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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guest Post with Author Bethanne Strasser and Giveaway

Today I would like to welcome to RFTC author, Bethanne Stasser. Bethanne is the author of For Love or Duty and has stopped by to chat. Before I give the floor over to Bethanne, let's get to know her a bit.

At the age of 22, I got married, got pregnant and started reading romance… real romance, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Nora Roberts. I’d grown up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and a few really great historical fiction authors like Brock and Brodie Thoene. After studying English Literature in college, this was the break I needed. I fell in love with it. The conflict, the humor, the Happily Ever Afters.

I didn’t always want to be a writer. It never even occurred to me I could write a story until I was 26. But once I got started, I was peanut butter who’d finally found its jelly.

I’m inspired daily by life and love. When I’m not writing, I’ll be hanging with my husband and five kids. Whether it’s just chillin’ in the garage with the music on, camping, hiking, cooking in the kitchen or watching television, my family comes first [aside from deadlines, haha].

Places to find Bethanne:

Thanks for having me on today, Dani. I’m especially grateful because today is my dad’s birthday, and besides calling him on the phone, I don’t often take or have the opportunity to honor him. My dad has four girls. I’m the second. I always wondered if he secretly wished for a son. After growing up with three sisters and then having four girls of his own… yowza, that’s a lot of estrogen to have to deal with. But you know what? He still thinks he’s the luckiest guy in the world.

My dad and his MFA don’t always agree with me about literary greatness, but one thing I can count on is for him to be interested in what I’m doing. The process to publication, the technical side, the business side, too. He takes the time to listen.

I’m pretty sure that’s why I have such an easy time writing the father figure. My debut novel has a young woman who earned her independence through trial and error. When I first met her, she was working at a convenience store and paying her way through college. Her dad is an officer in the US Army. I think the father in this story reminds me of my husband—gardener, woodworker, etc., yet I can’t help but see his core qualities in my father. It’s funny because I see this father figure in most of my stories.

Maybe it’s a tribute. Or maybe it’s just writing what I know. Subconscious.

I have a great father. He loves my mother, and he loves me and my sisters. True romance starts at home.

In celebration of Dad’s birthday I’m giving away a three copies of my debut release, For Love or Duty.

Growing up the proverbial military brat, Valerie Standish has shed her old ways. Yet, she’s been around long enough to recognize that familiar arrogance when Kevin Morgan walks through the door. This time she is drawn to the persistent captain like she hasn’t been to any man before, making it harder to keep her promise—never get involved with an officer.

Kevin doesn’t have a problem with her unwillingness to commit long term. He isn’t quite ready to settle either. For years, he’s worked hard to earn a promotion to Major. He wants one last fling before tying himself to a wife for the rest of his life.

But time proves them both liars as they begin to fall for each other. Neither is prepared for the ache of betrayal as they come face to face with the truth about one another.

Will either of them be able to walk away unscathed or have the trenches of love already been dug?

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords |
Chapter One

Tall. At least six feet. Light brown hair with streaks of blonde from the Spring sun. Blue eyes. Familiar, like the boy next door. The man who stepped down from the over-sized pick-up truck had been coming into the convenience store every week for about two months.

Valerie Standish—store clerk extraordinaire—admired the relaxed fit of his jeans, the tight T-shirt stretched over well-defined muscles; even the combination of work boots and ratty, old baseball cap added to the All-American package, part red-neck and definitely work driven.

But it was his eyes, their blue rivaled a Colorado sky. They didn’t warm, nor were they particularly friendly, but when he laughed, they transformed the hard planes of his square unsmiling jaw into a face meant to seduce. Not me, she thought when he came through the front door. He took the side aisle back to the beer cave and disappeared into the refrigerator.

She sighed, a familiar chord resonating through her gut like nerves on a first date. Down, girl.

When a young woman with a cute, chubby little boy on her hip set a half-gallon of milk and small container of baby formula on the counter, Valerie straightened and pulled the lighter display away from the edge where the baby could reach it. End of the month. Those last few days before the first of the month, when state allowances had run out and needs still had to be met.

“I need a carton of Lights, too.” The woman’s voice broke as she hesitated over the request.

Valerie asked for I.D. with an inward grimace. But she’d done her share of smoking years ago and could hardly judge. “There you go. All together, that’s forty-eight dollars and ninety-seven cents.”

“I really need to quit.” She blushed.

Valerie gave her attention to the boy, tickling him under his chin before taking the money and making change for the fifty. “It took me twelve years to quit.”

“What is this, AA for smokers? It’s my turn. Get the hell out of the way,” a raspy, slurred voice growled.

Val looked up in annoyance. Rough customers in the store were not unusual. She had no patience for them.

The poor mother, on the other hand, jumped as if she’d been hit and took a step out of the man’s way.

“You’ll wait your turn, sir, and do so without name calling.” Not recognizing him as a regular, Valerie forced a smile.

With a tighter grip on the boy, the customer gathered her belongings.

This man was big, even bigger than Blue Eyes. But where Blue Eyes was hard, this jerk had a lousy beer belly around his middle. His face sagged, as if he’d spent too much time at the corner bar. Mean, that was her first impression of him.

“You have a good weekend, hon.” Valerie offered the farewell, not wanting to rush now that she knew The Jerk didn’t like waiting. Working here did not mean she had to tolerate meatheads.

The boy cooed to Valerie and she smiled back.

As they left, Valerie eyed The Jerk. He stank of desperation. His eyes touched her, making a slow wander down her figure, but they were lifeless and dull.

“Now, this is more like it. Open the drawer real slow and keep your hands where I can see them.”
The pulse in her throat bumped against her skin. Her nerves clamored against her stomach walls. Okay. Mean might have been too mild.

She froze when the guy laid a small gun on the counter in front of her and covered it loosely with his big, grubby hand. Her gaze flew to his, her mind to the man in the beer cave. Was he still there? Had he left when she wasn’t looking?

“That’s right. No one’s here to save your sweet rear.”

She opened her mouth, a curse on her tongue.

His hand came out of nowhere and slammed against her jaw, knocking her into the cigarette shelves. Her head rang, but she kept her feet under her. The store was quiet. No one remained to help her.

Righting herself, she took a deliberate step up to the counter, and her foot connected to the button flush against the floor. A signal to the world outside. Her only hope. With shaking hands, she punched in a total for the cash register.

Her ear ached something fierce and her jaw throbbed, but Valerie wasn’t about to die for the job. She pulled the measly bit of cash from the drawer.

“Here. Take it and go, okay?”

The Jerk grinned and ran the edge of the gun down the side of her breast. “Keep being good and maybe Randy will give you a prize.”

She backed up and a sound of repulsion escaped.

The man’s face grew red, and his thumb released the safety.

“You don’t want to do this,” she whispered.

“Hey Randy. Long time no see.”

Valerie almost peed her pants when Randy turned to look at the newcomer, and the gun in front of her wavered.

The beer guy hadn’t left.

A mixture of relief and panic swelled against her breastbone. Please don’t do anything stupid.

Blue Eyes dropped a six-pack on the counter hard enough to make the bottles rattle.

“If you’ll wait a minute while I’m taking care of this gentleman,” she forced from trembling lips, “it’ll only be a minute.”

Blue Eyes’ smile was easy going, as if he didn’t notice the gun or the man with the handful of cash next to him.

“Sure, no problem. Randy and I go way back. How’s your sister doin’ anyway, Randy? What’s she got now, four kids?”

Bushy brows furrowed deeply in the crags of Randy’s pudgy forehead. “My sister doesn’t—”

Blue Eyes sent a solid left elbow into the thief’s temple, stunning him. Then faster than Val could register, Randy was on the floor. His hands were tied behind his back with a frayed rope, like the one that had been holding the cardboard candy display against the wall at the back of the store. Her rescuer kicked the gun and it slid down aisle three.

“Oh, my God. Is he dead?” Horrified, the words echoed through her brain.

“Would I tie him up if he was?” Blue Eyes pursed his lips as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. But the sound of sirens could be heard coming up the street. He snapped the phone closed and set it down. “I disarmed him and stopped him from robbing you blind before having his way with you and possibly killing you.”

Her mouth gaped as shock continued to stall her brain.

A soft moan rose from Randy’s prostrate form.

“You could at least say thank you, you know.”

That pulled her from the afflicting fog, and she sputtered. “Well, of all the—”

“S-L-P-D. Freeze!”

Valerie shrieked, making the man before her smile as he raised his hands and turned to the police officer. The smile boiled her already agitated blood. The nerve. Not that she wasn’t thankful. She was. More than… And God! Blue Eyes, of all people. Classic damsel in distress meets knight in shining armor.

Still, she would have said thank you without his prodding. Now it hardly seemed worth it.

Pompous. He probably set this kind of scenario up with his buddy all the time, so he could play hero.

“Put your hands on the counter real slow, mister.” The police officer thought Blue Eyes was one of the bad guys. Surprisingly, Blue Eyes did as he was told without a word of objection. The officer patted him down. “This your partner on the floor?”

“No, sir.”

Valerie opened her mouth to speak, even as his arrogant, challenging eyes met her brown ones over the six pack. The man actually shook his head, as if he was disappointed in her. Pursing her lips, she sighed. “They didn’t come together, officer. This man was shopping in the beer cave when Randy arrived to rob me.”

The officer pulled a wallet from Blue Eye’s jacket pocket and flipped to the inside. “Captain Kevin Morgan. You from Fort Bragg?”

“Yes, sir.”

No wonder. A soldier. She should have known. Growing up near the military base, soldiers were a dime a dozen. And they didn’t typically resemble the men in the books she read, either—charming, honest, …humble.

“Ma’am, if you wouldn’t mind, Officer Blakely’s going to come in and ask you some questions about what happened tonight.”

Valerie nodded to the policeman, the temptation to tap her fingernails overwhelming. Her night had just gotten longer. “I should call my boss.”

“Don’t worry. There’ll be time for that, too.” The officer in charge waved a hand at Kevin.

“Follow me, young man. I’ll get your story, too.”

For some reason, Valerie watched her fantasy man walk away, disappointed he hadn’t even said good-bye.

3 lucky commenters will win a eBook copy of For Love or Duty

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  1. Hi Bethanne!
    CONGRATS on your debut novel and Happy Birthday to your dad! I agree... true romance does start at home:)

  2. Congratulations! I enjoyed the excerpt.

  3. Congrats!!! Thanks for the excerpt and the chance to win!

  4. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing the excerpt,Sounds good :)

  5. Thank you so much, Dani, for having me hear yesterday. If I'd known we were going to close on our new house on the 24th, I would have rescheduled so I could be here a little more. Anyone else ever move?? Do you lose your brain?! I think I did. :D

    Thanks to your followers who stopped in. I look forward to giving away a couple of copies. And I do hope you like the book.