I’m so excited to give you a sneak peek of my Paranormal Women’s Fiction– Let it All Burn!
Let it All Burn releases on Tuesday, February 18 on AMAZON ONLY and will be in Kindle Unlimited.
I wrote this book in conjunction with twelve authors to launch the new Paranormal Women’s Fiction genre and part of the arrangement was to release the book into Amazon and KU at $2.99
HOWEVER, since I have so many readers who buy from other retailers, I am releasing Let it All Burn on Apple, Google Play, Kobo, and Nook on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17. For one day only.
The book is available for preorder on Apple, Google Play, Kobo, and Nook.
The book is NOT available for preorder on Amazon.
The print book will be available on Tuesday, February 18. I have no plans for an audiobook at this time.
Darcie Weatherby has a full plate—a preteen and sixteen-year-old twins, a wayward grandmother, a nightmare boss, and a manipulative ex-husband. The last thing she needs is hot flashes.
Especially ones that start fires.
But like most single mothers, Darcie sucks it up and deals with it, because what else can she do? The kids need to be fed, her grandmother needs supervising, and her demanding boss needs placating.
Burning her boss’s house down was a total accident.
It doesn’t take long before Darcie realizes she’s running on borrowed time. Unless she figures out a way to get these hot flashes under control, there’s a very good chance she’ll spontaneously combust at the Founder’s Day Masquerade Ball and leave her children motherless. There’s no way in hell—or Perry’s Fall, Ohio—Darcie will let that happen.
Never underestimate the determination of a mother.
Especially a smokin’ hot one.
Amazon releases on February 18
My life turned to crap at a Tupperware party.
Considering that my life wasn’t great to begin with, that was saying something.
The kicker is that it wasn’t even real Tupperware. It was some cheap knockoff plasticware MLM party that my boss, Nikki, was hosting. I wasn’t sure it was legal to insist your entire office staff attend your Super Sort and Seal storage party, but the possibility of breaking laws had never stopped Nikki. She broke at least half a dozen a week.
“I can’t believe she made me come to this thing,” Parker said. He was an accounts manager at Lisman and Freud International Shipping, and I was the first to admit that he wasn’t part of Super Sort and Seal’s core demographic.
“I can’t believe you actually came,” I muttered under my breath. I was a forty-two-year-old newly single mother of three, who had been lucky to get my low-level assistant-to-an-assistant job after working as a stay-at-home mother for fifteen years and working part-time the last couple of years for my best friend. It had taken two months to get this crap job—turned out no one wanted to hire a divorcée whose most recent job experience was limited part-time employment at her friend’s coffee shop—which meant I couldn’t afford to make waves. When Nikki said jump, I pulled out a mini trampoline to get higher than she requested. Parker, on the other hand, was thirty-three, also newly single, and extremely good-looking—he could afford to piss off our boss. Especially since she’d made no secret of the fact that she’d like to take advantage of his availability.
“I could use some new plasticware,” Kristie said with a sweet smile. She had the kind of optimism only possible for a twenty-seven-year-old who had lived a charmed life and married her high school sweetheart. She was my co-assistant and had taken me under her wing when I’d been a new hire four months ago. “Chris told me to order as much as I like. Plus,” she added, lowering her voice, “I think it’s fun to hang out with my friends outside of work.”
I glanced around the small living room packed to the brim with twenty or more people, all of whom worked for Lisman and Freud International Shipping. Other than Kristie, I wouldn’t exactly call them friends, and I definitely had better things to do. “For the first time in weeks, all three of my kids are home,” I told her with a heavy sigh. “Between Harriet’s dance classes, Elena’s music lessons, and Jack’s basketball practice and games, it’s a rare occasion.”
“Your son plays basketball? What position does he play?” Parker asked, shifting his weight on the thinly padded folding chair.
“Point guard,” I said.
He nodded his approval.
“How tall is he?” Kristie asked.
“Six foot and still growing,” I said. “And eating like a horse.” That boy could put away more food than both of his sisters combined.
“He goes to Ridgewood High, doesn’t he?” Parker asked. “They went to state last year.” I gave Parker a look of surprise, and he grinned, saying, “I graduated from Ridgewood. I keep up with their stats. I thought I recognized the name Weatherby. He’s a starter.”
“And only a sophomore. He’s hoping for a scholarship.”
“Did you play basketball, Parker?” Nikki asked as she walked up behind him, then rested her hand on his shoulder. She tried to make it look casual, but her fingertips lightly brushed his button-down shirt. I could understand why she was interested. Parker was a very attractive man. Tall, lean, short light-brown hair, soft gray eyes—quite a few women in the office were taken with him, even the married ones. While corporate took a lax stance on interoffice relationships, they still frowned upon bosses sleeping with their employees.
Parker’s eyes widened as he shifted from underneath her hand. “No. I was more into football.”
Nikki sidled next to him, pressing her hip into his arm. “I would have guessed that about you.”
Horror washed over Parker’s face, and he jumped out of his seat. “I think I’ll go check out the vegetable tray.”
I couldn’t blame him. Nikki was only a few years older than him, and she was likely most men’s ideal woman with her blond hair and big boobs, but her chipmunk voice and abrasive personality ruined it for her.
“When is the party supposed to start?” I asked, glancing around. The Super Sort and Seal demonstrator had been putting the finishing touches on her display twenty minutes ago, but I hadn’t seen her since.
Nikki looked down her nose at me—literally. “It’s not like you have much of a life to get back to, Darcie. Not since your cute British husband left you for that twenty-something in his bio class.”
My dormant anger ignited, and I clenched my hands to keep from throttling her. “My husband wasn’t my life.”
“No kidding,” she said dryly. “Which is probably why he left you.”
She’d gotten a few things right, but most of it wrong. Richard was British, although his parents had brought him to the U.S. when he was five, and at times, I was sure he worked hard to keep his accent since it gained him so much attention. Richard hadn’t left me. I’d kicked him out, but only after discovering he’d been screwing his TA for months. He wasn’t a biology professor. His doctorate was in nineteenth-century American literature, and Tiffany had been TAing for his freshman American lit class. And sure, my focus had been on the kids long before the divorce, but who could blame me? In a conversation about Frankenstein, which had been assigned reading for Harriet and Jack, Richard had called me boring and pedantic and claimed I couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation about anything, let alone his passion, nineteenth-century American horror literature. Of course, I’d pointed out that Frankenstein wasn’t American horror, but actually European—something he should have known given it had been penned by an Englishwoman and completed in his beloved homeland.
That had been our last conversation about anything outside of the kids’ schedules, his mother’s many psychosomatic ailments, and who was picking up dinner.
Strangely, I hadn’t missed him one iota since he’d left, but I did miss his paycheck. A teenage boy ate nearly his weight in food a day, and Jack usually had two to three friends at our house, consuming even more food. Harriet’s dance lessons weren’t cheap, and then there were Elena’s braces and music lessons…
Kids sucked up a lot of money, and Richard had decided the family expenses were no longer his concern. He was “finding himself”—otherwise known as a midlife crisis—which included the stereotypical convertible and bachelor pad apartment to go with the twenty-two-year-old English major. I probably should have fought him harder over the divorce settlement—plenty of people had told me so—but at the end I’d been exhausted. I’d wanted it to be over. And while I understood I could take him to court over nonpayment of child support, I didn’t want to put the kids through that after they’d already been through so much.
So I really needed this job. At least for another eight months until I had a solid year of recent employment to put on my résumé. And considering how long it had taken me to find this miserable excuse for a job, I’d probably drop a decade off my birthdate while I was at it. A woman in her thirties was much more likely to get a job than one in her forties. All of which meant I couldn’t strangle my boss.
At least not yet.
“Excuse me, Nikki…” Minka said from across the room. “How long do you think this party will last?”
She was another guest who had surprised me by making an appearance at the party. Minka was in her sixties and always looked like she’d stepped out of a fashion magazine with her tailored clothes and her thick white hair pulled up in a French twist. She’d moved to the U.S. when she was in elementary school, but her Polish accent still lingered, even though she’d spent the majority of her life outside of her birthplace. Minka was quiet and tended to keep to herself, but it looked like she’d had enough togetherness, what with the twenty or so of us crammed into Nikki’s small living room. Still, I wasn’t sure why she’d come in the first place. She never seemed to feel threatened by our boss and rarely took time off, which meant she probably hadn’t come out of worry Nikki might deny her next vacation request.
“I don’t know, Minka,” Nikki’s voice squeaked. “It’ll last as long as it takes.”
Kristie released a tiny laugh behind her hand, which was a good thing. Nikki would be furious if she caught Kristie laughing at her.
“I need to leave at 7:48 to feed my cats,” Minka said, her chin raised and her eyes darting around the room as if waiting for one of us to say something about her being a cat lady.
“I need to feed my dog,” Parker said, returning with a plate holding a couple of carrots and a piece of celery. Nikki had apparently missed the memo that food was one of the only enticements to hang around at these parties. Her sole offering was a vegetable tray that looked like it was past its sell-by date.
Nikki’s eyes narrowed and she propped her hands on her hips. “You don’t have a dog.”
“Uh… I’m watching my neighbor’s dog. He’s very needy. He likes to be fed at 7:32 every night, and he’ll be chomping at the bit for his dinner.” He became more enthusiastic as his story went on, and Nikki’s eyes narrowed more and more until I wasn’t sure how she could see through the narrow slits.
“Sorry about that, everyone!” a woman called from the doorway to the kitchen. “I had to run back home and get the prizes. Silly me! How could I have forgotten something like that?”
She burst into the room, obviously flustered as she squeezed through the maze of feet and legs belonging to all the people crammed into the space. The small living room had a sofa and one armchair, and the rest of the room was stuffed with dining room and folding chairs, along with a folding table in front of the picture window. I’d gotten to Nikki’s early and had claimed a spot on the sofa. Now I wished I’d been late and gotten a seat by the back door. I might have been able to slip out unnoticed.
Parker resumed his seat in the folding chair next to me and grimaced as he took a bite of one of the carrots. He swallowed, although I suspect he might have spat it out if Nikki weren’t right next to us. It came as no surprise when he tossed the remainder onto the plate and slipped it under his seat.
“Hello, everyone,” the rep said in an overloud, overly excited voice while tucking a strand of her mouse-brown hair behind her ear. She nervously scanned the room. “Oh my. There’s so many of you.”
“I told you I’d pack ’em in,” Nikki said, beaming with pride. Of course it was easy to get your minions to show up when you threatened their vacation schedules, their only respite from a boss from hell.
The demonstrator’s voice wavered and her hands shook as she said, “I’m Haley, your Super Sort and Seal party rep! Who’s ready to party tonight?”
She tried to sound enthusiastic, but she looked like she was about to vomit.
The room was entirely silent.
I felt sorry for her, left hanging like that, so I called out, “We’re ready to party like it’s 2008!”
Kristie scrunched up her nose and gave me a look that suggested she was sure I’d lost my mind. The rest of the room looked just as baffled, but it was Haley’s confusion that made me defend myself.
“Two thousand and eight,” I said in a defensive tone. “The year of Super Sort and Seal’s first in-home party.” Then I added, “Nikki said there would be a trivia contest about the company. The winner gets a Super Sort and Seal storage system.” I wasn’t ashamed to admit I’d scoured the catalogue and even done a Google search to bone up on my knowledge.
Haley’s eyes lit up like a low-energy light bulb, going from dim to bright in about five seconds. “Oh…I see what you did there.”
“What a weirdo,” Eunice from accounting said across the room in the judgmental tone we were all used to. She wasn’t looking at anyone as she said it, so I decided to be generous and presume she was talking about Haley and not me.
“Hey,” I said, “I have three kids at home who are constantly eating. I like to do food prep ahead so they can heat it up and eat.”
Minka gave me an approving nod. “I like to sort my cats’ meals in resealable containers too. Then they’re ready to pop into the microwave and heat up. All ten of them have different diets, so I color-code the lids.”
“Did she just say she heats up her cats’ food?” Kristie asked under her breath.
“Did she just admit that she has ten of them?” Parker whispered in horror. He shook his head. “No wonder everyone calls her the Crazy Cat Lady.”
Sue from the sales team whipped out her phone and held up her screen, showing a photo of multiple dogs. “These are my babies– Cooper, Doozee, Rowdy, Peewee and Tina Fey. They all have different diets as well, but I just store their homemade food in those resealable bags. Never Tupperware.”
Haley jutted out her chin and shook her head, wagging a finger around the room. “Word to the wise—Tupperware’s a dirty word around here, not to mention their sales are on the decline. Everyone knows that Super Sort and Seal is the world’s leading food storage containment system.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” a woman from the sales team said. “I’m pretty sure that Tupperware and Rubbermaid have you beat.”
Haley opened her mouth and took a step forward to say something, then stopped and pressed her lips into a tight line.
“And if Tupperware’s on the decline,” another woman said, “it’s because the CDC has declared it’s unsafe to store food in plastic containers.”
Haley’s eyes bugged out.
“That’s not true,” Parker said. “The CDC never said that.”
“Thank you,” Haley said with a grateful look.
“But multiple scientific studies have proven that BPA plastic is unsafe,” he added. “The chemicals leach into the food. I noticed in the catalogue there was no mention of your products being BPA-free.”
“Look,” I said, “my kids eat the dang food too fast for any leaching to occur. Did I win the prize pack?”
Haley held up her hands and patted the air. “Hold on, everyone. Let me get this party officially started.”
Eunice glared at me over her glasses.
Haley picked up a small catalogue and looked on the back, obviously reading, “Super Sort and Seal food storage containers were the brainstorm of Paul and Mindy Piper from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first home party was in 2008.” She looked at me over the top of the catalogue. “Hey, you were right.”
“So do I win?” I asked. If I won, maybe I could get my prize, pretend to grab more veggies, and slip out the back door.
“Not so fast, Darcie,” Nikki said with a look of disgust. “You need to order lots of Super Sort and Seal containers. I figured you’d want plenty of them with all those kids. I need the points for the Super Sort and Seal Party Pack margarita set.”
I gave Nikki a dry look. “I can’t afford to buy anything. I can barely pay the bills and buy food for my three kids and grandmother.”
Nikki propped her hands on her hips. “You’re not buying anything?”
“Nikki, you pay me fifteen dollars an hour. It barely covers my food bill, let alone the utilities and things like clothes and lesson fees. Where am I going to come up with the money for those overpriced plastic bowls?”
“Do you have glass containers?” Parker asked, then sent me a wink.
Haley flipped through several pages of the catalogue before glancing up at him with a crestfallen look. “No. It doesn’t look like it.”
“You have to buy something,” Nikki said. Her piercing gaze swept the room. “All of you are buying something! I need the damn points, people!”
“They can get points for hosting a party,” Haley suggested enthusiastically, then turned to me. “You can host your own Super Sort and Seal party and earn points to get the Super Sort and Seal Family Storage Pack.”
Out of nowhere, my skin began to flush.
I had to stand firm on this. My best friend, Cyn, said I was the world’s biggest pushover, which was why Richard had gotten away with so much crap over the years. If I caved and booked a party, she’d tease me mercilessly. And she definitely wouldn’t come. No one would.
I shook my head. “No. I can’t.”
Nikki’s eyes darkened, and I felt like I’d walked into a four-hundred-degree oven. I picked up the catalogue on my lap and began to fan myself.
What the heck was wrong with me?
“You can’t do that, Nikki,” said a woman from accounting. “You can’t force us to buy things. It’s against the law.”
“You don’t have a union!” Nikki shouted, pointing her finger at her. “There is no law against Tupperware parties!”
“Super Sort and Seal,” Haley interjected, but she looked scared of her hostess, a legitimate fear.
Sweat broke out on the back of my neck and beaded on my forehead. I fanned harder, but now the back of my shirt felt wet.
“I am the law at Lisman and Freud International Shipping!” Nikki shouted, her chipmunk voice sounding even squeakier than usual.
“That’s not true,” a woman from marketing said sheepishly. “There are federal and state laws about what you can and can’t do, and I’m pretty sure that making your approval of our vacation requests contingent on attending this party and buying Tupperware is illegal.”
“So arrest me!” Nikki shouted, thrusting her hands toward her as though she were offering them to be cuffed.
The heat in my body continued to rise, and I was a half second away from ripping my shirt over my head. I rested my hand on the sofa cushion beside me, preparing to launch myself up and outside, hoping the January evening would cool me off. There were too many people packed in this room, and the furnace was likely turned up to eighty.
“Oh my gosh, Darcie,” Kristie murmured. “Are you okay?”
“She’s having a hot flash,” Minka whispered, giving me a knowing look.
A hot flash? I was forty-two, for heaven’s sake. Much too young to be having a hot flash.
“Do you smell smoke?” Haley asked, sniffing with her nose in the air. “I smell smoke.”
“I smell it too,” someone murmured. “It smells like burning snickerdoodles. Are you baking, Nikki?”
“Baking!” Nikki barked with a short laugh. “I don’t bake.” Then she looked frantically around the room. “But something is definitely burning.”
“It’s the sofa!” Parker exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. Before I knew what was happening, he’d reached down and pulled me off the couch.
Kristie let out a shriek as a plume of smoke billowed from the spot where I’d been sitting—within arm’s length from where she currently sat. As she leapt up, flames shot into the air.
It was mass chaos after that. Later, the fire marshal said it was a wonder all twenty-seven of us made it out alive. Cramming that many people into such a small space was against the fire code, it turned out, and they slapped Nikki with a fine.
Even I had to agree the punishment was excessive, considering Nikki’s house had burned to the ground. The only thing left was a pile of ashes. And poor Haley was a mess, crying over the complete loss of her Super Sort and Seal starter pack.
And me…little did I know that was the beginning of the end of life as I knew it.