Dive in to chapter 9!
Let's have a lookie-loo at what's in this magical piece of literary goodness known as the newsletter:
  1. Greetings and salutations
  2. Pact with a Heartbreaker, chapter 9
  3. What even am I doing with my life? (RWA recap!)
Hiya, friend!
What the fresh hell is happening with time lately? It is almost AUGUST. I swear it was just June, and now more than half our summer is over and we haven't done much of anything. Our summers tend to go like that, though. So much necessary travel and very little else. 
In case you're not reading the chapters as they're released, skip down to the bottom to see pics and all the deets from my trip to RWA last week!
As a reminder, from now until early September, I'm releasing a beach read novella via weekly installments right here for free! It's time for chapter 9, and I promise it's actually happening this time...
Pact with a Heartbreaker can be read either as your first foray into Havenbrook, my fictional southern small town, or after you've read Second Chance Charmer because I'm crafty like that. 😉

In case you've missed any previous chapters, you can get caught up here. If you're not a fan of reading books in a serialized manner, Pact with a Heartbreaker will be released on its own sometime in the fall.
Quick disclaimer: in order to get these chapters to you every week, they are raw and unedited, so thank you for excusing any mistakes! 

Chapter 9

Mac’s body was lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July. Goosebumps covered every inch of her that she could see. And the places she couldn’t? Well, they were faring much worse…or perhaps much better would’ve been more accurate. She’d known kissing Hudson would be amazing, but even she hadn’t anticipated it being quite so off-the-charts, toe-curling, and panty-melting as the reality had been.

The two of them…fit. There was no other word to describe it so perfectly. They fit together like puzzle pieces, locking in and never wanting to separate.

True, they’d kissed before—more than once. They’d decided long ago that they’d share all their firsts together. And those firsts? Usually involved some sort of kissing to get the ball rolling. 

But as good as those early kisses had been, there’d always been something holding one or both of them back. Because none of those lip locks had ever been just because they’d wanted to. There’d been an obligatory thread underlying every one of them. This kiss, though? This had been pure, unadulterated want.

She could still feel the evidence of his need, solid and thick, between her legs. Without thought, she clutched his shoulders and rocked forward, pulling a groan from his throat and an answering moan floating out from hers. He felt so good—too good—and she wanted to soak in the feeling of his body pressed against hers for as long as humanly possible.

With tight hands on her hips, he stilled her movements and dropped his head to her shoulder. “You’re killin’ me, Kenna.”

She laughed, unable to recall a time she’d felt this…light. This happy. She was going off to college, getting away from the demands and unending pressure of her family name, and she was doing so with her best friend in the whole world. A best friend she hoped like hell was on the way to becoming something so much more. “I somehow doubt death would feel this good.”

He panted against her chest, the puffs of air ghosting over her already hard nipples and cranking up her desire to a thousand. She pressed her mouth to his ear, brushing her lower lip against his lobe. She’d never been able to be like this with him, even when they’d lost their virginities together. But this? Now? She couldn’t help herself. 

After all this time, she couldn’t believe they were finally there.

“As much as I would love to jump into this with you—and I would absolutely fucking love it—we need to talk first.” Hudson pushed her back in his lap and away from the hardness concealed by his swim trunks. 

But did they really need to talk? Did they really? What else could he have to tell her other than that he thought of her the same way she did of him? That he wanted to be with her—truly be with her—as more than best friends and first everythings. That he wanted her to be his. The evidence of that was so blatant, it might as well be a billboard sitting with them in the fishing boat.

She allowed herself to slide forward again, pressing the hottest part of her against the hardest part of him. He let her settle there for a moment before he groaned loudly, gripped her hips, and lifted her right off his lap and onto the seat next to him. He ran his hands down his face and then cupped his head in his palms, breathing deeply until he appeared to get himself under control. 

When he lifted his head, he shot her a look that to anyone else would probably appear like irritation. But she’d known him long enough that she could see the underlying humor in his eyes, in the twitch of his mouth.

She shrugged. “I’d say I’m sorry, but I’d be lying.”

He barked out a laugh before reaching over and curling his hand around her neck. He traced his thumb over her bottom lip, his eyes seeming to take in every inch of her he could see—and some of the inches he couldn’t. “And your brutal honesty is one of the many reasons I love you.”

Mac froze. She stopped breathing. And she just stared at him…at the truth dancing in his brown eyes. 

They’d exchanged I love you’s more times than she could count, but they’d always been said with a buddy undertone. They’d also never been said after one of them had come in the other’s lap. This was definitely unchartered territory for them, and Mac wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Didn’t quite know where to go from here. 

Holy shit, this was actually happening. 

She’d waited and wished and hoped with everything she had that what she felt for him wasn’t one-sided. That the way they fit so perfectly together wasn’t only seen by her.

And it wasn’t.

A smile swept across her lips, her eyes lighting up as she looked at him. She’d kept her feelings for him a secret for so long she should’ve been able to do it for another few minutes until he was done speaking. But she found she couldn’t. She just couldn’t any more. The words wanted to pour from her mouth, and she couldn’t do anything to stop them. “I lo—”

“Wait.” Hudson pressed his thumb to her lips, silencing her. His once-playful eyes had grown serious as he watched her. “I don’t deserve to hear that until I tell you this first.”

Mac reached up and wrapped her hand around his forearm, her brow drawing tight. “Don’t deserve? What do you mean?”

He stared at her for what felt like an eternity. Finally, he pulled her close and pressed one soft, sweet kiss on her lips. With his forehead pressed to hers, he said, “I don’t even know how to tell you this. How to start. And knowing that you could hate me—that you probably will hate me—when I’m done doesn’t make it any easier.”

Mac pulled away so she could look in his eyes. “What? Hud, no. I’d never hate you. Whatever you have to tell me, just say it. It’ll be fine. I promise.” She said the words, but her stomach had already started churning. What she’d been so happy to hear mere minutes ago now sat heavily on her shoulders. He’d told her he loved her, but maybe it wasn’t enough. Maybe he’d been with someone back at State and he hadn’t known how to tell Mac. 

But no. Hudson would never do that—wouldn’t pull her into his lap, kiss her like she was the last woman on the face of the earth, and make her come so hard she saw stars. Not if he was spoken for. 

So what the hell was so bad he was worried about telling her? Her of all people? She’d been his best friend for nearly two decades. There wasn’t a whole lot he could say that would change that. 

“Does your momma know?” she asked.

He picked up one of her hands from her lap and cradled it between both of his, staring intently at them. “Yeah. She…she accidentally opened up a welcome letter.” 

“A welcome letter? For what?”

When he lifted his eyes to hers, her stomach bottomed out, something deep inside her recognizing the uncertainty swimming in his gaze. Whatever this welcome letter was for, this was the big thing he had to tell her. It wasn’t about his feelings—had never been. And if they hadn’t just done what they’d done, she’d feel like the dumbest girl in the world for thinking something was happening when it wasn’t. 

Except that wasn’t true, was it? He’d been with her the whole way. He’d initiated the kiss. He’d encouraged her with his words and his actions every second they’d been together. She just had to remember that.

When he didn’t answer, she prodded again. “Hudson. What was the welcome letter for?”

He cocooned her hand between his, pressing them tightly together. “The Army.”

“The—” Mac jerked backed, yanking her hand from his grasp. She tried to calm the racing of her heart, but she might as well be trying to stop a runaway train. Especially when Hudson kept staring at her, apology written in his eyes. Apology for what

But she already knew. Deep down in her heart, she knew. 

“Why would you be receivin’ a welcome letter from the Army?”

“I tried, Kenna. I tried going to State to do what my momma wanted me to. Begged me to. But it didn’t feel like me. It never did. You knew my hesitation about it from the beginning.” 

She had known. They’d discussed everything in great detail almost two years ago when he’d needed to decide what he was going to do after high school. He’d been torn between going to college or following in his daddy’s footsteps and enlisting, yes, but in the end, he’d decided to do what he thought was best for his momma and sister. He’d taken the path that wasn’t what he’d necessarily wanted, but was one she’d thought had still made him happy.

Apparently she’d been wrong.

He reached for her hand again, and she allowed him to take it, mostly because she was too shocked to do anything else. “I know this isn’t what we planned—it isn’t what any of us planned—but I just… I couldn’t pretend any more. Every day I was gone not doing what I knew I should be felt like another day I was letting my dad down.”

“Hudson, you know that’s not true. He’d be proud of you just as you are.”

He nodded, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Logically, I know that. But in my heart?” He pressed her hand to his chest, the rapid thump beneath her palm making her ache. “I can’t stop feeling like I’m not living up to everything he told me I could be.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me about this?” Even though they’d had these plans in place to go to State and graduate…each go on to do mildly boring but practical jobs, she’d known deep down that Hudson wouldn’t have been satisfied with that. Not the guy who lived for adventure. Not the one who idolized his father, who put everything he had into keeping his loved ones safe. 

And what better way to do that than to follow in his dad’s legacy and fight for their country?

“I didn’t know how.”

The words cut her. Because the only thing she hadn’t been able to talk to Hudson about had been her feelings for him. Everything else? Every ounce of pain or uncertainty or happiness or sorrow in her life she’d been able to share with him. She hated that he hadn’t felt the same.

“What— ” She shook her head, trying to focus on the thoughts and questions bombarding her. But the single one that kept coming up over and over again was the same one that felt like a lead weight in her stomach. Like an arrow straight to her heart. “When?” 

As soon as the single syllable left her lips, tears stung her eyes. Her throat tightened as if some part of her already had everything figured out while the rest of her was still sitting in the unknown with some shadow of hope still hanging on. Maybe they’d have a while before he left. No matter how long or short it was, she’d take whatever time she could get with him. She’d take it and cling to it with everything she had. She’d make the most of—

“Next week.”

Mac’s breath left her in a whoosh, a wrecking ball smashing into her torso and stealing all the air in her lungs. She left for State on Monday. And he wasn’t going with her. 

They didn’t have months. They didn’t even have weeks. They had days. Hours

And then he’d be gone.


Ack. One step forward, two steps back. Wanna cuss me out for not letting our lovebirds bang? Join my reader group, the Brigade! Gossip on all things Havenbrook is welcomed and encouraged.

I'm back from Denver where the Romance Writers of America's National Convention was held this year. After a delayed flight in which I almost missed boarding, I got back very late Saturday night and have basically been in recovery mode ever since. I usually have one super long sleep when I get back, but I came home to an empty house (no husband, no kids, no dog), so I was all out of whack. 

But, ohhhhh, it was worth it! I always have so much fun at this conference  and this one wasn't any different. 

How better to kick off a writer conference than with drinks? NONE BETTER, THAT'S HOW.

Thank God I word better in my books than I do in here. That's all I'm sayin'.

One of those hands is a long-time fandom friend, and our meeting was ten years in the making! So glad it worked and we were finally in the same place at the same time.

Got to squeeze the lovely Kelly Siskind in Denver! Kelly was my mentee all the way back in 2014 when I was just a wee baby writer. I've loved watching her succeed in this business, and I'm so thankful to count her as a friend, as well as one of my most trusted colleagues. And also, she never disappoints with that's what she said jokes. I taught her well.

While we're on the subject of mentees, I might as well brag on a couple others! I got to meet Jessa Gwinn, one of my 2017 mentees, for the first time. And she took me as her date for the Golden Hearts Awards Luncheon. The manuscript we worked on, Beauty and the Blackmail, was nominated for a Golden Heart Award! I love this book so much, and I can't wait for the world to read it!

What's this? Another mentee? YA DAMN RIGHT IT IS. I strutted around the conference like a proud mama bear, and now I'm sharing it all over again with you! Suzanne Baltsar had her VERY FIRST SIGNING at RWA, and I got to witness it. 


Thursday night came and went in a blur of lace, tulle, and sequins—not to mention a glass or two of wine. The RITA award ceremony (the Oscars of the romance world) is the one night we go all out. We dress to the nines, we splurge on a fabulous restaurant (Ocean Prime...homg), and we wear uncomfortable shoes while dancing the night away. 

This year, we didn't dance. Instead, we beat the crowd and did these fun pics, then headed to the hotel restaurant for yummies and more drinks.

The night could've been worse, amirite?




Amazing (and only slightly painful) shoes.

Check, check, check, and check.

There's no better party than the Harlequin party. #Fact I love chatting with friends I haven't seen in way too long and discussing all sorts of shenanigans while screaming over the music. Plus there's dancing.

And have I mentioned the desserts?

And while, yes, it was a lot of working, I had time to sneak in some shenanigans. Texted hubs this pic of me cause he's always wondering what I'm up to at these things.

And while all of that was amazing, the absolute highlight of the conference for me was meeting these two ladies.

Writing can be a truly isolating profession, and it's sometimes hard to remember there are people out there actually reading my words and responding to them in their own way.

These two lovely ladies reminded me that I'm not out here all by myself, yelling into the void, and there is someone on the other end of all these words. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. <3


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