Rebecca York

About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  View website

Grounding Research Is Vital for the Paranormal

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Writing paranormal romantic suspense gives me a lot of leeway. I can make up all sorts of things like dragon shifters who come from another planet or werewolf shifters who have to intone an ancient chant to change from man to wolf.

But the only way to make the fantastic parts of my writing believable is to ground the rest of the story in reality. And that means research.

Take my novella Wyatt, for example. It’s part of a three-book serial that Patricia Rosemoor, Ann Voss Peterson and I have on preorder right now at most eretailers.  In our stories, an old gypsy woman has cursed three young men because their fathers helped convict her son of a crime she knows he didn’t commit.

My story is the first one in the set. For police detective hero, Wyatt Boudreaux, the gypsy psychic chose blindness as his punishment.  And after she leveled the curse, he was shot in the head in the line of duty.

I thought it would be cool having a blind hero trying to discover whether the gypsy woman’s son was really guilty—and at the same time winning back the woman he lost because the old gypsy crone was her guardian.

But how was I going to make you believe the reality of my hero’s situation?  Luckily for me, the National Federation of the Blind is in Baltimore, and I was able to contact them for information. They have a series of booklets written by blind people, telling about their lives. And the details helped me understand how Wyatt would function. Also, I was also able to interview a blind married couple and see how they managed in their own home.

Something as simple as keeping the house neat and putting everything in its place is important, so they don’t trip over anything.  I had my hero do this—and also use their cooking methods.  To chop vegetables, he uses a tray to keep pieces from escaping. His stove has special markings on the dials, so he can tell the temperature. Cans have Braille labels. For trips outside the house, he folds his money in different ways to tell which bill is which. And because he lives in a small town, he has to get around using the services of an unreliable taxi driver.

An important point he mentions in the story—if you’re blind, you can’t know if someone is looking at you, which kept him from sneaking into the heroine’s bedroom at night when guests are in the house.

One other thing I also decided with a blind hero or heroine. I’m never going to try to write a person who was blind from birth. In Wyatt, I needed my hero to remember what things looked like—so he could recall them and give me visual touchstones to add detail to the story.

For example, he hasn’t seen the woman he loves in five years because the whole gypsy community hates him for his father’s role in the murder conviction. But he’s able to vividly recall her features.

I’ve always loved learning details that make my stories more authentic for readers.

What makes a story feel real for you?

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Weaving Reality into Fantasy

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I may write about psychotic killers and telepathic powers, but my books are always grounded in reality.

Yeah, sure.

Take Preying Game, my latest Decorah Security novel.  It all started when we attended a wedding in Chestertown, Maryland. It was a three-day extravaganza, held at a stately Georgian mansion with beautifully manicured gardens, located on a multi-acre estate along the Chester River.  The place was so cool that almost as soon as I got there, I started thinking about using it for the setting of a book.

I admit to sneaking in a few changes.  We were there for a wedding, but I wanted to make it the home of a guy who kidnapped and held women in an underground complex that I invented next to the main building.  But why was he holding them, and what was his plan for them?

Since I write romantic suspense, I didn’t want him doing anything yucky like making them sexual slaves. (Although I did pull that off in Dark Moon.) I decided he was forcing them to get into top physical shape so that he could make them worthy prey for his “big game” hunts on the estate. Yeah, he was a real nice guy.

And I did have to make a few changes to the environment as I went along.  My hero, Jonah Ranger, is telepathic, and he picks up my heroine’s distress call on the radio of an old car he’s fixing.  Alice Davenport has sent out a desperate plea for help, and against all odds, Jonah picks it up.

My first change was the name of the town.  I have a rule that if I’m going to say something awful about a place, I choose a different name.  So Chestertown became Carvertown.

Jonah strengthens his telepathic connection with Alice and manages to project himself to her prison. But since she’s in an underground complex, she can’t give him any clues to where she’s being held.  Finally Jonah, in his telepathic form, gets upstairs.  And because I needed him to see something out the window that would guide him to her location, I invented a rock formation that doesn’t exist in the Chester River.  But it is in my Carver River—a big boulder that looks like a giant upside-down boot.

My friends who hosted the Chestertown wedding loved that I’d used their venue for my story. In their honor, I came back full circle. After the bad guy gets what he deserves, one of his relatives takes over his property—and turns it into a location for weddings and other big celebrations.

I love weaving real details into my paranormal stories. And in this case, I had to choose those details carefully to hide a big secret from the reader.  Because the guy is a hunter, I researched rifles and decided on a Mauser for his weapon of choice. I also needed a topic for him and Alice to talk about when he forced her to have a lunch with him. He initiates a literary discussion on Thomas Hardy and Hemingway that comes from my own college classes on English and American literature.

I include those real details to bolster the world I’ve created. What makes you believe the paranormal elements in a story? Or are there books where you never buy into the weird premise?

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Make Your Own Christmas Tree Ornaments

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There are so many ways to decorate a Christmas tree.  When I was a kid, long drippy strands of tinsel, rounded balls, and lights with two-inch bulbs were in fashion.

Over the years, I’ve tried to create my own fashion statement with our trees.  When my kids were young, we made a lot of felt ornaments because they wouldn’t break when our cats climbed the branches.  Later, I got into blowing the contents out of eggs and turning them into ornaments with lace and paint. Then I discovered baked cookie ornaments. (Not edible cookies, but ones made from a mixture of flour, salt and water which the kids and I baked and painted.)

Another year, I adorned a ficus tree with an earring I wasn’t wearing.

ornament-161107-2-400wFor a few years after the kids grew up, I had no tree.  Then I figured, why not enjoy a decorated tree all year long? I decided to use the living Norfolk pine at the window behind the sofa.  Since I was worried that ornaments hanging from the branches might damage the tree, I wanted to make them as light as possible.  Which is how I began using cardboard.  And because I like cats, all of my decorations are flat cardboard cats.

I’ve got a couple of basic designs, which I embellish with a variety of items—including decorative pipe cleaners (which I also use for hangers), sequins, packaged colored glitter, glitter glue, colored feathers, decorative wire strands, and the like. Sometimes I make collages with layers of colored papers.  Other times I use paint.  Sometimes I draw the cats’ eyes. Other times I use sequins.

If you prowl around seasonal sales at variety stores, you can get a lot of suitable decorations cheap. (Some of my pipe cleaners are from a sale chain of circles that I took apart.) Or try walking up and down the aisles of a craft shop.

ornament-161107-1-400wPeople have asked me if I buy scrapbook papers for the basic shapes. The answer is no.  I use cardboard from any box that takes my fancy. The easiest to use are tissue boxes because they have an all-over pattern. But I also use tea boxes, cereal boxes, rice boxes and anything else around the house.  By the time you add glitter to these, you can’t read the advertising.  I was at a conference in Florida where housekeeping provided coffee packets every day.  I took a lot of those home and used them for my cats.

Many of my felines are standing up. Others are smaller and sitting down. For those, I might use the kings, queens, and jacks of old playing cards.

I like making cats.  But you can use any shapes you like.  Dogs, stars, flowers, fish, geometric designs. Go wild.

Do you make ornaments or other holiday decorations?  What do you like to create?

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Why I Chose My Title for “Love, Christmas” – White Christmas by Rebecca York #mgtab

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whitechristmas-400x600My story for the Love, Christmas collection is White Christmas, and I’ve been dreaming of lovely snow-covered holiday scenes since I was a little kid. In fact, because I knew I was going to start my story with my heroine in a snowstorm, White Christmas was the perfect title.

My family didn’t have to travel over the river and through the woods in a sleigh to my grandma’s house.  But we did have to drive from Washington, DC, to Baltimore for big holiday dinners.  When I was young, that journey wasn’t trivial.  In the early days, we had to take Route 1, one of the most dangerous highways in the U.S.  Later we could we could switch to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, a marvel in its time.

Sometimes we’d drive through falling snow. Other times we’d just arrive in the winter dark.  But inside grandma’s house, the holiday meal was always the same when we gathered around the huge dining room table.  A nod to salad was provided by a relish dish of celery and carrots.  But everyone was more interested in the main events: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes (which I hated as a kid but learned to love when I grew up).  Sorry, I can’t remember if we had any other vegetables.  The poultry and stuffing were the highlight of the dinner. For me, that was always a turkey leg.  I still like dark meat.  As far as I’m concerned, turkey white meat is boring.

As a child, I didn’t understood why one bowl of stuffing was “wet,” and the other “dry,” but I definitely preferred the dry one.

I’m going to date myself horribly by telling you that the first Christmas tree I remember was during World War II.  With wartime shortages, you couldn’t buy tinsel.  And it was hard to get any other holiday decorations.  But my grandfather owned a florist shop, and my grandma fashioned decorations out of florist ribbon.  She made them into bows and wound them around cardboard rollers, then used florist wire to fix everything to a small tree which she put on a little red table.

One of my perennial disappointments as a kid was never having lights on our Christmas tree. I envied my friends who had them, but my mom was afraid lights might start a fire, so they were banished from our house.  Guess what I bought first when I got married and finally had my own tree?

I also continued my grandma’s idea of making ornaments.  When my kids were little, we made a lot of them out of felt, glitter, pipe cleaners, and sequins, because we had cats who would climb our Christmas tree and knock traditional glass balls to the floor where they shattered into glittery shards.

And for the past five or six years, I’ve used the Norfolk pine in my living room as a permanent “Christmas tree.”  I keep small lights and homemade ornaments on it all year round.  I hope people grin when they see it on a dark winter night.  I’ve included a picture of some of my ornaments hanging on my library catalogue so you can see them better than on the tree.


What are your favorite Christmas traditions, and how are you going to honor them this year?

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Late Summer in the Garden

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What I love about August in the garden:
blog3The late summer flowers like the tall phlox and the black-eyed Susans are in their glory. The annuals I plant in pots are at their showy best. But the weeds have calmed down, which means there are fewer invaders to pull. I can enjoy the lush surroundings without doing much work. The weather is not so hot, which means it’s pleasant to sit out in the morning and the late afternoon with my laptop—and a cat—working on a novel. When I look up, there’s a lot of wildlife to see because I’ve tried to make the garden nature friendly.

Right now I have butterflies visiting the phlox. Goldfinches are enjoying the black-eyed Susans. Lots of birds including blue jays, cardinals, robins, catbirds, and sparrows come to the birdbaths and the pond to drink. They are some of the same birds that flock around my two feeders—where squirrels and chipmunks compete for the seeds on the ground.

blog4Too bad, the wildlife includes mosquitoes and those nasty little varmints called no-see-ums. Really, I never do see them, but hours after I’ve been out pulling weeds, I find itchy bites on my legs. They’ve taught me to wear long pants or spray on repellent.

What I’ve learned over the years is that I love planting greenery and flowers and watching them grow. I also love cooking—either creating new recipes or making old favorites. When I’m not writing my own books or reading, I’m likely to be in the kitchen or the garden.

I have my comfort zone here at home. These simple things make me happy—as much as coming up with a great story idea and getting it into the computer.

On the other hand, I’m married to a man who likes to travel, and we’ve had some amazing adventures around the world. I feel lucky to have done some of them before the terrorist era. We had a wonderful time in Turkey three years ago—even though our hotel turned out to be in the middle of a riot zone. Now I wouldn’t go back to Turkey or Egypt. Do we ever get to see Morocco? And would I return to Belgium or France? My husband says the chances of running into terrorists are slim. But maybe we played it safe by going to London this summer—where there was a knife attack very close to one of the places we walked. (It happened right after we got home.)

What makes you happy? And what would you like to try if you had the chance?

Rebecca York’s FOUND MISSING, a novel in her Decorah Security series, will be out September 1 and is up for preorder now.

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Watergate Saga

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Probably you think authors make a lot of money.  Only a few can support themselves on their writing income.  But there’s one perquisite of being a writer that you probably haven’t considered.  You get to collect experiences and use them as tax deductions. Among other things, I’ve gone down in a submarine, flown in a glider plane, traveled to India, crossed a long, swaying suspension bridge over a rocky gorge, attended receptions at many of the DC embassies, visited a medicine woman in Sedona, Arizona, and toured Mayan ruins in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.  All of those experiences have ended up in my books.

Sometimes I travel to a location because I know I’m going to set part of a book there. And sometimes I travel to see if I want to use the setting.


When I saw in the Washington Post this week that the iconic Watergate Hotel is opening again, I flashed back to when I slept there.  It was in 2007, when I was writing one of my Berkley werewolf novels, Shadow of the Moon.  Of course, everybody has heard of The Watergate. It became famous after Richard Nixon’s bunglers [sic] broke into the DNC offices there—and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein spent months tracking down the real story. (The episode is so famous that subsequent scandals are often referred to as “gate.”)


Since I live in the DC area, I’d often driven by The Watergate Hotel, and I’d always wanted to stay there.  So why not plot part of the book to take advantage of the location?  In the story, the heroine’s sister has escaped from an S and M club at the edge of Rock Creek Park and has fallen over a cliff, seriously injuring herself. The heroine has come to town to investigate what happened and runs into the werewolf hero while he is hunting at night in the park.  At first the heroine doesn’t know he’s the wolf who rescued her from security men guarding the club, but she does know that, in his human form, he’s a private investigator who may be able to help her figure out what happened to her sister.  When he suggests booking a room at The Watergate, where she can easily visit her sister at The George Washington University Hospital, she agrees.  They had a very satisfying night together at the hotel—in the very room where DH and I spent the night. What I remember about the hotel is that the room was large and luxurious with bookshelves along one wall.  We had a spectacular view of the Potomac River—all the way down to Georgetown University. In the morning the light made the river scene seem like a French Impressionist painting. The downside is that there wasn’t much to eat in the hotel. We came back late from a meeting and had to settle for dinner at the restaurant across from the Kennedy Center where we often ate before performances.  I say “ate” because the restaurant closed several years ago. It was supposed to be refurbished and open under new management, but after a couple of years, it’s still not back.  However, an upscale pizza parlor did move in next door. I read in the Washington Post article that the new management of the hotel has made 80 rooms smaller.  I hope they haven’t diluted the experience too much.  But I do intend to come up with an excuse to go back and find out.  Maybe I’ll use it in a Decorah Security novel.

Here’s my latest Decorah Security werewolf novel:


It’s set in New York City and a national wilderness area in upstate New York.

Is the setting of a novel important to you? What settings do you like? I use Washington, DC, a lot because I think it has cachet—and I know the city.

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Add that Metaphor or Simile or Kill the Little Darling

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Pure gold nuggets or torpedoes lobbed from the Death Star, Metaphor and simile can spark your fiction and nonfiction or drag your work down to a whole new level of bad prose.

I’m giving a talk on metaphor and simile at the Romance Novel Convention this week.  And here’s a preview of my thoughts.

Metaphor and simile, which both show how one thing resembles something else, are wonderful writing tools, particularly in romance and suspense, because both deal with emotion. A simile uses “like” or “as” for part of the comparison. “His arms were like tree trunks.” A metaphor does not. “His arms were tree trunks.”

Figurative language can be a very important part in creating the mood of a story and also in sustaining tension. But a trite metaphor or simile can be worse than none at all. “My love is like a red, red rose.”  “Sharp as a tack.” “Slow as molasses.” All of those were once fresh. Now they’re clichés.

For years, I’ve collected examples—both good and bad.  Here’s one from a review of a movie called, The Doctors.

“Making fun of the doctors is as easy as shooting fish in a bedpan.”  This illustrates a good way to create a new comparison. Take an old cliché, and surprise the reader with something different. “His mind was sharp as an ice pick.”  “He slung her over his shoulder like a sack of Nerf balls.”

And here are two from My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), by Toby Devens, who is a master of figurative language.

“My mother, her eyes hot coals, nodded.”

“Well, you can’t sit there moping over an imaginary lover,” Kat said, hovering over my paper-strewn desk like a seagull over a landfill.

How do you come up with creative metaphors and similes? Here’s a practice exercise. Let’s consider a rough-woven basket with a long cord that might be used to hang a plant. I’m going to look at it as if I’ve never seen a similar basket. I start with very concrete qualities. What color is it? In this case, faded brown. I’ve seen lots of faded brown things before. Weathered bark, mud, someone’s eye, chocolate candy, strong tea with cream in it, lobbed-up paint, hazelnuts–to name some. Color is not the only thing I can see when I imagine this basket. I consider all its physical attributes. What shape is it? What’s the surface like? What size is it? Let’s say it’s brittle and rough. Rounded. About ten inches in diameter. After I consider everything physical about it, I think about what it reminds me of. Maybe animal skin? Something buried in the garden? Part of a face? A tree bowl? Bark? Now I’m ready to put it together and make a comparison. “A basket as rough as elephant hide.” “A nightmare basket.” “The basket hung from her hand like the gondola of a miniature hot air balloon.”  “A basket woven tight enough to hold water.”

The comparison doesn’t have to be with a physical object. If you’re trying to come up with a metaphor for the wind, you can’t hold it and look.  But think about its qualities. Cold, buffeting, moving the leaves and the trees around. Stinging, gentle, wet, hot, dry, cutting, battering, beyond man’s control, laden with perfume of flowers or pollen, whispering, screaming, raging.

Let’s play with some comparisons. “The wind was like elf fingers stirring the leaves.”  “The wind was a demented woman’s cry.”  “The gale howled like a giant in agony.”  “The winter wind was like a knife cutting through her coat.”

The figurative language you choose for your book helps set the whole tone of the work. Here’s one from my novella, Outlaw Justice, available in Summer Heat, Love on Fire.

SummerHeat_BoxSet_ebook-cover“When they were within a few blocks of their destination, Steve slowed, taking a look at the neighborhood.  Every house had a two- or three-car garage, and there were no vehicles parked at the curb.

‘We’re going to stand out like zombie invaders from a horror movie.’”

If often works to be playful and unexpected. “The cowboy had shoulders as big as Idaho.” Or—“he had shoulders as big as a moose.”

Or go for the ruthlessly snarky comparison. “Television is like a trash compactor.”

I collect bad figurative language, too.  A friend sent me this one from a book she stopped reading when she got here:

“”What’s happening? Who are you? What’s going on?’” Questions filled the air. Most of the girls were screaming. Three students jumped out the only window, falling to the ground outside like dung from an elephant.

Some imagery comes across as trying too hard. “Bret was lean, dark, with snapping dark eyes that lay on a woman like a sheet on a bed.”

Or this–which is one of my all-time favorites: “Her breasts floated on the water like two Portuguese men-of-war.”

Figurative language can be an excellent tool for enhancing your writing, but be careful with it. It’s a two-edged sword that can come back to bite you if you’re not careful. As I hope I just demonstrated with my mixed metaphor.

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Chapter One Excerpt – 2016 Love, Christmas Collection – White Christmas by Rebecca York

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Nothing is more fun than writing a holiday story, and here’s the first chapter of White Christmas, the Christmas novella I’m contributing to the Love, Christmas boxed set.

Sneak Peek - Love Christmas-400w

Craft shop owner, Amelia Parsons, is too upset to be paying attention to her surroundings.  When she’s hit by a car, she wakes up far from home.  Here’s the first chapter of the story.



Amelia Parsons was too upset to see the car speeding toward her through the swirling snow.  One moment she was crossing the ice-rutted street in St. Stephens, Maryland, and worrying about a call from the police—plus a missing shipment of Christmas ornaments for the hospital tree.  In the next she was flying into the air.  She heard someone scream.  Maybe it was her.  Then she sank into thick blackness that lasted for minutes—or maybe it was years.

When her eyes blinked open, she was standing in the cold again, wavering on unsteady legs as big flakes came down around her like she was the star attraction in a giant snow globe.

Main Street was gone.  Instead, in her blurry vision, she saw pine trees, their branches weighted down with a layer of ice.

Her head hurt and her mind felt muzzy.  She thought she heard holiday music drifting toward her on the wind—White Christmas, she thought.  Or was it only ringing in her ears?  And were the warm lights in the distance real?   Through the falling snow and the trees, she could just make them out.

She’d been downtown, half a block from The Wild Side, her arts and crafts shop, which sold the work of local artisans as well as native crafts from around the world.  Now somehow she was out in the woods, but the lights must mean she wasn’t far from civilization.

The snow on the ground was almost to the top of her boots.  As she struggled toward the vague outline of several oversized Swiss chalets, she tripped against a root, going down on her hands and knees.

For a few moments, she fought a pitched battle to keep from blacking out again. When her vision cleared, she pushed herself up and had to grab the trunk of a tree for support.

“Get it together, Amelia,” she muttered as she started struggling toward the lights again.

Before she had gotten more than a few yards, she heard an ominous rumbling that seemed to be coming from high up and to her left.  It thundered closer, and the image of an avalanche hurtling down the side of a mountain leaped into her fogged mind.

All she could do was scramble for safety, floundering through the drifts like a seal out of water, trying to reach the building ahead.  A torrent of white enveloped her, and she knew she wasn’t going to make it. Just before she went under, a running figure grabbed her, swooping her up in strong arms.

She had a quick impression of dark hair under a fur trimmed hood, fierce eyes, and a clenched jaw as he ran with her, lumps of ice pelting down on both of them. He must have zoomed out of the main mass of the avalanche because she sensed it rumbling behind them as he kept going, heading for the closest building.

When he crossed the threshold and carried her inside, she realized they were in a barn where animals were making snorting and chattering sounds.  But when she peered into a couple of stalls, there were no cows or horses.  Instead she saw beige- and brown-colored beasts with antlers.  They looked like some kind of deer?  But who kept deer in a stable?

Strange as it seemed, she would have sworn they were talking excitedly to each other, or was that just the ringing in her ears?  At any rate, she couldn’t understand what they were saying.  And before she could figure it out, her rescuer took her to an unused stall and set her down while he threw back his hood and brushed snow off his shoulders.

Unsteady on her feet, she backed up and landed in a large pile of hay.

Now that they were out of danger, she could get a better look at the guy towering over her.  He was a hunk wearing jeans, a dark coat and heavy gloves.  Under other circumstances, she might have tried to get friendly, but his icy eyes stopped her.

“Thank you for saving me,” she tried as a kind of, um, icebreaker.  When he didn’t reply she kept talking.  “I mean, I know I put you in jeopardy.  I’m sorry.”

His answer wasn’t what she’d expected. “What are you doing here?”

Her fogged brain struggled to process the question. “I don’t know.  I mean I don’t even know where I am.”

He glared down at her.  “I think you know all right. Who sent you?”


As she spoke, she heard footsteps in the corridor between the stalls.  A short man dressed in jeans and a red coat over a red flannel shirt stepped into the stall.  His thick white hair was mussed, and his bushy white beard hid the bottom half of his face.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I found her out in the snow.  I think she’s a spy.”

Amelia stared at him in disbelief.  “A spy?  I don’t even know where I am,” she repeated what she’d said earlier, then added, “My name is Amelia Parsons.  I own a craft shop in St. Stephens, Maryland.  I was minding my own business when . . .” She stopped and pressed her fingers to her mouth.  “Oh Lord, I think I was hit by a car.  I was so upset about that call from the police—plus the Santa’s Workshop shipping delay.”

They both stared at her.  “What do you know about the problems at Santa’s Workshop?” the hunk demanded.

Again she struggled for coherent thoughts. “Nothing.  I was supposed to get a discount order of ornaments, for the hospital tree, but the distributor can’t get anything from them.”

The men exchanged glances.

When the older one started to speak, the younger guy shook his head.  “Need to know basis.”

Amelia blinked.  “Huh?”

The bearded man turned back to Amelia. “We’ve had some problems lately.  I guess I should be more cautious, but it’s hard not to expect the best from people.”

“Would you mind telling me your names?” she asked, her gaze swinging from one of them to the other and back again.

The hunk opened his mouth, then closed it again.

The older man supplied, “He’s Daniel.”

“Okay,” the hunk agreed.

Was she still too out of it to hear that right?

“You just gave him a name?” Amelia asked.

The older man flushed.  “Well, a code name, you know.”


Daniel jumped back into the conversation. “We’ve had sabotage here lately.  And an innocent looking woman like you could be a decoy, sent to make us let down our guard.”


The title of each story in the collection is a holiday song.  And our readers selected the songs.  I’m so excited that Sharon L. Gage gave me my title. Thanks so much Sharon.

Here’s a link to the Love, Christmas Facebook page:

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