Happy Birthday to Tami Lund

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be… I’m not sure. I generally try not to think about it. But if you ask my daughter, she’ll tell you in an instant.

What are my plans for my birthday, you ask? Well, let me tell you, they’re big ones, oh yes…

I’m going bowling. Yeah, you read that correctly. I’m on a bowling league with co-workers from the day job, and the night of my birthday happens to be a bowling night.

What’s really interesting about my big plans is that last year, for the first time possibly ever, I took my birthday off from the day job. My boss and a couple other ladies I work with do it every year, and they thought it was pretty weird that I didn’t, so, well, I did.

And I’m not gonna lie; it was pretty damn fantastic. I didn’t even do anything spectacular. I wrote. A lot. Home alone in the middle of the week with no other obligations (and knowing I didn’t have to make dinner or even clean up afterward; that’s like adding at least two hours to my day); I’m sure time has made reality hazy but I swear I wrote an entire book on that glorious day last year.

And then I vowed to do that every year, moving forward. I mean, hell, it’s my day, right? One single day a year dedicated to me and only me. If all I want to do is stay in my pajamas and write, why not? (And don’t say, ‘well, isn’t that just like any other Saturday or Sunday?’ Because no, it is not. It was a Wednesday, which is a vastly different experience, I promise.)

And here I am, exactly one year later, already breaking my own promise. But honestly, I’m okay with it.

Why? Well, there are all those “happy birthdays” I’ll get at the day job. Probably in person, via email, and also instant message. Plus, there’s an assumption that I don’t have to work as hard as normal, since it’s such a special day. (I may be making this part up, but it sounds damn good, doesn’t it?) And then there’s bowling.

I’m not a good bowler. My average hovers just above 100. Last year it peaked at 111 and then took a nose dive late in the season.

But it’s not about being a good bowler. (Okay, yeah, for a lot of people, it really is. But this is me we’re talking about. I don’t bowl because I honestly have any delusions that I might ever possibly win.)

It’s about the friendships. Camaraderie. Having a few laughs with people you see every single day but don’t necessarily always mingle with. Except on bowling night. Everybody’s friends on bowling night.

And yeah, there’s a very real possibility that I’ll mention it’s my birthday and probably won’t have to buy my own wine. I mean, seriously, if that doesn’t happen…

Oh yeah, and I may have taken the day after my birthday off. Because it’s a Friday. And let’s face it: a three-day weekend is sooooo much better than taking my actual birthday off.

PS – Thanks in advance for the birthday wishes. Which you should put in the comments below. Just because tomorrow is my birthday.

Cheers!

Dark Moon Falls 2 cover

Tami Lund celebrates her birthday on January 23. Yes, she’s an Aquarius. Yes, she exhibits lots of personality traits of that particular sign, and generally speaking, she’s damn proud. She also drinks wine and writes books. Which is very likely what she’ll be doing on her birthday. No, no, the day after her birthday. Oh yeah, here’s her website: https://tamilund.com/

Attn: Shifter Lovers!

Happy new year! Welcome back to Love, Lust, and Laptops! First, I want to say thank you for reading my blog posts every couple of weeks. Second, I want to let you know that this particular post is all about free stuff, specifically books and associated swag. Specifically books about shifters. So if that’s your thing, keep reading…

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I’ve teamed up with 11 other authors to bring you free shifter books all year long! You’ll get a free book each month–a book that’s free just for the book club! If you want to learn more and sign up, visit the book club site here:  https://www.alphaobsession.com/

PS – the (free) January book is:

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I’m also writing in a shared (shifter) world called Dark Moon Falls, and we have a book coming out in May (and it’s only 99c while on pre-order!). Check it out HERE.

Additionally, you can enter to win an iPad 10.2 inch from the authors of Dark Moon Falls, Volume 2! Over $1,000 in prizes and freebies!!!
*No Purchase Necessary! Click HERE or click the pic below.
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Happy reading & good luck! ~Tami Lund

PS – Check out my website for a whole lot of reading material: https://tamilund.com/

What’s Christmas Like This Year?

Dear Brady,

It’s easier this year.

I feel guilty saying those words, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

It’s been different every year since you left us. The first year, I was just trying to survive. To get through a time of year that was supposed to be happy, yet it wasn’t, not really. Not without you. Knowing you’d never come back (even though I hadn’t yet admitted it at that point. Stages of grief and all that.)

The second year, your sister got a full-sized bed for Christmas, and we had to pack away the cute, whimsical flannel sheets we’d procured for both of you when you were toddlers. That was hard. Not only was it packing away a piece of your childhood, but in your case, it felt like we were packing away even more of your memories. Because, you know, that’s all we’ve got.

The third year, I was angry. (As noted by THIS blog post.) I didn’t even realize at the time how furious I was, but yeah, that blog post I linked to will give you an idea.

And now we’re at Year Four.

Here’s what’s happened so far: We haven’t put a wreath or blanket on your grave. Every year since you died, we’ve bought a wreath from the Boy Scouts, but somehow, this year, we missed them. So your grave currently lays bare. I’m a little surprised your grandma hasn’t lectured me about this yet, to be honest.

And we cut down our tree. Just the three of us: me, your dad, and your sister. We went back to the place we used to go when you and your sister were babies. Babies, toddlers; young elementary school age. Back when it was hit or miss whether it would be fun, mostly because you still needed naps and daily naps aren’t exactly conducive to getting anything done outside of the house. Back when a Styrofoam cup full of hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows bobbing in the drink could cure practically any ailment, specifically, an overtired, cold toddler’s woes.

Your dad decided to go back there. We hadn’t been in a while because the last time we went, their selection had been pretty sparse. And then you died, and we were trying to figure out what to do that first year, and your aunt and uncle suggested we all go together, to start a new tradition. Similar, yet different enough from what we did when you were part of our lives. And so we went to a place over near them, instead of this tree farm we had gone to for years and years.

That new tradition carried on until this year. The day we decided to go, they had other things going on, and for a hot minute, your dad and sister and I actually considered going to a place that sold pre-cut trees and doing it the easy way.

And then last night, your dad, out of nowhere, announced that no, he didn’t want to do that. “Your mom and I have been cutting down a tree every year since we got married, and I don’t want to break that tradition,” he told your sister as we drove home from spending a lovely evening at his parents’ house, hanging out with his siblings and a favorite cousin who was visiting from out-of-town.

So we returned to where it all began. Okay, maybe not quite, but certainly this place holds a great many memories from yours and your sister’s early childhood.

I admit, I was hesitant, worried that I’d be “triggered.” I haven’t cried over your death in a fair while, and with the holidays upon us, I’m almost anticipating it happening. Probably, I should just head out to your grave, because that’s what I do when I feel the grief building up inside but it isn’t coming out, whether because it’s not convenient (don’t particularly want to become a blubbering mess at my workplace) or I don’t want to ruin the mood, as it were, or, honestly, I just don’t have the emotional strength at that moment to deal with the grief that never actually goes away.

It just…hovers. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s always there, yes, usually in the background, but still…there.

I drive by a certain landmark. I hear a certain song. A commercial (God knows, advertising executives know how to tug at the heartstrings for their clients).

Or, I come across a few pictures of you. One I can handle. Two, even. Three, eh. But any more and my chest is tight and my stomach clenches as my eyes fill with liquid and I’m blinking rapidly and sucking in great, gasping breaths, and I know I sound like I’m writing one of my books but yeah, this is my reality.

Speaking of reality, so we went to the Christmas tree farm where we used to take you when you were little, and guess what?

It wasn’t bad. It was nice. It was fun. And we found the ‘perfect’ tree. We cut it down. We headed back to the warming shed for hot cocoa. With marshmallows. And then, once the tree was wrapped, we headed home, stopping on the way for a late lunch.

Even more astounding, we managed to decorate the entire tree that day. For the last few years, tree decorating has been a week-long event. We added ornaments little by little; not sure if that was our way of staving off the grieving or if it was because once upon a time we had a lot more ornaments (until the tree fell over and half our ornaments shattered – here’s the blog post).

So here we are, a week before Christmas. We’re chest deep in the holiday festivities. Your sister is in the middle of midterms; I’m wrapping up my last week of the day job for the year. Your cousins from Louisiana are coming into town this weekend, and we’re doing family Christmas at our house on Monday.

Everyone will be here. Well, everyone except you, and Grandpa Roger. Family gatherings are supposed to get bigger, yet ours has shrunk over the last four years.

Still, I’m looking forward to it. This is the first time we’ll all be together since you left us, and while there will be two empty places at the table, I am hopeful that we will enjoy ourselves. That we’ll laugh and joke and tease and talk over one another and make memories that will be bittersweet—because you aren’t there—and treasured for years to come.

Because if there’s one thing that losing my son has taught me, it’s that grieving is a convoluted, layered emotion. It’s both heavy and light. Remembering a loved one we’ve lost brings smiles and tears. As much as we hate our loss, we don’t want to forget the time we had together. Even though it’s painful to remember. Because the memories are all we have, all we’ll ever have.

Which sucks.

I love you always and forever ~Mom

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Happy holidays to you and your loved ones. I hope you hug each other tight. I hope you make memories that you’ll recall fondly long after someone who played a part in those memories is gone.

Because with those memories, they won’t be gone, not entirely. They will always be with you.

In your heart.

xoxo ~Tami Lund 

It’s My Way & I’ll Write If I Want To

I admit it, my writing process is a bit…odd. That’s as good a word as any.

Actually, that’s probably the best word to describe my process of getting those jumbled thoughts out of my head and onto my laptop. And, eventually, published, so you can enjoy the end result.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the pantser vs. plotter debate. It’s as old as the idea of being a published author. And it’ll probably never go away.

Simply put, it’s someone who plans out their book before they start writing, versus the writer who figures out their plot as they type.

Some people feel very strongly that one way is better than the other.

(I’m not one of those people.)

Others claim you can be a mix of the two. As it turns out, for me, anyway, these ‘others’ may be right.

I’ve always insisted that I am 100% a pantser; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have far too many outlines without actual books taking up space on my hard drive to deny the cold, hard facts: If I outline a book, it will never get written.

Seriously. Here’s an example: There’s this heroine who’s an attorney and hero who’s a mechanic and also a single dad love story that I’ve had in my head for years. It’s probably been least five, maybe more. But when it first hit me (and they do, seriously; these ideas come out of nowhere and rarely at convenient times), I had way too much else going on to drop everything and start typing away. But the basic premise (the heroine is actually his ex-wife’s attorney and his kid gets kidnapped and she helps him find the little boy and of course they fall in love in the process) wouldn’t get out of my head and I really, really wanted to remember to write this damn story.

So I did a quick outline. I had every intention of returning to this book, after I’d cleared everything that was currently on my desk.

And what did I say? It’s been five years? I still think about this book, pretty regularly. And maybe, someday, I actually will finally get around to writing it.

In the meantime, I’m busy writing all those books I’ve not outlined.

But wait, I mentioned above that I may very well be a mix of these two contradictory writing processes, remember? So, after that example I gave above, what the heck am I thinking?

Stay with me, I promise, it makes sense. No, no, I don’t promise that, because honestly, not much of what I do makes sense to anyone but myself.

Okay, let’s get back to why I think plotting actually sometimes helps me, despite all the evidence against this idea.

See, I am a pantser. An idea will pop into my head, maybe an opening line, maybe an opening scene; sometimes even the end of the book. I’ll stew over this idea for a while. Usually a couple of days, until I have a reasonably large block of time with which to sit down at the laptop and start banging on the keys.

And then that’s exactly what I do: I sit and write. The research happens as I go. Names, often I use “X” or “Y” until something strikes me as appropriate. I’ll have six tabs open on my internet browser, as I verify locations and situations and of course spellings of words (I’m a notoriously bad speller) as I’m pouring my heart and soul into this book. I can hammer out 20,000 words in a weekend, if the idea is that insistent and I blessedly don’t have real world expectations of my time.

But sometimes, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, the ideas are there but I can’t seem to type them on the screen. My hands hover over the keyboard, the curser flashing on a blank page. Usually that happens when I’m stressed out. Too many constraints on my time, courtesy of the real world. Or maybe it’s been far too long since my house has had a thorough cleaning and I can’t concentrate for all the dust bunnies collecting in the corners. Or maybe I’ve been under the weather with a cold or everyone’s favorite visitor – Aunt Flo. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of them, and sometimes they really do create writer’s block. Which is frustrating as hell because damn it, the ideas are there!

That’s when my concept of plotting comes in handy.

For example, last spring, I was invited to be part of a boxed set called Dark Moon Falls (wanna read it??? Click HERE.). Twenty-thousand words minimum. All authors must write within the same shared world. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a list of characters who live in the town that can show up in everyone’s books. Pick one of these and give him/her a happily ever after or make up your own. Here are the basic parameters.

Boom.

Close enough to the concept to call it plotting, as far as I’m concerned.

And guess what happened? I was hit with a story idea so strong, I had no choice but to ignore everything else in my life and furtively pour it from my brain into the computer. And when I got the first round of edits back from my editor, she said it was the best one I’d ever written.

Obviously, there’s something to this pantser/plotter combo mindset.

At least, for me.

Tami Lund writes books, always via pantsing, although sometimes she uses a vague form of plotting that might not be called plotting by anyone else. But hey, whatever works, right? Here’s her website, so you can check out her books: https://tamilund.com/

Love on the Mountain

There once was a group of authors who all decided to write in the same shared world. Shapeshifters, we decided.

Wolves.

We set the story in a fabled small town at the base of a mountain in the Pacific Northwest. The town, which we named Dark Moon Falls, was small, hardly a blip on the map.

Small, but full of intrigue.

Beside the pack of wolves, a witch’s coven also resided in this beautiful small town at the base of the mountain.

Humans hung out there, too. Some were aware of the paranormal beings living among them, some were not.

Most importantly, there was one true mate for every single one of the wolves in the Dark Moon Falls pack… they just had to find her. Or him.

There’s Jag and Storm’s story – she’s in Dark Moon Falls hiding out from a stalker, and Jag, who is a sheriff’s deputy in this tiny town, is determined to help her, come hell or high water.

There’s Kiera and Ryder’s story – she was almost sold to a rogue wolf pack but found asylum in Dark Moon Falls. Could she find love too?

Cat & Easton have a past – they dated briefly in high school – but then Easton left the pack and they went their separate ways. Now he’s back, injured, and she’s his physical therapist. Sparks fly, but there are secrets in this backwoods town, and Easton’s not sure their rekindled romance can handle the truth when it comes out.

Jaxon & Rhee hook up after meeting at the Wolf Inn, the only bar in town, and they figure it’s a one-night stand. Except they can’t seem to get enough of each other, which isn’t good because Rhee needs to get the hell out of Dodge before she gets herself killed.

In Maddox & Felicity’s story, Maddox is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Follow along as he works to try to solve the mystery of who done it – while attempting not to fall in love.

Kali & Dane’s story – When Kali’s mother is murdered, she’s determined to bring the bad guy to justice. Dane insists on helping, despite her attempts to keep him at arm’s length, and naturally sparks fly since they are fated mates, after all!

Cooper & Kassidy – Cooper was banished from the pack years ago. Now he’s back to bury his beloved grandfather, who happened to have befriended Kassidy, Cooper’s high school sweetheart. He’s ready to pick up where they left off, but Kassidy needs answers first; namely, why he left in the first place.

Abel & Annalyna – Years ago, Annalyna’s father died helping Abel out of a dangerous situation, and she’s never forgiven him. Now they are forced to face their respective demons, and they just might find love in the process.

Lyall & Natalia – These two have been in love since they were teenagers, but Natalia left Dark Moon Falls in an effort to outrun her fear of turning into her mother. Now she’s back, and someone’s trying to kill her. Lyall has to protect her – while trying to keep his heart out of the mix.

Levi & Zoe – Levi is charged with seeking out Zoe and bringing her back to the Dark Moon Coven where she belongs, and of course they get more than they bargain for when they meet!

Ghost & Mackenzie – He’s a nomad; she’s a single mom just trying to make ends meet. Is a relationship even possible between these two opposites, both with their own issues to deal with?

There are fifteen stories in total, written by fifteen different authors. Some you probably know; some may be new to you. There’s a strong possibility you’re going to find your next book boyfriend in this boxed set.

Here’s the link, so you can get started with falling in love, over and over again: DARK MOON FALLS VOLUME I

PS – Yeah, you read that right. Volume I. Volume II releases in May, 2020. Check it out: DARK MOON FALLS VOLUME II

Happy Reading! 

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Tami Lund writes all sorts of books: romcom, wolves, dragons, witches, suspense, and all of them are guaranteed happy endings! Her website has all the deets: https://tamilund.com/

 

 

 

Flash Fiction: Greed

“I lost it all, baby. There’s nothing left.”

“Nothing?”

Glen rolled his eyes skyward, apparently mentally calculating his net worth now that he’d returned from a week’s debauchery in Vegas.

“Well, I still have the house in Aspen. And the Bentley you love. And the Macy’s card probably has some room on it.”

Marissa tapped a manicured nail on the custom-designed Italian granite countertop. She hated the house in Aspen. It wasn’t located on the most prestigious street and besides, she hated skiing and with no money to peruse the shops, what was the point?

“I don’t love that Bentley,” she said. She had loved him in the Bentley. The things he did to her while they were parked in a not-entirely secluded area in that Bentley.

“And Macy’s? Really?” In her mind she was already planning, calculating her next move. She felt a twinge of regret for leaving, because Glen had been pretty damn phenom when he was between her legs, even when they weren’t in the Bentley. But sex didn’t make Marissa’a world go ‘round. Money did.

“I’ll send someone to pick up my things,” she said, sweeping her Louis Viton bag over her shoulder as she strode toward the door. To his credit, Glen didn’t even try to talk her out of leaving. He knew the rules, too.

Good thing he showed his true colors before she grew too old to stand a chance against the young tarts and starlets and blue bloods flooding the market, seeking their next sugar daddy. Glen had paid to make her breasts twenty-two, her face twenty-five, and the rest was up to her personal trainer and chef. She needed to find a replacement soon, because Paulie’s pricetag—while worth every red cent—was not one she intended to come out of her own pocketbook.

Marissa found her next mark in a matter of days. She bumped into him, literally. Tall, dark, brooding, he practically had a sign affixed to his forehead proclaiming, “New Money. Come and get me, ladies.”

So she did.

“Oh,” she said, while using his steel band of an arm to steady herself after their collision. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there.” Liar. She had seen him, mentally calculated his net worth, and marked him all in the course of forty-five seconds.

Marissa was an expert at this game. And this would be her best conquest yet. Maybe she’d even marry this one. Hell, her uterus had been begging her for years to put it to good use. Maybe she’d let this one be the other half of her child’s perfect genes. And then he could pay for whatever necessary surgery was required to give her back her pre-baby body.

Her mark arched a sleek dark brow. “Do you normally wear glasses?”

Marissa blinked rapidly. Was that an insult? Or was he trying to be funny? She cleared her throat and threw back her shoulders, letting the girls brush against the bulges on his arm.

“Of course not. I have perfect eyesight. I’m Marissa, by the way.” She lifted a hand, tilted slightly, in case he was the sort to lift it and kiss the back instead of shake. Those men still existed in the world. Somewhere.

He slammed the webbing between his thumb and pointer finger against her hand, squeezed, and pumped vigorously. “Ben. Nice to meet you, Marissa.”

Ben. Like Benjamins. Marissa flexed her hand after he released it, trying to return the feeling. Hopefully he would be a tad gentler when manhandling her girly parts.

Or hopefully not.

“Are you free this evening, Ben? Would you like to take me to dinner at my favorite restaurant?” Often with men, it was best to be direct. Her gut said Ben needed more directness than most.

He threw his head back and laughed, a hearty, rolling sound that bounced off the walls of the nearest buildings.

What the hell?

“Are you asking me out on a date, so I can buy you dinner?”

Marissa flipped an ash blond wave over her shoulder and placed her hand on her hip. “Yes.”

“That’s funny.”

“That’s reality,” Marissa snapped. What was this guy’s deal? And why was she still trying so damn hard?

“Nope. This is reality, sweetheart.” With a cheeky grin, Ben gave her cheek a light slap and turned on his heel and walked away, no backward glance, his laughter trailing behind him.

Furious, Marissa determined to put him out of her mind and went in search of a new mark.

Three months later, Paulie had quit returning her calls, her nails were chipped, and she’d gained two pounds. Which was almost laughable since she hadn’t stepped foot in a decent restaurant since she left Glen.

Speaking of—there he was, and damn, did he look good. Marissa stopped speed walking through the park and pulled her designer sunglasses down her nose. Yep, definitely Glen. And he was with an equally as attractive guy.

Ben?

Fury propelled her forward, despite knowing she was not even remotely at her best at the moment. Sweated off makeup, hair in a pony, sports bra and biker shorts would have to do. Something wasn’t right about this scene, and she was damn well going to find out what.

“Marissa,” Glen called out when he spotted her heading toward them. His smile appeared genuine, and he even opened his arms as if welcoming a hug. She stopped short and he glanced at Ben.

“How do you”—she stabbed her finger into Glen’s chest—“Know him?”

“Ben? He’s my new financial adviser. And a friend. Convinced me I needed to stay the hell away from the tables in Vegas. You wouldn’t believe how much he’s grown my assets in the last few months, too. Crazy. Unreal.”

“I’ll bet.” Marissa crossed her arms and gave Ben the stink eye. He arched that perfect black brow and said nothing. “So I suppose this means you want to get back together now?”

God, she hoped so. Supporting herself was not going well. Besides, Marissa was beginning to think sex played a bigger role in making her world go ‘round than she initially thought.

Glen’s brow furrowed, as if he didn’t quite understand her question. Perhaps she needed to be less gruff about it. Forcing her unpainted lips into some semblance of a smile, she stroked a chipped nail down his arm.

“I may have reacted a tad severely after your last trip to Vegas. Maybe we should go back to your place and get reacquainted. Are you driving the Bentley?” She glanced around, even though the parking lot was beyond that hill over there.

Glen stepped away from her, practically behind Ben. “Actually, Marissa, uh, I’m seeing somebody else.”

“Somebody else?”

Ben grinned. The goddamn asshole grinned. Marissa narrowed her eyes and watched him, while Glen responded.

“She’s great. Runs a small nonprofit, helping homeless kids. So altruistic. She’s the one who introduced me to Ben, actually. She doesn’t make much at her job, but what she does makes it worth it. And what’s really awesome about her is, the more Ben grows my money, the more she wants to give away. Isn’t that sweet?”

Sweet? “That’s asinine.”

Glen shuffled his feet. “Yeah, I figured that’s what you’d think. Listen, Marissa, I want to thank you. You did us both a favor by leaving. I had no idea how shallow you were, and I probably would have kept on the way I was in life—trying to make as much money as I possibly could in an attempt to make you happy, and then blowing it all by gambling because deep down, I knew I wasn’t happy. And now I am. Maybe someday, you’ll find happiness, too. Trust me, it’s not at the bottom of a designer purse.”

He turned to Ben. “Listen, I’m going to get out of here, go meet Brenda. I’ll talk to you later.”

Ben waved and he and Marissa watched Glen leave. When Marissa turned back to face Ben, he was still grinning.

“Who the hell are you, anyway? Are you some sort of freaking guardian angel or some shit?”

He chuckled and slung his arm around her shoulder, guiding her in the opposite direction. “Nope. Far from it. But Glen did let me borrow his Bentley. Want to go for a ride?”

###

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Did you enjoy that peek into the randomness that spews from Tami Lund’s mind? Check out her website for more great stories: https://tamilund.com/

Like Wolf Shifters? Me too!

Dark Moon Falls, a boxed set containing 15 novellas written by 15 different authors, is about wolf shifters. And it’s based in the Pacific Northwest. You know, where Twilight was based. There are witches. Action. Suspense. Sexy times. Hot alphas. Strong women. Great stories.

And all 15 stories are based in the same town, occurring at the same time, affecting the same characters.

Curious yet?

Here’s a tempting teaser from one of the books in the set! 

LYALL

She’s back.

His high school sweetheart. The love of his life.

The woman he let go because she needed to find herself.

Looks like she found herself back in Dark Moon Falls.

She also found herself an enemy.

And even though Lyall swore he was through chasing someone who didn’t want to be caught, he sure as hell was going to protect her from danger.

He’d figure out how to protect his heart later.

When she left town again.

DMF banner combine wolfs witches and romance

Oh hell.

“Listen, Lyall, I know we didn’t work out so well the last time, but I was thinking—”

“Hey.”

Like a siren’s song, that voice pulled Lyall’s attention to the woman who had stepped up to the end of the bar. Her eyes looked sleepy and her hair was mussed, but not so much that it looked bad, more like it reminded him of all those times over the years they’d slipped upstairs for a quickie when he was supposed to be tending bar.

Her dark curls were pulled back into a loose ponytail at her neck, and she wore a striped T-shirt dress that fell to mid-thigh. There were a pair of bejeweled flip-flops on her feet. She’d put gloss on her lips and maybe some mascara on her lashes, but otherwise, she wasn’t nearly as made up as she was when she’d arrived in town earlier in the day.

Damn, he liked her like this. Natural. Real.

Or at least, that’s how it felt to him. This was the Natalia he’d known all through high school. The smooth, sophisticated woman who walked into his bar earlier was what Lyall liked to think of as Dallas Natalia. The woman who left him for greener pastures that, based on the sadness in her eyes, she hadn’t yet found.

Probably because there wasn’t any grass greener than right here in Dark Moon Falls.

Ava snorted and swirled her drink. “Oh. You’re back. Noticed you weren’t at the burning ceremony.”

Natalia winced.

“Knock it off, Ava,” he snapped.

Ava studied Natalia while sipping her drink.

“You want something?” Lyall asked Nat.

“I’m good right now. Can I help with anything?”

She wanted to stay busy. Was that because of her grief over her aunt or stress over the destruction out at the farm or because she’d just taken a nap in his bed and maybe being there reminded her of all the good times she’d walked away from?

Probably the first two, but he really wanted it to be the third option.

“You’re going to work? Here?” Ava asked.

Since he couldn’t just shut down the bar whenever Natalia breezed into town, it wasn’t unusual at all for her to help out while she waited for him to close each evening. She bussed tables, took drink orders if it was busy enough, and sometimes she even stepped behind the bar and helped him pour drinks. The first time she’d done it, he’d joked that they made a good team, that she should move back and help him run the bar.

She’d taken off that night, a day earlier than she’d planned.

Mental note: no jokes about running the bar together this time.

“I help out where I can,” Natalia said.

“Oh gods, please don’t tell me you’re moving back,” Ava said, taking another swig.

Natalia eyed Ava’s drink. Even though she used to deny it when she lived here and quit talking about it altogether after she left, Natalia was an incredibly powerful witch. Ava, most likely, had no idea, but Lyall was pretty sure Nat was contemplating using some of that magic now.

He placed his hand on the bar, his arm something of a barrier between the two of them. “No, she isn’t. She’s just here to settle her aunt’s estate.”

“I heard somebody trashed the place,” Ava said. She didn’t sound sympathetic or sad.

“News travels fast around here,” Natalia remarked.

Ava shrugged.

“That’s one thing. about small towns,” Natalia continued. “Everybody knows everybody else’s business.”

Ava took another drink and didn’t respond.

“And even if you’ve been gone for a while, say, a few years, all you have to do is stop by the Hot Joy Café and Joy Darling fills you in on whatever you missed.”

Lyall narrowed his eyes. What was she getting at?

“For example,” Nat continued. “I know how many men you’ve hooked up with in the last ten years.”

Lyall’s heart rate kicked up its pace. Ava’s lips curled into a catlike smile.

“And I know that Lyall was one of them.”

“Nat—”

Ava cut him off. “Hey, it’s a free country. And he’s obviously a free man. You’re the idiot who took off and left him behind.”

Natalia stepped around him and leaned over the bar so that she was eye to eye with Ava. “Well, now I’m back. And until I leave again, stop throwing yourself at him like a desperate old maid.”

Ava opened and closed her mouth several times, but no words tumbled from her lips.

Natalia touched the top of the rosemary sprig in Ava’s glass. “Also, I just want you to know that this garnish contains a love potion. You are going to fall madly and deeply in love with whoever you hook up with next, regardless of his feelings on the matter.”

Ava’s eyes went so wide they looked comical. She clambered off the stool and speed walked to the door.

Lyall grabbed the drink and dumped what was left into the sink under the bar. “You lied to her, didn’t you?”

“Yep.”

He shook his head. “Why, Nat? Why the hell act all jealous girlfriend and scare her off when you know damn well you and I aren’t going to hook up? Not to mention, you’re going to leave again. So what the fuck was the point of all that?”

“I—I just…I don’t know.”

“So no point is what you’re saying. You’re fucking with her head, and mine, for no reason? Jesus, Nat, I thought you were better than that.”

He reached under the bar and snagged the bottle of Maestro Dobel.

“Here, just take it. There’s no point in my hanging onto it anymore.”

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Dark Moon Falls-ebook

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and award winner. She writes shifters, witches, demigods, dragons, and contemporary romance. You should check out her website for more reads: https://tamilund.com/