A weekly journal where you can learn what I'm up to on my books, giveaways, fun things I'm doing or even my own personal devotional for the day. It's a broad mix of what's on my mind, allowing me to feel a little bit closer to some of the most important people in my life -- YOU! So please stop by from time to time, and if you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you via the "Contact Julie" tab or via my Facebook page.  Hugs, Julie



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Scroll to end of blog for InD'tale contest!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning;

great is His faithfulness.

 —Lamentations 3:22-24

Ah, new beginnings! The first day of a year, the first day of school, the first time you wear new clothes, the first page of a book, the first time you say “I love you,” the first time you hold your newborn in your arms—new beginnings, all, offering a future and a hope. There is nothing quite like that feeling of new, fresh, clean, the idea of starting over to get it right.

Only we never quite “get it right” as human beings, do we? Oh, sometimes we do, sure, but unfortunately, sin is inherent for everyone who draws air, which is why for me, Easter is the most important day of the year. A new beginning, a fresh start, a do-over where the precious blood of Jesus washes me clean and let’s me start over, reminding me once again that His mercies are “new” every morning and His love never ceases.


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,

plans for welfare and not for evil,to give you a future and a hope.

 —Jeremiah 29:11

A future and a hope—Easter in a eggshell, if you will. And yet, there have been too many times when my focus has been on dying eggs instead of a dying Savior Who gave His all so I could have a new beginning—not just every day of my life, but in the next as well.

So, I don’t know about you, but this Easter, I plan to focus on just how very important this day is to each and every one of us. Because without Easter—the death and resurrection of our Savior—there would be no fresh starts, no do-overs, no future and no hope.

I wish you and yours a MOST blessed Easter and fresh start with the Lover of your Soul!




InD'tale Contest!

My interview in InD'tales Magazine is one of the most in-depth and most important I've ever done, so I hope you check it out! And to motivate you to do so, here's a chance to not only have a character named after you in my next book, His Steadfast Love, which releases this summer, BUT ... receive a signed copy of His Steadfast Love PLUS your choice of any two of my books, e-book or paperback.

Plus a FREE subscription to InD'tale Magazine! To subscribe, just go to the InD'tale Magazine website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, then click on the "Subscribe" link on the right side of the black bar. And if you do subscribe, be sure to indicate that in the Rafflecopter box below since it's worth 5 points in my contest, okay? 

The contest runs through April, so GOOD LUCK!

Hugs and Happy Weekend!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 7, 2017

Scroll to end of blog for new contest!


My beloved is mine, and I am his;  he grazes among the lilies
until the day breathes and the shadows flee.

-- Song of Solomon 2:16-17

Goodness, it's been a while since we've talked because I've been spending most of my time traveling and writing book 3 in the Isle of Hope Series, His Steadfast Love. But I wanted to come out of hiding to let you know about a cool interview I did for InD'tales Magazine and announce a new contest.

As many of you know, my tagline is "Passion With a Purpose," which means my whole purpose for writing novels in the first place was to provide a romantically (and spiritually) passionate alternative to secular romance, which as we all know caters to a world view that is amoral at best. So when InD'Tales Magazine -- a secular review magazine begun by a Christian reviewer -- asked me to be her featured author interview for the month of Easter to talk about my "Passion With a Purpose" style, I said yes.

Why? Because yes, there are sweet romances in the secular market without gratuitous sex, but you will go a long, LONG way before you find secular romance novels that line up with God's precepts as far as sexual morality. And likewise, in a $1.08 billion-dollar industry (in 2013) you will go a long, LONG way before you find Christian romance novels that offer the romantic passion that most secular readers are looking for.

Before I was published, I read a statistic from an evangelical Christian polling firm called The Barna Group that totally shocked me. It claimed that "nine out of ten women in the U.S. profess some form of Christianity," and yet the moral climate in our world would suggest otherwise.

The results of national survey published by USA Today in 2016 revealed that "more than three out of four (76 percent) of 18-to 31-year-old American couples living together consider cohabitation before marriage to be fine and acceptable."

"About a quarter of women move in with a romantic partner before the age of 20, and more women than ever live with a partner before they get married," according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics.

“The stark reality is that 65 percent of ‘altar-bound’ singles — many of whom identify as ‘Christians’ — now live together before marriage,” says Charisma News Contributor Larry Tomczak.

I don't know about you, but this bothers me A LOT because it's not God's precepts that have changed, it's our world.

According to CNN, the blockbuster book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey labeled "mommy porn" by some "has topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015. It has been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time."

Why? Because passion is important! Not just to romance readers, but to everyone on the planet. We were created that way by a passionate God who analogizes His own depth of love for each of us in a very passionate love letter called “Song of Solomon.” And what happens? The world uses this beautiful, God-given gift to shove sin down peoples’ throats, and I, for one, am really sick of it. I want to use passion the way it was intended — to teach people God’s precepts and therein, His love. It’s the cry of my heart, and I hope and pray that for my readers, my stories of romantic passion translate into passion for God.


So ...  I've decided to run a contest in honor of my interview in InD'tales AND my Seeker blog this upcoming Wednesday, April 12, which will feature the editor-in-chief of InD'tales Magazine, T.J. Mackay speaking about "Christian Fiction in a Secular World: A Light Under The Bushel?" There will be a giveaway of choice of my books, so I hope you stop by. Here's the link:


New Contest Begins Sat., 4/8 at midnight!

My interview in InD'tales Magazine is one of the most in-depth and most important I've ever done, so I hope you check it out! And to motivate you to do so, here's a chance to not only have a character named after you in my next book, His Steadfast Love, which releases this summer, BUT ... receive a signed copy of His Steadfast Love PLUS your choice of any two of my books, e-book or paperback. The contest runs through April, and further details are in the Rafflecopter box below, so GOOD LUCK!

Hugs and Happy Weekend!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 3, 2017

"You have to put off being young

until you can retire."

-- Author Unknown

Ah, retirement! Even though my husband and I live in Missouri on the largest recreational lake in the United States, we are not retired no matter how much we might swim, boat, or fish. We just figured if we both worked at home, why not do that in front of a lake? Made perfect sense to us.

And it still does.

But I will admit, there is something magical about retiring to Florida. You see, we just got back from a week in Florida, where my retired prayer partner and her hubby rented a gorgeous house with an L-shaped pool for two months, and all I can say is, WOW!

Great weather, great food, great landscaping, great beaches, great activities, and great prayer time with my two prayer partners -- sheer heaven!

But now we're back to reality, which is pretty good too, I have to say, because I am having a lot of fun writing His Steadfast Love (am on Chapter Twenty-One so far).

Although I didn't get much time to write in Florida, I am committed to Seekerville's Speedbo, which is a cool writer's incentive to write 1,000 words (or whatever goal you set) every day during the month of March. So far -- March 3rd -- I am on track, so prayers appreciated that I can get this book out in early summer. And any writers out there who would like to jump into Speedbo, it's not too late, and it's free, so I encourage you to do so.


We Have Winners!

Mega thanks to everyone who entered last week's Rafflecopter contest to win one of my indie e-books and a signed paper copy of SPARK Magazine, which includes my flash fiction piece for an alternate ending to Gone With the Wind.

The five winners have their choice of an e-copy of A Light in the Window, Romance-ology 101, A Glimmer of Hope Rewrite, Isle of Hope, or Love Everlasting). OR … for those winners who already have all of those indie books, I will be happy to put you on my e-book list for the first copies of book 3 in the series, His Steadfast Love, which I hope to release this summer.

So, SUPER CONGRATS and THANKS to the following winners. I will contact each of you personally.

Hilda Simmons

Sonnetta Jones

Abigail Allen


Julie Jobe



Whoa, baby ... I just found out that the February issue of SPARK Magazine, which includes my alternate ending for Gone With the Wind, is available for FREE DOWNLOAD when you take advantage of the FREE SUBSCRIPTION to Splickety, so all you have to do is send a blank email with "Subscribe" in the subject line to:  info@splickety.com


Deal Alert on Love at Any Cost!

If you have never read book 1 in the Heart of San Francisco series, NOW is the time to do so! Love at Any Cost, which is one of my favorite and most fun books, is only 79 cents to 99 cents for a brief time, so check out the fabulous video below!


The entire Heart of San Francisco series is a lot of fun -- shorter, funnier, and less complicated than the O'Connor saga, but I promise you that with a wise-cracking parrot, a crotchety cook, and a near deaf and blind butler, there's a LOT of fun in store with the McClares. So DO check it out because LAAC contains one of the best kissing scenes I have ever written (hint: in a billiard room).



CBD (79 cents)


Join me in Seekerville on Wednesday, March 8 for my blog entitled, "Back-Peddling on the Road to Success."

I will be giving away one of my e-books and a signed paper copy of SPARK Magazine, which includes my flash fiction piece for an alternate ending to Gone With the Wind, so do come on by to leave a comment.

That's all for now, so





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

--Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind

Uh, well ... that's not exactly true. At least, not in my version of Gone With the Wind, which just released in Splickety Love's SPARK Magazine!

Trust me, it was a dream come true to write an alternate ending for my all-time favorite novel, Gone With the Wind, and boy, did I have a ball!

Now let me make this perfectly clear -- I am no Margaret Mitchell by a long shot (except in the length of my books, I suppose!), but I've always hankered for an alternate ending to this eternal classic.

Why? Because frankly, my dear, I always believed that no matter how frustrated Rhett was with Scarlett, deep down he still loved her. I mean, seriously, I'm a diehard romance writer and reader, so why would I think otherwise??

Besides, when I think of the love between a man and a woman, I can't help but think of the love God has for each of us -- unfailing, everlasting, steadfast. After all, He IS the Lover of our Souls, and we are "the bride of Christ," so I have always believed that His love for us parralells and exceeds the same deep passion, love, and intimacy found in a great love affair.

So when I wrote this revised ending to Gone With the Wind, I couldn't help but reflect on God. No matter what we say or do or how many times we mess up, His steadfast love never changes, abounding in mercy and tenderness -- always. Which, as many of you already know, is the theme of book 3 in my Isle of Hope series, His Steadfast Love. I am almost halfway done and hope to release it this summer, so prayers appreciated.



In honor of my fun Gone With the Wind alternate ending in Splickety's SPARK Magazine, you have TEN chances (five in the Splickety blog Rafflecopter contest and five via my Rafflecopter box below) to win your choice of an e-copy of any one of my indie e-books INCLUDING A Light in the Window, Isle of Hope, Romance-ology 101, Love Everlasting, OR the first e-copy of His Steadfast Love BEFORE it comes out this summer. In addition, the five winners from my Rafflecopter contest below will receive a signed paper copy of the February issue of SPARK Magazine.

How do you enter? Simply leave a comment on my interview on Splickety's Lightning Blog and indicate you have done so in their Rafflecopter box at the bottom of that page.

Then, for five more chances to win, just indicate in my Rafflecopter box below at the very bottom of this blog that you have left a comment on the Splickety blog.


Trust me, the odds for a win are VERY good, so I hope you will give it a shot!

I leave you with a pic of our beloved Genevieve (and Rory), whom you prayed so hard for last year. She is a precious child and a great blessing to our family. Thank you again for ALL of your prayers!

Good luck in the contest and happy reading!




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 21, 2017

“There should be no fear.

We are protected, and we will always be protected …

And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”

-- President Donald J. Trump's Inaugural Speech

WOW, I don't know about you, but President Trump's inauguration gave me lots of good chills, especially with all the references to God and the many, many invocations given throughout the day. Defying convention, President Trump invited six religious leaders to be a part of yesterday's inaugural program, either to give a reading or with prayer, which was such a blessing to see and here because normally, there are only two. So I was blessed each and every time I heard God's name mentioned because He was SO there! And I truly believe He will be with our nation in a far greater capacity than ever before, which blesses the socks off of me and unleashes much joy.

So far, this has been a very exciting year for me, with Evie whole and well, my son and DIL and grands moving closer, our country drawing nearer to God, and I've started writing a new book that I truly believe will be a blessing to me and hopefully to the people who read it. 

That said, I have decided to call book 3 -- Cat and Chase's story -- His Steadfast Love. Mega thanks to each of you who left comments with your input and the many, many of you who sent me emails in that regard as well -- THANK YOU!! You overwhelmingly confirmed what I felt in my spirit -- that I need to talk about His steadfast love in this final book.

So to celebrate what I anticipate being a wonderful writing experience for me and hopefully a wonderful reading experience for you, I thought it would be fun to post the first chapter here. Please keep in mind it is the first draft, so edits still need to be made, but I hope you enjoy it anyway and look forward to this book as much as I am enjoying writing it.

Your prayers are SO appreciate for God's anointing and speed on this novel, so THANK YOU!!

Have a great week!



Evie Update!

Our little girl is almost four months old and doing SO well, so a huge thank you to each of you who prayed for her and THANK YOU, God!!








2-Book Giveaway!

TUESDAY, JAN. 24 ONLY! If you have never read contemporary Christian author Becky Wade, you do not know what you are missing! Becky is one of my personal faves, and NOW you have a chance to win one of her paperback books along with one of mine!

Simply head on over to my Facebook Author page on Tuesday from 9:00 AM to midnight and leave a comment on my Facebook Flash Giveaway that includes the pic below of Becky and me. That's all it takes to enter, so GOOD LUCK! Here's the link:



A Glimmer of Hope is Now Revised!

The revision on my A Glimmer of Hope novella is done, and it now has four new chapters including a new ending!

The new version is now available on Amazon, B&N, and Kobo and is still  free. Unfortunately, if you already downloaded AGOH, Amazon will not let you download it again.

As a result, I am offering my very special Journal Jot readers a revised Kindle version, so all you have to do is let me know if you want the updated version either through the CONTACT JULIE tab of this website, via e-mail, or via Facebook message.



❤️Valentine Surprise!❤️

Oh. My. Goodness!! I am sooooooo excited to announce that I will be the featured author in the February issue of Splickety Magazine!! Splickety Magazine is a totally cool flash-fiction magazine and guess what? They asked ME to write an alternate ending for a favorite classic of mine in ... are you ready for this? ... a mere 1,000 words! I know, I know, it's hard to believe that this door-stopper author who writes 500+ page books could actually writing anything in 1,000 words, but I DID IT!!

And y'all probably already know which classic I picked! Yep, you guessed it -- I rewrote the ending for Gone With the Wind, and WOW, did I have a blast! I'm sure Margaret was turning over in her grave, but I had SO much fun giving my favorite book a new twist, so I hope you get a chance to read it. Because of contract restrictions, I won't be able to post it here on my blog for six months, so you'll either have to buy the magazine or wait till I get around to posting it here down the road. Either way, it's a really fun read, I think, or at least it was for me!

The issue releases February 1st, so here's the link to check out the magazine and sign up for their cool blog:



Sneak Peek: His Steadfast Love

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. 

 — Lamentations 3:22-23


Chapter One

Isle of Hope, Georgia, End of May

 The winds of change are blowing, and it’s a category five.

Catherine “Cat” O’Bryen plopped her chin in her hand on the linen-clad table, grateful for the low lighting of the candlelit ballroom while she battled another onslaught of tears. Discreetly swiping at her eyes, she watched as her twin sister danced with her new husband, Dr. Sam Carmichael, who held Shannon close as if she were a priceless treasure. And she is, Cat thought with a sniff, a mix of both gratitude and mourning instantly welling in her eyes. A treasure I’ve lost forever.

Seemingly oblivious to anyone else on the crowded dance floor of the Savannah Marriott Riverwalk hotel, the couple moved as one, and Cat wondered how she could feel such pain on the heels of so much joy. She would give her life for her twin, and now she had the chance. To let go of her other half—the best part of herself—and wish her sister well.

Shannon’s new “other half” was now a man who drew every woman’s eye, but he only had eyes for her sister, and at that exact moment, Cat knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was a God. Because if anybody deserved a happily ever after, it was Shannon, one of the kindest, most loving human beings on the planet.

Unlike me.

“Hey, Cat, wanna dance?”

She jolted from her thoughts to blink up at Jordan Murphy, one of the guys from the Hope Church volleyball league who had asked her out a couple of times. He was nice enough, she supposed, and cute, too, but it was the same old story with the guys at Hope Church—too nice and too spiritual.

“Come on.” He extended his hand, eyes warm with sympathy. “It’ll do you good.”

Heat scorched her cheeks when she realized her face was slick with tears, effectively announcing to the world she was the pathetic little twin who was now all alone. Slapping at her soggy eyes, she forced a bright smile, tempted to blow out the stupid candle so she could hide away in the dark. The dark? She suppressed a grunt. She was already there.

She valiantly kicked the smile up a notch. “Actually, Jordan, would you mind saving me a dance for later? I think I need to visit the little girl’s room right now.” She sniffed and dabbed at her face with a tortued tissue that was now in shreds. “What can I say—I’m a sap for weddings.”

 He studied her as if trying to decipher the truth of her statement, before he delivered a smile. “Sure thing, Cat. Catch you later.” Hands in his pockets, he sauntered back to his table, relieving Cat considerably when he asked one of the other girls from the volleyball team to dance.

Reaching for the silver clutch that matched her six-inch heels, Cat rose and smoothed out her lavender halter bridesmaid dress, desperate to hide her grief over the loss of her sister. Shoulders back and head high, she quickly upended the rest of her champagne she’d smuggled in from the lobby bar in lieu of the sparkling white grape juice provided. She seldom drank anything stronger than Diet Dr. Pepper, not with a mother who abhorred alcohol, but she knew she’d need emotional sustenance to get through the night without breaking down.  She stifled a grunt as she swabbed more moisture from her eyes.

Yeah, so much for that. 

Clunking the glass back down, her gaze snagged on Shannon’s bridal bouquet. More saltwater welled as she fondled one of its rose petals, her lips trembling into a watery smile. Yes, she’d caught the bouquet tonight—blatantly tossed to her by her sister—but she wondered if she would ever really find a love of her own.

She pushed in her chair, thinking for the hundredth time that life would be so much easier if her once-strong faith hadn’t been so damaged by her father’s affair and subsequent death. Like Shannon and Lacey often claimed, Cat could probably have her pick of guys at Hope Church—including Chase Griffin, the hot associate pastor—but she was still far too angry at a God who had already let her down twice.

With a practiced smile, she circled the head table as carefully as possible after two glasses of champagne and six-inch stilettos, so very grateful she had a rare moment alone. The rest of the wedding party danced to the sounds of “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath, including her designated groomsman—a friend of Sam’s who was dancing with his wife. It was certainly a song that fit for most of her family, she thought as she made her way to the restroom. But not her. Out on the floor, her mother glowed in the arms of her new husband, Ben Carmichael, while the two of them danced and chatted with Cat’s brother Jack and his wife, Lacey, all people she loved and was truly happy for.

Anxious to avoid their gaze, Cat hurried from the room and down the hall to the hotel lobby, en route to the ladies room furthest away from the ballroom. She sure didn’t need more sympathy from well-meaning family or friends to soothe the sadness of the “unlovable twin.” And that’s exactly how she saw herself these days, at least since she’d been abandoned by both her father and God.

Tossing a look over her shoulder to make sure Chase Griffin was nowhere in sight, she blinked hard several times to keep tears at bay until she could find sanctuary in the bathroom. As their friend and associate pastor who had married Shannon and Sam, Chase had danced almost every dance with Cat, attentive to a fault. Her smile went flat. Either because Shan begged him to or because he felt sorry for her, and probably both.

She cut loose with another heavy sigh. If the man wasn’t as straitlaced as he was gorgeous, she would have reveled in his attention. But all she saw in those sexy eyes was a quiet empathy, like she was some lost little soul, and somehow, it always managed to tick her off. Just because she wasn’t into religion like the rest of her family didn’t mean he had to feel sorry for her. And right now, it felt like a double whammy—the awful malaise over losing Shan joining forces with Chase’s pity to take her down, aching till she thought she couldn’t breathe.

“Not unlike these silly shoes,” she muttered, wishing she’d never bought them. Never in her life had she worn anything higher than a four-inch heel. But how hard could a few extra inches be for a very athletic woman? Besides, at the time, she’d figured she’d need some boost of confidence as the spinster twin at her sister’s wedding. She winced when her ankle tipped off-center. Not to mention help in standing up to an associate pastor who always looked down at her like she was some delinquent little kid, not as mature as Shan. At least this way, her lowly five-foot-two could take on his lofty six-foot-two with some semblance of dignity.

 “Hey, coming back to see me, I hope?”

Mid-lobby, Cat skidded to a halt, wobbling on those stupid stilettos like she was in the middle of her own personal earthquake. Hand to her chest, she glanced up at the several bartenders at the bar, homing in on the cute one who’d flirted with her before.

“So … what’s your pleasure?” he asked, warming her skin when his gaze boldly roamed the length of her, as intimate as a caress while it slowly traveled back up. “Another glass of champagne?”

Cat paused, rethinking her trip to the bathroom. Never in her life had she drank more than two glasses of anything alcoholic, but this was her sister’s wedding after all, and one more would help her both celebrate and commiserate her loss. Besides, now that Lacey and Shannon were off the market, their single-girl nights were a thing of the past, which meant Cat could be as free as she wanted, no longer mothered by her two best friends. A bit unsteady, she headed for the bar, a rush of independence overpowering the sudden butterflies in her stomach. “No, not champagne this time, I don’t think,” she said, studying the bottles behind the bar. “I’m looking for something a little more adventurous that will help chase away the blues.”

“Boyfriend blues?” the bartender asked, swiping the area clean where Cat laid her purse. He tossed the rag below and leaned in, arms crossed on the bar with a twinkle in blue eyes that all but devoured her. “Because, trust me—somebody that looks like you should never be blue.”

She giggled nervously, not sure if the skittery sensation she felt meant that the butterflies were tipsy or tickled that a good-looking guy was hitting on her. Her pulse tripped. A very good-looking “man,” as a matter of fact, who appeared somewhat older and probably wasn’t shackled to a squeaky-clean lifestyle. She slid onto the barstool, relieved at its stability compared to her legs. “No, not boyfriend blues,” she said with a wispy sigh. “My twin sister got married tonight, and I’m just going to miss her like crazy.”

“You mean there’s two of you?” That dangerous twinkle in the bartender’s eyes joined forces with a sexy smile, whooshing those stupid butterflies around and around in a whirlpool of warmth. He put a hand to his heart with great drama. “Be still my heart,” he whispered before extending his hand. “I’m Chad.”

Battling a nervous gulp, she slowly shook it, a virtual heat wave melting her butterflies into a near swoon when he lingered to graze her knuckles with his thumb.

“Why don’t I fix you something to sip on while I finish my shift?” he said easily.” “I’m off in thirty, so maybe I can cheer you up with a stroll on the Riverwalk and a bite to eat.”

Peeking up beneath mascaraed lashes heavier than usual, she chewed on the edge of her lip, thinking this was not a good idea at her sister’s wedding. Especially with a man she didn’t know who seemed older and—a renegade gulp broke free as she slowly slipped her hand from his—certainly more experienced than she. With an older brother who watched over her like a rabid hawk, a sister and sister-in-law who refused to go clubbing, and her exposure to men limited to Hope Church, Cat bordered on naïve. Oh, she was certainly the flirtiest and sassiest girl at church—where it was safe—but when it came to “men of the world” as her mother referred to them, even she knew she was a babe in the woods. But for pity’s sake, she’d rather sit out here with a guy who seemed attracted to her than watch all the other couples in love, right? Settling on a compromise, she shimmied her stool closer to the bar with a lift of her chin and a neat fold of hands. “Thanks, Chad, but I only have time for one fast drink, because I really need to get back.”

“You got it … Miss …?” He cocked his head as if waiting for her to supply her name.

“O’Bryen, Cat, short for Catherine,” she said with a timid smile far more indicative of her shy sister than herself, and somehow the thought rankled. She decided right then and there it was time to set the course for her own life, unencumbered by other people’s opinions and faith. Even if those opinions and faith belonged to the people she loved most in the world.

“So, Miss Cat-short-for-Catherine O’Bryen—what’s your poison?”

 Poison, indeed. Ignoring prickles of guilt, she propped her chin in her hand to offer Chad her most alluring smile. “Why don’t you surprise me?”

Twenty minutes later the “surprise” was she was laughing with Chad and other bartenders and customers, her gloom forgotten as she sucked the last of her drink through a straw with a loud, hollow noise. “Whoops, all gone.” She pushed her glass away with a giggle, thinking she could probably face anything right about now, even Shan leaving their house forever. Fumbling with her purse, she rifled through for one of the twenties she’d stashed inside, easing it toward Chad.

“Nope.” He pushed it back, leaning close enough for her to see a rim of green in his eyes. “It’s on the house, Cat-short-for-Catherine, and I’ll bet you’re hungry, so why don’t you let me take you to get something to eat?”

Suddenly feeling woozy, Cat blinked several times, trying to bring Chad back into focus. “Well—”

“No thanks, she has all the cake she can eat inside,” a gruff voice said, startling her so much, she almost fell off the stool.

And would have if Chase hadn’t steadied her when she spun around, his muscled arm firm at her waist. “Time to go, kiddo,” he said with a smile as tight as his grip.

“What d’ya doing?” she breathed, heart hammering at the stiff line of his jaw, so close she could see the beginning of dark bristle on his clean-shaven face. The musky citrus scent of “Eternity” cologne—a gag Christmas gift from the volleyball group—triggered a gushy feeling inside, riling her all the more at the obvious symbolism. Irritation flashed, both at the attraction she felt and his annoyingly paternal tone. “Lemme go,” she whispered loudly, her tone just shy of curt.

Face like granite, he slowly released her, clear gray eyes as cool as his manner. “Shannon asked me to find you.”

“Of course she did,” she muttered, ticked off that Chase Griffin would never seek her out on his own and then ticked off that it bothered her so much. He was the last guy she would ever be interested in, so why did it matter? She turned her attention back to Chad who stood a few feet away polishing a wine glass, eyes trained on her as if awaiting her next move. She shoved the twenty dollar bill forward. “Thanks, Chad—I had fun.”

He strolled over and nudged the money back. “I told you, babe, it’s on me.” His gaze flicked to Chase and back before he took a card out of his back pocket and slid it her way. “Call me sometime, or come see me again, okay?”

“Oh, you bet,” she said in her huskiest voice just to get on Chase’s nerves. Feeling smug, she tucked the card in her purse and eased off the stool with a sultry look.

Right before landing on the floor in a heap.