you leave, don’t forget to enter the RAFFLECOPTER for a chance to win this awesome prize pack plus a $5 Amazon gift card!

prizes

❤ NOW MEET THE AUTHOR ❤

Vic

Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the characters she writes give her an earful about it. In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, reading, watching Scandal, and general geekery in the form of Sherlock and DC Comics. She’s a bestselling author and the 2014 Swirl Award winner for Best New Adult Romance, as well as the recipient of the 2015 AMB Ovation Award for her new adult romance FOUND BY YOU. She writes both new adult and adult fiction in many genres, but mainly focuses in contemporary interracial and multicultural romances.

For more on Victoria, hit her up on one of her social media sites 😀  BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

See ya tomorrow for the finale!!

XOXO

~Raven

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