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Okay, that's actually a Chicago song, and this post is about Alabama. So the answer is Alabama....Alabama is the inspiration for part of the Falcon Football and Cottonbloom series. We headed to my family's homeplace over our fall break for my cousin's wedding. Tons of fun to catch up with family! For some background, my mom has five (5!) younger brothers, all with kids, so our get-togethers growing up were pretty epic. They involved swimming in the river, riding 3-wheelers all over the place, and food...lots of food.
Falcon, Alabama: Ada's and Robbie's houses are fictional, but the land I plopped them down in isn't. And that river in Cottonbloom? Inspired by the Sipsey River in Alabama.
Wilted Bacon Salad
While fresh-picked straight out the the garden lettuce works best, you can substitute a mixed greens or buttercrunch lettuce
6-8 cups lettuce
4 slices bacon
1/4 cup water
Cook bacon, crumble. Remove, but retain grease. Turn off stove. Sprinkle in sugar. Add vinegar. Add water. Toss with lettuce and crumbled bacon. Add toppings of choice. Serve immediately. Can be a side or meal.
Enjoy a snippet from SLOW AND STEADY RUSH - OUT NOW!
Ingrained training had him crouching low and moving across the short open field as if a sniper had him in his sights. He squatted at the edge of the bank and parted low-hanging willow branches. Leaning forward, he hung onto a ropey, pliable limb, his fisted hand stripping a row of leaves. His heart nearly stopped but then galloped out of his chest to match his bulging eyes.
Holy shit. It was a naked woman. A fine, naked woman.
She stood hip deep in a slow-moving eddy with her back to him. Her face tilted to the sky, she shook wet hair and squeezed out the water. The feminine, graceful movements dried his mouth. Rivulets raced from her shoulders to the hollow of her lower back. Water bobbed around her ass, framing perfection. The beauty of the scene went beyond the erotic.
He was intruding on a private moment and needed to leave. He squeezed his eyes shut. Nothing but the whisper of the wind in the trees and the flow of the river filled the quiet.
He took a step back, cracking a dead branch under his boot, and froze. He’d be fired from the team if he were accused of voyeurism. Had she heard him? One eye opened and went straight to woman in the river. He tried his damnedest to look away, but hell, he was only human.
Another intruder captured his attention. The water lapping the far bank rippled. Wide body, flat head. He mouthed a curse. Cottonmouth. Big one, too. A bite might not kill her, but it would cause excruciating pain. The snake swam straight toward his fine, naked woman.
He stood, thumbed the safety, and cupped the gun in both hands. He had one shot to get the job done. Not the first time he’d been in that position. His finger caressed the trigger. The gun’s report and the woman’s scream trampled the seductive beauty of the scene.
The woman fell and stirred up enough silt to darken the usually clear water. Bits of snake floated down the river. “My God!” she repeated as a litany, giving the snake remnants wide berth.
Shallow, fast-moving water eddied around her shoulders and concealed her curves as she scrambled backward on her hands and feet. Dark hair streamed into her face. She brushed it aside only to have the water push it back in front of her eyes.
He couldn’t let her panic and drown. Pushing willow branches aside, he called out, “You’re welcome.” He’d aimed for nonthreatening, but had landed closer to surly. Wincing, he rubbed his nape. Jesus, he was an idiot.
She startled and shielded her eyes against the sun. Her other arm curled over her breasts. “You could have shot me. What are you doing out here?”
Her voice shook, and he recognized the emotion. Fear. He followed her darting gaze to the near bank. Clothing hung from a low tree branch.
Her words jumbled out. “The state forest starts on the other side. You’re on private land. Were you spying on me?”
“Of course not.” Maybe he’d looked a little longer than necessary, but damn . . . what man with a beating heart wouldn’t? “That was a cottonmouth, by the way. You wouldn’t want to get hauled to the hospital like that, would you?” He tried a jokey smile and made vague gestures toward her nakedness. Her expression remained stony, turning his smile into a grimace.
“It looked like an innocent little water snake to me. I was in more danger of getting shot than bit.” She crouched. Water cascaded over her shoulders. Her arm pressed her breasts together, only the top curves visible. The hand not covering her breasts shooed him away like a dog. “Hello? Would you mind giving me a little privacy?”
What the fuck was the matter with him? He was acting like a perv.
“Of course. I’ll be on my way and let you get decent, ma’am.” He inclined his head and touched the brim of his baseball cap with a forefinger, playing the gentleman even as base impulses urged him to watch her nude body rise out of the water.
“Wait just a minute! We’re not done, mister.” Her voice, husky and melodious now that shrill fear no longer colored it, sent a tingle down his spine.
Halfway across the field to his truck, he stopped and tugged his cap lower and thought about the firecracker scrambling up the bank. He hadn’t seen her around town. Who the hell was she? A more important question forced itself into his consciousness. Was she still naked?
Ada's Banana Pudding
This is labor intensive, but once you’ve had Ada’s version, you’ll never be satisfied with instant pudding. Ada and Darcy both recommend eating while still warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated. And if you even mention marshmallows or meringue, you will not be invited back for seconds! (A printable version is available HERE.)
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter
4 egg yolks
1 box vanilla wafers
4-5 ripe bananas
1. Layer ½ box of wafers and ½ bananas (sliced) in bottom of 9X13 baking dish.
2. Combine sugar, flour, salt and mix well.
3. In saucepan, beat egg yolks well. Start over med-high heat.
4. Add dry mix and milk. Stir constantly.
5. When mix reaches pudding consistency (takes 10-15 minutes), remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.
6. Pour half on wafer/bananas. Layer with remaining wafers and sliced bananas. Pour remaining pudding on top.
Enjoy an excerpt of SLOW AND STEADY RUSH
His mouth descended. Even though he accepted that he should keep his hands off, his subconscious refused to abide by the logical commands. His tongue coasted along the length of her full, soft upper lip before he pulled it into his mouth. She tasted sweet, like the banana pudding behind her.
He deserved a slap, half-expected one, but instead she delved fingers into his hair and knocked his baseball cap to the floor. Her body melded with his without any encouragement from his hands, which were free to wander up and down her back.
Surrendering to the madness, he shoved the banana pudding to the side and lifted her to sit on the counter, their faces level. Her knees parted, and he stepped into the void. Her heels on his butt pulled him tight against her. God, she was little, but curved and soft and all woman. He pressed into the fullness of her breasts.
Her skirt rode high, an invitation for his hands to coast up bare, silky thighs. He accepted. They moved under her skirt to her hips. The callused tips of his fingers caught on the smooth, satiny fabric of her panties. Her tongue slipped into his mouth. An involuntary groan rose from his chest before he returned the favor, curling his tongue against hers. She pulled at his shoulders, her fingernails scratching through the cotton of his shirt.
He’d kissed her for a very simple reason. He wanted to. His anger and hurt had given him the excuse. It would have been better if she’d been outraged and slapped him away, shamed him out of this attraction. Instead, she turned into a wildcat in his arms. He wanted to shove her panties to the side and tame her.
Avery growled from the door. Could the dog sense Darcy was an imminent threat to Robbie’s sanity? He broke the kiss and heaved in slow, deep breaths. She blinked languorously, her pupils dilated, as if waking from a dream. Her lips were swollen and rosy, and color slashed her cheeks. He wanted her bad. A lurch of fear rocked his stomach, and he threw up walls to protect himself.
Robbie’s kiss stole all logical threads of thought, hurtling her into a territory where only sensations were processed. His soft hair under her fingers, the hard planes of his chest against her breasts, the rough denim abrading her inner thighs, his hands squeezing her hips. But, mostly, his lips and tongue as they worked her into an aroused frenzy.
His mouth drew away from hers, and she floated in the tumultuous aftermath. His face was cast of stone, any sort of gentleness she’d felt in his kiss not reflected in his frigid eyes or frowning mouth. He slid his hands down her legs to pry her ankles from around his hips.
He left her to teeter on the edge of the counter, legs spread wantonly. Forces of nature held true no matter the tipping of her world on its axis, and gravity pulled her to the floor, knees wobbly and hands shaking. After roving his gaze down her body and back to her face, he turned and moved toward the door.
His sudden pivot back made her inhale sharply. In two steps, he had her bracketed between his arms, both his hands on the counter. Their bodies were so close, his heat, his desire pulsed like a living thing, yet he didn’t press into her or touch her in any way.
“I want—” he whispered.
“Yes,” she said, ending on a hiss.
She wanted it too. Wanted him more than she’d ever wanted a man. She’d never felt this needy, this wild. Her legs rocked open, and she rose on her toes. She craved the touch of his hands. He could take her here or carry her to her room. It didn’t matter where he claimed her. It didn’t matter who saw them. They inhaled in synchronicity. She tilted her face to his . . .
“. . . my damn pudding.”
His tensed bicep brushed her sensitive breasts. He tucked the casserole dish under his arm like a football. Performing a militarily precise about-face, he stalked to the door. Avery cut off mid-growl, his head swiveling between them.
A potent combination of anger, lust, and humiliation jolted her body into action. His cap lay on the floor and she kicked it, launching it to the ceiling. Avery caught it on a jump and loped after Robbie. He stopped to retrieve it from his dog’s mouth and mashed it on his head. Avery received a stiff, but gentle pat. Man and dog disappeared around the corner of the house.
She stared out the screen door. A breeze rustled the roses climbing the trellis, the scent at odds with the bile climbing her throat. The spray and crunch of gravel under spinning wheels unstuck her. She picked up the nearest thing to her hand and hurled it at the screen. The overly ripe banana splattered on the floor, leaving a goopy, sweet-smelling mess.
Damn him to hell.
Author of Historical and Contemporary Romance