Lipstick & Danger

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Labor Of Love Blog Hop

#LOLHop #giveaway #romance

Thank you for stopping
by for the Labor of Love Blog Hop. I’m excited to share with you the beginning
of the Enigma Series by offering the ebook, An Unlikely Hero free for Amazon
Kindle starting Tuesday, September 8th-10th. So even if
you don’t win a new Kindle loaded with incredible books from authors you meet
on this blog hop, you can still take advantage of this free deal.

I’ve been so blessed in
starting this series. When I lived in Northern California I was always being
mistaken for a woman named Melanie. People would start talking to me then panic
when they realized I wasn’t her. Even the DMV took me aside and questioned me
about who I really was and where I lived before moving to Grass Valley. I began
wondering who this woman might be and what kind of trouble she was in or could
get into. My imagination took over and Tessa Scott was born.


For your free copy use this link:

An Unlikely Hero
Tessa Scott is living the American dream – big house,
successful husband, and three beautiful children. No one suspected a Libyan
terrorist is at work nearby.  When Tessa sends her family on vacation
after another fight with her husband, she expects a relaxing week of solitude.
Instead she is confronted with a bomb in her backyard, and the terrorist group
who are looking for it. Tessa survives only due to the entrance of Captain
Chase Hunter, a man who seems just as dangerous as the terrorists.  Unsure
who she can trust, Tessa is drawn into his secret world of terrorists and
national security. Powerless to resist, Tessa is forced to survive the
unthinkable, from confronting perilous brushes with death to becoming a sitting
duck for men who are out to savage the world as we know it.
 Meanwhile, the self-possessed Captain Hunter finds
that Tessa Scott is affecting him in a way he thought no woman could. The two
are forced into a complicated partnership as they work together to unravel a
terrorist plot that will affect thousands of people. The stakes are raised when
Tessa discovers that her family is in danger from the same terrorists. Will
Captain Hunter save them, or is he looking for Tessa to save him?

An Unlikely Hero is
an enthralling tale of a seemingly ordinary woman who is compelled to
emerge as altogether extraordinary in the face of sinister schemes, brutal
aggressors, and worldwide implications. 
With an intricate storyline, complex characters, and blood-pumping
action, An Unlikely Hero is likely to
have you riveted to each high-velocity turn of events.

If you would like to read the first chapter you’ll find it here. Since there are so many to visit on this blog hop you may want to return later. Remember it is free Tuesday-Thursday of this coming week. Leave a comment and I’ll enter you into a separate contest for another free book which is the sequel to An Unlikely Hero. It’s called Winds of Deception. Same characters and a little more clinging to the edge of your seat I’m told. The reason I mention this is because Enigma III Rooftop Angels is at the editor even as we speak. So getting started now you’ll be ready to see what mischief Tessa gets into next.

Don’t forget to follow the other bloggers. 


After reading the first chapter leave a comment for a chance to win another ebook from Amazon.
An Unlikely Hero
Chapter One
     Sticky from the
late summer night air, Jamaal meticulously continued to work on the bomb lying
on the workbench.  His dark hand slipped
only once, causing the Libyan to suck in his breath and step back.  For weeks he’d practiced in the desert of his
home with others just like him learning how to make these kinds of bombs. A
quick student, Jamaal had gotten the attention of one man who decided his
skills needed to be put to the ultimate test. 
A promise of money only slightly overshadowed the reward of hurting the
Americans. As his heartbeat returned to normal he once more fingered what he
hoped would be a weapon of distraction. 
Finally Jamaal slowly removed his hands and smiled at the completion of
the toy-like monster.  It hadn’t taken
any more work than a conventional bomb, he decided. 
     Dynamite had been
ridiculously easy to obtain from a mining company north of Nevada City which
was in the process of closing. The difficult part had been securing the
radioactive material. But a disgruntled hospital employee willingly provided
access for Jamaal’s boss to obtain the final component for the weapon before
him. Various online markets sold military toys that were so life-like Jamaal
wondered why Homeland Security hadn’t shut them down. The secure radioactive
container easily slipped inside the missile. 
His boss had convinced him it would be enough. Adapting his army green
missile with explosives, although tricky, had not been beyond his ability. The
connection to the launcher was another matter. Would it adapt to carrying this
small attachment now that it was heavier? For the last several hours Jamaal had
trouble with the launcher turning on prematurely with the added weight.  By accident he discovered if he propped it
upright as if it were being held the lights failed to flash a warning of
     No longer would he
be the butt of jokes calling him a stupid fool.
     His associates
would be pleased.
     His reward and
recognition would be great.
     Only one more
thing to do.  Launch.  Tomorrow. 
The first of many tomorrows.
     It would be simple.  Near dawn he would load the readapted toy
which had been fitted with his attachment into the trunk of his car. Sacramento
was less than an hour away so he wanted to leave early enough to find a good
parking spot along the way.  He had been
monitoring traffic helicopters for weeks. 
He knew exactly which one would be the target. Bringing it down over a
populated area where several highways merged would be child’s play. The
authorities would realize later something more heinous had occurred than a
helicopter crashing into rush hour traffic. 
By then what little radioactive poison survived would throw authorities
into a panic.  His boss could move
forward with bigger plans while the country kept eyes on Sacramento.
     Jamaal yawned,
realizing he’d been working since early morning without much of a break.  After making sure the weapon was secure, he
gently let his hands hover over the finished project and smiled once more,
knowing his glory would soon be visible to the world.  Backing toward the shed door he reached
behind him to twist the doorknob.  Even
now Jamaal struggled to tear his eyes away from his creation.  As the door creaked open Jamaal unwittingly
paused long enough for the neighbor’s cat to slip quietly into the shadows of
the stacked lumber in the corner. 
     The light
extinguished, Jamaal stepped into the night, closing the door behind him. The
smell of the neighbor’s freshly cut grass made him decide that would be what he
missed about California.  There wasn’t
much grass in Libya. A breeze touched his serious face as he tucked his head
and made for the back door. Nearby someone had fired up a grill for a late
night dinner. He paused, hearing a dog bark and the distant laughter of men
sharing something he would never understand. This country was too friendly, too
trusting.  He wondered in that moment if
he would be able to sleep?  The others
had gone to bed hours ago after evening prayers. Softly he called the cat that
had been coming around at night.  A
saucer of milk each visit kept the creature returning.      
     The excited cry of
the cat inside the shed forced Jamaal’s feet to trip, sprawling him onto the
damp grass. Pushing up in desperation he stumbled toward the door hearing the
clatter of obstacles the cat moved as it raced toward what he guessed was a
     As the door flung
open he saw the tabby crouched on silent feet, inching closer to the
workbench.  Movement from above was ever
so slight. Jamaal cried out just as both the cat and mouse ran, fell and
tumbled over wires, metal, tools and ticking machines.  The man rushed in just as the tabby paused
long enough to spot the terrified rodent cowering beneath the large
cylinder-like object that the man had stared so longingly at moments before the
lights vanished. 
     Something close to
lightning speed touched the mouse and it was running for its life, but not
before the tabby cried out pouncing on the very spot in which the small
creature had tried to disappear.  A roar,
flashing red lights and a hissing sound imploded the room when the cat landed
on the man’s machine.  With agile
reflexes the feline leaped once more onto the floor and escaped into the
corner, not noticing that the rodent was right next to him.  The workbench began to vibrate and in the
next instant the machine expelled a tail of fire before crashing through the
windows into the night sky.
     The cries of anguish
from the man startled the cat into making a quick escape.  Dogs began to bark throughout the
neighborhood. Porch lights flickered on and then off as houses began to stir at
the wails of a desperate man running into his backyard before collapsing to his
     “A client,
Robert!  How could you?”  Tessa Scott doubled her fists as they landed
angrily on her hips, a stance she often took when ready to do battle.  She fell wearily onto the bed, staring up at
the ceiling. The day had been one mishap after another.  The bleach spilled on her favorite pair of
shorts.  It took three hours to get the
oil changed at Wal-Mart.  Her two older
sons got into a fistfight in front of Reverend Phillips.  When she tried to break them up, her precious
little girl had laughed, saying “Oh shit!” 
The boys had frozen at that point, looking very sheepish and
innocent.  To the credit of Daniel, the
middle child, he switched the attention from his little sister to her.  “Mom, Dad told you if you didn’t stop saying that
word one of us would pick it up.”  The
good reverend could hardly contain his smile of embarrassment and graciously
left them in the tire and lube waiting room of Wal-Mart.
     To make matters
worse the dryer was acting so sluggish that she ended up hanging their clothes
that were to be packed for vacation, outside on a clothesline, only to be
called by Mr. Crawley from next door who reminded her that there was a covenant
in the subdivision about public displays of laundry. He emphasized a hillbilly
could do that in Tennessee where she grew up, but it was unacceptable in
northern California. Of course the clothes, although fresh smelling now, all
needed to be ironed.  She hadn’t even had
a shower today or looked in a mirror since 8 a.m. After heading the children
off to bathtubs, Tessa had longed to crumple onto the bed to breathe.  That’s when Robert had come home, bounded up
the stairs and jumped into the room like a twelve year old.
     He held his finger
to his lips and gently pulled her up as her body tried to slide back down to
the bed.  “I know. I know.  I should have called first.”  Robert kissed her cheek and rubbed her back
gently.  “It’s just dinner,
sweetheart.”  Robert tried to disarm her
with his boyish charm as he began pushing her toward the bathroom.
     Tessa pushed him
at arm’s length.  “We’re leaving early
tomorrow morning for Tahoe.  You
should’ve taken him out.”
     “He likes the
domestic scene, honey, impresses him when the people around him are into family.”
     Tessa rolled her
eyes upward then leveled a hard gaze at her husband.  “Since when are you into family?  You missed all but two of Sean Patrick’s
ballgames, the spring concert at school and Heather’s third birthday
party!  We haven’t had a night out in six
months!  Daniel is so glued to the
computer he’s beginning to think you’re a virtual reality game show host!”
     Robert chuckled
weakly and followed her into the bathroom. 
“I’ll fire up the grill and take a few steaks out of the cooler already
packed for Tahoe.  All you have to do is
toss a salad, nuke a couple of potatoes and presto!” he said happily.
     “Oh Robert, I’m
tired,” she moaned, knowing she’d lost as he pulled her into his arms tenderly.
     Robert wrinkled
his brow.  “For Heaven sakes why?  You’re home all day.  You just play with the kids and stuff.”  He released her suddenly and fled into the
bedroom.  “Fix yourself up a bit, will
ya?  You look like you’ve been on combat
maneuvers.”  Robert removed his tie and
eagerly left the room, whistling You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog.”
     Tessa turned to look at herself in
the mirror and was shocked at how old she looked.  The day, no, the years were taking their toll
on her.   She felt used up.  Drained of energy and of life, the thirty
five year old housewife wondered where her dreams had gone, her beauty, and her
drive?  Had she sacrificed them all for
Robert’s career?  Did the well-being of
her children crowd out any room for her own desires?  The answer was simple.  Yes. 
Tessa had become invisible as a person of distinction. 
     Mindlessly, Tessa
turned on the shower and stripped off her grimy, bleach spotted clothes.  As she stepped into the shower and let the
hot water vaporize her sadness, Tessa began to form a decision.  Somewhere between the peach smelling shampoo
and the quickly shaved legs, Tessa turned a corner into a new life, one she had
not exactly expected, but one she embraced nonetheless.
     Robert swung
Heather up into his tan arms and hugged her, careful never to take his eyes off
Mr. Feldspar, who was rattling on and on about his son that was a quarterback
for Texas A & M.  He felt Heather’s
warm kisses on his cheek and quickly put her down so he could concentrate,
regretting that once again he’d put the job first.  There was nothing as important as little girl
kisses and he could see in Heather’s pouty mouth that she didn’t understand.
    As Heather skipped
out of the room in her pink pajamas, Tessa strolled in as if the act had been
the height of her day.  Robert suddenly
found himself not listening to Mr. Feldspar. He marveled at how beautiful his
wife looked tonight and vowed to tell her later, if he didn’t fall asleep
first.  Even though she’d put on a few
pounds since Heather was born, Tessa still looked good in a pair of black
slacks and that ivory tunic she sometimes wore. 
He saw the same pouty mouth that she’d given to Heather and forced
himself to tear his eyes away as he interrupted the client.
     “Mr. Feldspar,
this is Tessa, my better half.”  Robert
slightly brushed against her elbow as she outstretched her slim fingers to
entwine with Mr. Feldspar’s hand.  The
smell of peaches in her blond hair made Robert feel a little dizzy.  They continued to hold hands as Mr. Feldspar
remarked on how charming her little girl was and that now he could see
why.  Tessa laughed lightly followed by a
comment about how nice to have him come for dinner.  Good old Tessa!  She was always there in a pinch.  Robert could tell that the client was
devouring Tessa’s attention like French chocolate cheesecake.
     “Mom, Daniel hid
my binoculars!”  Ten-year-old Sean
Patrick entered the room in camouflage cotton pajamas.  His young body already showed signs of
maturing into a rugged teenager that would probably grow into a taller man than
his nearly six foot father.  His dark
brown hair had been streaked by the exposure of the summer sun.  There was a way he narrowed his round brown
eyes that made everyone sit up and take notice immediately.  This child would be a commander someday,
Tessa realized with pleasure.  Having
wanted to enter the army herself after high school, Tessa had always encouraged
her son’s interest in military toys, games and movies. Envisioning him at West
Point or the Naval Academy was a faraway dream right now. Although her parents
had forbidden her to even think about joining, Tessa promised herself if her
child chose that direction no one would stand in his way. Her eyes momentarily
flicked to her husband. Not even you,
she vowed.
    She smiled patiently
at her oldest child.  “I packed them for
you, sweetheart.  I knew you would want
to be spying on unsuspecting tourists at the lake.  Daniel is just doing another mind game on
you.”  Gently, Tessa pulled Sean Patrick
closer to her side and faced him toward Mr. Feldspar.  “Sean, this is a friend of Daddy’s.  Mr. Feldspar’s son plays football for Texas A
& M.” 
     Sean Patrick
pulled back his shoulders and stuck out his hand.  “Nice to meet you, sir.”
     “Back at ya,
son.”  Mr. Feldspar glanced over at
Robert.  “Manners.  Not much of that these days.”
     “I’ll be going
now, sir.  Dad.  Mom.” 
Sean Patrick pivoted on his heels like he was marching to war and exited
the room in a timely manner.
     Tessa sighed.
“Children. They make life wonderful.” 
She turned back toward the kitchen after refilling Mr. Feldspar’s tea
class.  After making the salad she placed
three baking potatoes in the microwave. 
By the time she’d carried the sides to the porch where the men sat
laughing a commotion broke out upstairs. 
The sound of a door slamming rushed through the open kitchen window
followed by yells and pounding fists against some wooden surface. 
     “Tessa, you’d
better see to the boys,” Robert said nervously as he waved a hand toward the
upstairs’ windows.
     “I think you’re
right.  Oh, I think the steaks are
ready.  The grill is smoking.”
     As Robert
retrieved the steaks from the patio grill, Tessa headed upstairs to find Sean
Patrick sitting cross-legged outside the bathroom door with his arms folded.  A scowl on his lips and a clenched jaw told
Tessa that Daniel was now either a POW or had been forced into one of Tessa’s
old dresses and tied up with a pair of pantyhose.
Patrick!  Report!”
     “Daniel needs to
pay for tricking me.  He needs to learn
some respect for his elders.  I simply
tied him up then used some of your makeup on him, then took his picture.”  At this he grinned.  “Mission accomplished.”
     “Well done,
major.  Now release the prisoner.”  Tessa watched him open the door and bit her
lip as her eyes fell upon her middle child. 
It was all she could do to keep from bursting into gales of laughter at
seeing her son all rosy cheeked and ruby lipped.  “Sean, untie him.” 
     “He’ll attack.”
     “I’ll take my
chances.  Now move!”  Tessa folded her arms as eight year old
Daniel was released.  Sean Patrick
quickly retreated behind his mother as Daniel leveled a murderous look at his
brother.  “I think you boys should go to
     “Mom!”  Daniel wailed in protest.  He pointed a finger at his brother.  “He…” Daniel grabbed a hand towel hanging
lopsided on the sink.
revenge.  I know.  What have we learned from this?”
     Sean Patrick might
be the military, but Daniel was Commander in Chief.  “Always have a way out.”
     “Run silent, run
deep or you’ll have to listen to your mom’s psychology crap for the millionth
time,” he smirked.
      Tessa swatted him
hard on his bottom, which caused both boys to laugh and grab her tightly so she
couldn’t move.  “I give up!” she
giggled.  “You better go to bed.  Your father is not happy with your behavior.”
     “So what’s
new?”  Sean Patrick frowned.
     “He loves you very
much, boys.  He works very hard for us.”
     Daniel gave his
mother one more hug.  “Night, Mom.  I love you.”
     Sean Patrick put
his hands on his hips and mocked his brother in a girlish voice.  “Night, Mommy, I love you.”  Daniel stuck out his tongue and disappeared
out the door of the bathroom, wiping his face on one of Tessa’s new
towels.   Down the hall he scampered into
the room he shared with his brother.
     Sean Patrick
relaxed and looked up at his mother. 
“You look pretty, Mom.”  He then
reached up and slipped his hand behind her neck, tugging her gently down to eye
level.  Whispering he said, “I love you
too!”  He stole a kiss then ran down the
hall to his room.
     Picking a towel up
off the floor, Tessa caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.  Not bad, she thought.  Her shoulder length blond hair had curled up
enough to give it body and even in this light she could tell it was shiny.  Although applied lightly, her makeup was
flawless, giving her complexion a healthy glow. Maybe she wasn’t so old after
all.  Most people didn’t guess she was on
the upside of thirty-five.  The
youthfulness in her appearance kept people imagining that she must have been a
young bride and started on a family rather early.  Tessa never bothered to tell them
otherwise.  Forty was beginning to loom
on the horizon.  Blessed with a cosmetic
edge, Tessa wasn’t about to surrender without a fight. 
     Pulling back her
shoulders, Tessa sucked in her stomach as long as she could, hoping the extra
pounds would melt away.  When the air
gushed out of her mouth, the stomach reappeared.
Mommy!”  Heather’s hysterical bird-like
voice rose above the patter of her little sock feet in the hall.  Tessa stepped out of the bathroom just in
time for Heather to collide into her legs. 
She encircled her mother’s legs and held tightly.  “A long star just fell into the
backyard!  I promise!”  Her little curly head looked up at Tessa,
eyes wide with wonder and fear.  “I amn’t
telling’ a story either, Mommy!”  Heather
squeezed her mother again and laid her soft cheek firmly against Tessa.  Tessa couldn’t help but smile at the invented
word “amn’t”.  She and Robert never
allowed the word “ain’t” so Heather had invented a word to replace “am not” by
using “amn’t”.  It was too adorable to
correct. Then there were the imaginative stories she liked to create like a
star falling in their backyard.
     Tessa gently
touched her precious baby on the head and paused long enough to feel the
softness of Heather’s long reddish brown hair. 
None of her children looked like her. 
She thought all her children would be blond and blue eyed, but they had
taken the dark good looks of their father. 
“Did you make a wish? When you see a falling star you can.”
     The little girl’s
body relaxed as she grabbed Tessa’s hand and pulled her toward her bedroom.  “I get a wish?  Come help me!”  She began to hop and twist to the point that
Tessa could hardly keep from tripping.
alright, Tessa?” Robert and Mr. Feldspar had come inside to sit at the kitchen
table to escape buzzing mosquitoes.  They
were already making progress on their T-bone steaks and adding butter with
ranch dressing to their potatoes.
     “I had to help
Heather make a wish on a falling star. 
Saw one fall in the backyard, she said.” 
Tessa couldn’t help but smile at Heather’s insistence.  “I don’t guess you saw anything before
attacking those steaks.”
     The men chuckled
and the meal progressed leisurely without any more interruptions.   The children were soon asleep and Mr.
Feldspar didn’t stay long after dinner, saying he still had some work to do
back at the hotel before turning in for the night.  He thanked the Scotts for their hospitality
and took his leave.
     Robert helped
Tessa clear the table while chatting about the account that Mr. Feldspar would
be bringing to the law firm where he’d been made a partner.  It was obvious from Tessa’s quiet, cool
demeanor that she was going to sulk until he apologized again and focused on
how special she was to him. 
     “I love you, Tessa.”  Robert tried to slip an arm around his wife
but she dodged him and began wiping off the table.
     “You love what I
can do for you, Robert.  When you love
someone you see them for what they are all the time.  To you I’m a playmate for the kids, and
someone to cook your meals and entertain your clients, and of course, have sex
with you when you want!”  Tessa said
     “That’s not true,”
Robert snapped, offended that maybe she’d been partially correct and thrown it
in his face.  “I’m taking you on a
vacation aren’t I?”
     Tessa stopped
wiping the table and glared up at her husband of twelve years.  “Some vacation.  You rent a cabin.  I still cook and clean and watch the kids
while you fish.”
     “If you feel that
way just stay home.  I’ll take the
kids.  How hard can it be?” he said
throwing up his hands.  “I’ll teach them
a whole lot more responsibility than you do, that’s for sure.  You stay home and decorate, have tea with the
girls and talk about how rough you have it!” 
Robert wasn’t aware that his voice had grown louder or that his left eye
had begun to twitch with irritation.
     For an instant
Tessa froze, thinking of Robert taking care of the kids for two weeks without
her.  That was terrifying!  She nearly started to apologize, then
remembered the “how hard can it be” comment and decided to swallow her
fear.  In the calmest voice she could
muster Tessa spoke.  “Alright.”  The word sounded as if it had gone on
forever; like when you call out into a canyon and you hear the echo for an
eternity.  “If you’re sure, Robert.”
straightened up his hunched frame so fast it looked as if someone had slid a
rod down the back of his shirt. 
Something like panic flashed in his eyes and he quickly tried to cover
his lack of confidence, but not before Tessa saw the truth.  Slowly she smiled, as she stepped toward her
husband who now decided to back away from her. 
“I’ll just lay around the house in my pjs.”  Her voice had taken on that southern drawl
from childhood and her head slightly tilted so that the light sparked her pale
blue eyes.  “I’ll take long baths, eat
junk food all day, and call my momma twice a day.”
     “Humph!  Just like every day!”
     “That’s right,
Robert.  I’m just another lazy housewife
who doesn’t have a lick of sense!”
     Robert knew when her
voice got deeper into that southern thing, he’d cooked his goose.  The thought occurred to him that maybe he’d
bitten off more than he could chew.  If
only he hadn’t offered to let her stay home. 
He almost begged her to come along but thought better of it when he
jerked up his chin in defiance.  “It’ll
be great to get to be mom and dad to the kids. 
They’ll probably remember this vacation forever!” he bragged nervously.
     Tessa chuckled
wickedly as she threw her towel in the sink and brushed past him.  “I think truer words were never spoken,
     “Where are you
going?”  Robert began flipping off light

     “To bed.  I plan to have an exciting day tomorrow.”

0 Responses

    1. I never found out Live Rancourt. However, even after I moved back to Missouri there were mysterious things that happened to me. One night someone called the house asking for Melanie. At that time no knew about the comparison. Strange.

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