Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumn Bliss, Romancing Wisconsin #5

To everything there is a season...

Love finds a way during the four seasons in the Romancing Wisconsin Series. Starting with Christmas/Winter, then moving on to Autumn, check out the first six books in this bestselling, heartwarming series set in small town Wisconsin. Meet the Rileys, the Walshes, and best of all, Butch...a.k.a. Santa Butch. The mischievous matchmaker makes a cameo in each story—adding a touch of magic to the lives of everyone he loves, and even those he's just met.


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After a string of bad luck, Mallory Parker is convinced her future lies way beyond the streets of the small home town that stole her mother’s hopes and dreams. As soon as she saves enough money at her new job, she’s going to get out and get a life, and no one can tempt her to stay—until she meets the man who does.

Army veteran Levi Jenkins is still dealing with the aftermath of his last tour of duty. Working in the background as a maintenance man at Whispering Pines Lodge gives him the peace his soul craves. The last thing he wants is the distraction of a woman who charms his heart while teaching him to smile again. Or maybe, that’s exactly what he needs.

Levi fears loving her and losing her would be too much to endure—and yet, asking Mallory to stay could destroy the very essence that makes her so special. If either of them are to be happy, he must find the courage to set her free.


Splintered pieces of her favorite mug lay drowning in the mess. Might as well be her life. The weight of the past couple months pressed down. Years wasted with Doug. Losing her job. People looking at her as if she’d done something wrong. Her car. Her pathetic savings account.

So far, she’d managed to hold it all together with a smile. But now that smile was becoming too brittle to contain her swelling fury.

She spun around as the walls of the little cabin closed in on her. The emotions were too immense to be contained and if she didn’t get out, she would explode.

Outside, she turned the opposite direction of the lodge, and instead, marched along the trail that led toward Levi’s cabin. She’d never been this far before. The twin grooved tire tracks didn’t end at his place, but veered off, up into the woods, and she didn’t hesitate to follow them.

By the time she came across a small clearing that was clearly where Levi cut and chopped a lot of the lodge’s wood supply, she was one hundred percent officially pissed off.

There was a large ax propped up against a wide, flat stump. It looked like a sledge hammer with one end tapered to a sharpened point. Nearby lay a pile of larger chunks of wood that needed splitting. She walked over and grabbed the ax handle. It was heavy, but she didn’t care as she lifted it and swung it at the stump.

It missed by a couple inches and the weight of it threw her off balance. The side of the steel head banged into her ankle. She gasped as pain radiated up her leg, bringing instant tears.


She jumped about a foot, then spun around to see Levi striding up the trail toward her. Shit. She couldn’t deal with him right now. Didn’t want him to see her cry. Besides, the way he made her feel only added to her current frustrations.

“Go away,” she called out.

Adjusting her hands on the wooden handle, she turned back to the stump and swung again. This time she hit it, but the weight had rotated the handle in her hand mid-swing. Instead of the sharpened edge hitting the wood, the flat side of the ax bounced off the stump.

The force jarred her arms and shoulders, making her grit her teeth at the sting.

A moment later, Levi was beside her, his large hand reaching for the handle when she would’ve raised it again.


She shook her head. “I said leave me alone.”

“No.” His tone brooked no argument. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”

Despite the fact her ankle still throbbed where the steel had hit, she ground out, “I’m fine.”

He pulled on the handle, but she grabbed and hung on with both hands. Right now, it was about the only thing keeping her grounded. His hands snugged up against hers as they faced off with the ax held horizontally between them. The warmth of his skin registered through the seething emotions whirling inside her.

“I talked to Mark,” he said quietly, concern and understanding clear in his eyes.

“Good for you,” she snapped.

His gaze narrowed. A small part of her felt bad for taking her anger out on him. The rest of her was humiliated to know that he knew she was the reason for Holden’s withdrawal of support for the veterans.

She needed to hit something. Hard.

Holding his gaze without backing down, she silently dared him to take the ax away by force. He could do it easy, and she actually wanted him to force the physical confrontation.

Instead, he gave a brief nod. “Okay. You want to work off some steam, I get it. I don’t want to have to rush you to the emergency room, so let me show you the right way to do it and it’s all yours.”

“Fine.” She shoved the handle toward him and let go at the same time.

Arms crossed over her chest, all her weight on one leg, she waited. He transferred the ax to one hand and let it swing down alongside his leg. Then he walked over for a hunk of wood and returned to set it on the stump, cut side up. Once he moved into position, he glanced back to where she stood.

“Hands like this, then swing back, and around, and bring it down so the sharp edge hits the wood in the center.”

In one fluid motion, he did exactly as he described and split the piece of wood clean in half. Facing her, he asked, “Got it?”

“Yeah. I got it.”

His eyebrow arched at her sarcasm, but she didn’t care. It felt good to not care for once. To not pretend like she was okay with the raw deal life had handed her lately. Felt great actually.

He extended the ax and she wrenched it from his grasp. Only he let go at the same time and she stumbled at the unexpected lack of resistance. His lightning fast steadying grip only annoyed her more.

She stepped into position as he placed a log on the stump for her, then stood back slightly, off to her left.

“No. Put your hands like I showed you.”

She’d seen his swing, and the subsequent play of muscles beneath his T-shirt, but prior to that, she’d been focused on him, not the instructions. She moved her hands closer together.

“This isn’t baseball.”

She moved them farther apart.

“I thought you said you got it?” he huffed as he stepped up behind her.

His arms closed around her, his hands sliding down to adjust her grip on the handle as the front of his body came into full contact with her back. She sucked in a surprised breath and smelled nothing but Levi.

From one heartbeat to the next, all her anger and frustration morphed into intense awareness that literally had her trembling in her boots.

He’d gone completely still. His heat seeped through her clothes. After a moment, he cleared his throat and moved her left hand up one inch. “There, try that.”

His rough voice in her ear sent all kinds of delicious tingles tripping along her nerve endings. Yet he didn’t let go or step away.

Heart pounding, she turned her head far enough to see his face. His gaze locked on hers, a gorgeous green full of the desire she’d desperately been trying to ignore.

She twisted in his arms at the same time his head lowered. His mouth took hers in a wild, possessive kiss that weakened her knees and made her grab on for dear life. His head tilted, his tongue stroking deep, setting off tremors inside her body that begged for release.

It’d been so long since she’d been with a man, and even longer still since she’d felt such unleashed passion. As if he were as desperate for her as she was for him.

As she pulled him closer, the handle of the forgotten ax between them bit into her rib-cage. The painful jab made her gasp against his mouth. It also reminded her of what had brought her to this point.

Kissing Levi didn’t change her situation—in fact, it made it worse. He was just the kind of man she’d stay in Pulaski for.


A hard shove made him stumble back a step. Confusion and surprise and something else she couldn’t identify dulled the vibrant color of his eyes. She ignored the rush of guilt, and grabbed the ax handle with both hands.


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Thanks and Happy Reading!

~ Stacey

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