Happy Birthday to me :)

Since today is my birthday, I thought I would give you all a little present. The following is a scene from book 19, and it’s just a glimpse into what’s coming…


Jack was reading in the family room while Tessa was watching TV. Stephanie and Bee went to Julie’s for a little while and Tessa’s stomach was bothering her, so Jack stayed with her. He smiled when he heard her snore and he hoped that meant he could change the channel soon.

“No!” she screamed and Jack almost had a heart attack. She crawled onto his lap and cried and Jack rubbed her back.

“It’s okay,” he said softly. “You just had a bad dream. Daddy’s here and you’re safe,” he kissed her head and felt her body shake.

“Daddy, we have to find him,” she said after she sat back and wiped her eyes.

“Find who?” he handed her a tissue.

“Uncle Mike. He isn’t dead and he needs our help,” she sobbed. “I don’t know how, but I just feel it in here,” she touched her chest. “I think I’m crazy.”

Jack tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled.

“You aren’t crazy, Tessie. You have always been very sensitive with certain things, so it’s not surprising you feel this way.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know mommy told you about the time you were with her in the snow, right?”

“Yeah. She said I was frozen to her.”

Jack sighed and nodded.

“Yeah, but after you were both back home, well a little while later, a man came to the house that you had never met. You were only a year old and there was no way you could have known anything, but you immediately disliked him. You got really upset and clung to mommy whenever the man came near. It turned out that the man had a secret and had done some things to hurt mommy.”

“And I knew it?” she asked him.

“You did. I don’t know how, but you felt it. Since then, mommy and I never doubt your feelings, Tess. If you think Uncle Mike needs help, then he may, but you also need to think of the way he may need help.”

She was mesmerized by his words.

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, Uncle Mike’s spirit might be talking to you to let you now he wants to come home. He wants to be laid to rest and he misses his family. It’s not necessarily a sign that he is alive, but just that he is reaching out to what is familiar and comforting to him.”

“Because I am sensitive, maybe I feel it more?” she asked.

He felt his eyes fill with tears.

“Yeah, I think so.”

She sighed and nodded.

“Okay, I’ll buy that,” she said and he laughed.


She snuggled against him and smiled.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

Jack looked at her.

“For what?”

“For being my daddy,” she said and closed her eyes.

Jack felt like his heart could burst with love for his daughter.

He just wished she could believe in herself like they all believed in her.


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Free promotion

The Beautiful Disaster compilation will be available on Amazon for free from Mon to Wed this week! Clink on the picture to order your copy.


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A few announcements

Just a few announcements for all of you.

Nothing Matters is no longer available for purchase in any e-format. I am going to bring it back later, but I am revamping it.

If Only is now free on all e-book formats. If you have a minute to leave a review on Amazon, it would really help me out.

I hope you’re all having a good fall so far!

Any questions on Red?

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If Only

Part One


I’ve been procrastinating about writing this blog post for a while now. If Only is my favorite book in the series and it’s also the one I’ve taken the most heat for. I’ve defended this book numerous times and I feel a lot like it is my baby, so I’ve learned that I cannot be objective when people criticize it. I go into ‘mamma bear’ mode and feel the need to protect my characters; Tommy and Brittany more than any others.

I’ve always wondered why I have this reaction to Tommy and Brittany’s story and not really to the other books. I love the other books, don’t get me wrong, but this one was different for me. I think it is more ‘me’ than any other book I’ve written.

In writing If Only, I had a few unique challenges. I needed to show Brittany and Tommy’s back story in a way that allowed the reader to know a fraction of what they had been through before the crux of the story began. I knew it was a calculated risk, starting the book with a rape scene, although I was very careful not to be too graphic or get too much into what she went through. I needed the reader to find that out when Tommy did. I needed the mystery to be there.

I also needed people to know the shock Tommy suffered with the loss of his parents. I wanted to show the moment it happened and how he and Jack responded. I needed people to know that he was a good man because I knew he was about to be a giant ass to Brittany. :)

I also had the luxury of having already introduced Tommy in Nothing Matters, but we never heard his full story.

Until now.

Bringing Brittany to the hospital as a doctor was my way of introducing her through Stephanie. Steph is one of my most likable characters and I figured if she was so close to Britt, then it would allow everyone else to know she was worth it. I was also really excited to bring in a friend for Stephanie and to give her an outlet like Jack had with Tommy.

The conference room meeting was important. I didn’t really know it was going to play such an important role in their story down the line, but I wanted to show Tommy’s need to make things right for his tiny patients. I also wanted someone to stand up to him and put him in his place.

“It doesn’t matter if the paperwork got screwed up. Never mind, I will go and talk to the people in there myself,” Tommy hung up the phone and walked to the room. He didn’t know why he was so worked up over this, but the family he was helping had a rough road ahead of them and he really felt for the young parents. He walked into the room and saw a doctor he didn’t recognize talking to a very pregnant woman and her husband. The whole room was basically empty. “Excuse me, I need the room now,” he stated bluntly.

“Excuse me, I am in the middle of a meeting,” the doctor said. She stood up and looked at the family sitting there. “I’m so sorry, I will be right back,” she walked to Tommy and led him out to the hall. “What is your problem? Are you an idiot? Can’t you see I am in the middle of something?” she seethed at him, astonished at his arrogance. “How about knocking and waiting for an answer? I would think a friend of Jack and Stephanie would have better manners.”

Tommy was taken aback that she seemed to know him, but he shook it off. “I’m sorry, but why do you need an entire conference room to talk to a pregnant woman and a guy? You could accomplish the same thing in your office, you know, the things each of us have here?” he said in a sarcastic tone, noting she almost matched his height, shorter by only a few inches. Her long red hair was tucked neatly into a clip and as she shook her head in anger a few tendrils came loose. She angrily tucked them behind her ears and he realized he almost reached up to do it himself, a thought that completely stunned him.

“Who the hell are you? It is none of your business why I am in here and you are completely out of line. I have half a mind to call the chief of staff and report you for harassment,” she yelled at him, her brilliant blue eyes flaming at him. The door of the room opened and the woman and her husband walked out.

“Dr. Anthony, I think it’s best if we go,” the woman said, nearly in tears. Her husband had her arm in a tight grip.

“No, please, it’s fine, let’s go back inside,” Brittany said frantically, glaring at Tommy and trying to convince the couple to stay.

“Actually, you can continue this in Dr. Anthony’s office. It is Dr. Anthony, right?” Tommy said, realizing there was probably more going on here than he thought, but too stubborn to change his demeanor.

The woman looked fearfully at Brittany. “You know I can’t do that,” she murmured. She turned to her husband who appeared livid.

“We need to go, now,” he grabbed her arm roughly and they rushed off, the woman turning with another look of fear at the doctors.

Tommy moved to them. “Hey, I’m sorry,” he began, but they quickly left. He forgot for a moment the fury that was standing behind him.

“Unbelievable, just unbelievable. Are you happy? Do you have any idea what you just did?” Brittany flamed at Tommy, her blue eyes full of fire. “What is wrong with you?” she stared into his emerald eyes, searching for an answer, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

He shook his head, trying to clear the flush he felt in his face. “I’m sorry, but I don’t care. I have a consult coming in and I need this room, so if you will excuse me,” he looked at her and felt the need to look away, as if she was seeing something he wasn’t ready to share. He walked into the room.

“Oh, I don’t think so. We are hardly finished here. You are the most arrogant asshole I have ever met. You can’t come in here and boot my patient out just so you can have the room and then act like everything is okay,” Brittany stated, her astonishment apparent. “You don’t know what you just did.”

“Look Red, I don’t have time for this. I have a young couple coming in with their 6-year-old son who has a rare form of Leukemia. They want their little boy to have a good experience here and not see the hospital for what it is, the place where he will probably spend most of the rest of his life. I don’t have time for your hissy fits or your soap box because your clients will have a beautiful bouncing baby soon enough and they will go on with their blissful existence and be none the wiser. Now move aside so I can make the room kid friendly,” Tommy walked past her and closed the door, separating her from him and the room.

Brittany stood there in silence, the heat ruminating from her face. This wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

So much happened in this short meeting. Tommy was truly stunned by meeting her and to hear she knew who he was surprised him. He was also an arrogant jerk and he knew he was wrong, but was too stubborn to stop things.

He also called her “Red” for the first time.

They were both immediately affected by each other and for both of them, that was startling. They needed to figure out what was happening, and how to deal with it.

The issue was much more complicated than simply getting to know each other. Brittany had so many secrets and they were hard and painful to deal with. She had never met anyone worth telling and she was terrified of Tommy’s reaction. It wasn’t that she felt he would be prejudiced or angry, but it always changed things. In her experience, it never ended well.

That’s why I loved that Stephanie knew it all. Brittany needed that outlet, that friend who had her back, no matter what.

I knew from the beginning, that Brittany’s stalker would resurface. I also knew that I needed to develop the start of a relationship between Tommy and Britt before that happened.  My first job was letting Tommy (and the reader) know about Brittany being HIV positive.

It needed to come from her and it needed to be a private conversation between them. I didn’t want him to overhear it or find out and act weird when he saw her. He overheard about the rape, but the rest was up to her to tell.

The moment she told him was one of my favorites and his response was simple and endearing.

It meant everything, but it changed nothing. He was falling for her and the more he learned, the more respect he had.

Their first date was a disaster, because of the phone call Tommy received from Julie. He was so worried about the potential health crisis Julie might be facing that all pretenses were gone. Brittany comforted him and he let his guard down. They ate and laughed and it was the most honest they had both been with anyone in a long time.

Another one of my favorite scenes was at the hospital and Brittany tried to help a pregnant patient who was in an accident. She revealed her health status and they chose to wait for someone else. It is something that happens countless times in all fields, and for Tommy, it was a game changer.

Brittany walked over and checked the monitor. She motioned for Jack and Tommy to move over. “I need to complete my exam now,” she put on her gloves. She walked to the side of the bed. “I need to inform you both that I am HIV positive. I take all necessary precautions and there is a minimal chance of any risk to you or your baby,” she said to the parents.

The man looked at her. “I want another doctor,” he said in a calm voice. He looked at his wife who nodded in agreement.

Tommy was enraged and Jack felt his heart sink. “What the hell is wrong with you? She is the best OBGYN you will ever see.”

Brittany was surprised at his outburst. She held up her hand. “It is completely understandable. I will see to it that you have another doctor come in. It will be a few minutes, but you need to try to relax. Good luck to you both,” she turned and walked out past Jack and Tommy.

Tommy went to say something to the couple when Jack pulled him out into the hall by the arm. “What the hell, man? I have to say something to that asshole. He is discriminating against her and it isn’t right.”

Jack sighed. “You need to respect Brittany here. I have learned that it does nothing but draw more attention and she doesn’t want that. She has been fighting this battle for a long time and you can’t just step in and make it better.”

Tommy looked at him. “I don’t accept that,” he said and walked away.

I loved this because it was a way for him to see into her daily life. The conversations they had after were beautiful and heartfelt and finally, Tommy began to see Brittany in a new light. She also began to feel things for him that scared her, but in a good way.

Then all hell broke loose.

Having Tommy and Jack learn who Brittany really was together was also important. It helped Tommy to have someone try and make sense of all of this with him and it helped Stephanie bring Brittany’s story out in the open. Her knowledge of the initial attack shed a lot of light on what Brittany had lived through.

A little behind the scenes: I wrote the scene where Tommy found Brittany and cared for her in the cave overnight before I wrote anything else. I had that scene in my head and wrote it before knowing how to get the characters there. I knew I wanted him to have to hold her all night and I wanted him to see what she had gone through. It was a profoundly personal moment for both of them, and it changed them.

This is where the story really begins.

Tommy offering his home for Brittany to come recuperate was a huge step. She was hurt and scared and desperate for someone to help her feel safe. I don’t know that I’ve ever written someone as completely independent as Brittany, and to be this vulnerable was terrifying.

The way Tommy cared for her was something I loved writing. My favorite line of the whole series came from that first moment at his house. I’ve references it numerous times in later books.

She wiped her tears. “Why are you being so nice to me? You don’t even know me.”

“Because I think you’re worth it. I think you’re an amazing woman who has survived because of the strength of your spirit. I think I feel things for you that I have never felt before, and I know that you have some feelings for me,” Tommy stopped and looked at her.

“I have already told you that I can’t have a relationship with you, it wouldn’t be fair. I could never be the woman you deserve, Tommy. I am so very messed up from everything in my life and I just won’t ever put you at risk for anything,” she said. “I just can’t do it.”

He touched her face and looked at her. “You could never hurt me,” he leaned closer to her. “You just need to learn to trust me, and I will help you to do that.”

She closed her eyes. “You are an amazing man, Tommy. I wish I could repay you.”

He sat next to her and she ever so gently leaned into him. “When you’re here, my world is a lot less scary.”

He smiled. “Well, that’s a start,” he smoothed her hair as she closed her eyes.

So simple, yet it’s always remained so true. Tommy just makes her feel safe.


Part Two coming soon…




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So, it’s been a week…

It’s been a week since “Red” was released. Have you finished? What do you think? Any questions? If you read it and have a minute, a review on Amazon or Goodreads would be awesome.

In the meantime, here is another favorite scene…


“Julie was really shaken up about Tommy and Jack,” she began.

“Why? What happened to Tommy and Jack?” he asked worriedly.

“Oh, sorry, Tommy attacked the doctors who tried to do something to Brittany and then Jack attacked the doctor for sedating Tommy when it almost killed him,” she stopped and saw Mike’s expression.

She smiled at him.

“Tommy is stable and Jack is okay. I helped Jack after they got Tommy into a room. I have worked enough ER shifts that it was simple to get back into that. I got him in a gown and started an IV and Jack was able to order the right meds and he should be okay after a nice sleep. Brittany was with him and Stephanie was helping Jack. Everything is calm for now.”

Mike was quiet for a minute.

“Wow,” he said.

“I know. Julie was really struggling and it kind of made me think about the fact that I never had anyone in my life that I was that close to. I guess it just hit me. I wonder if never having any connections has made me too damaged.”

“What? No way,” he said passionately. “There is nothing about you that’s damaged.”

“I know, it’s just that sometimes it hits me, how different my life was growing up.”

“I know, but now I think it’s simply my job to make sure you never feel alone again.”

She nodded and then smiled at him as his expression changed.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” he walked a little. “You undressed him?”


“Tommy,” he said.

“Oh, well I wouldn’t say that. I helped get him into a gown. It’s not like I looked at him or anything.”

Mike was jealous and he knew it. Why on earth was he jealous of this?

“Mike? It’s my job. When you’re in that setting, it’s not really about looking at anything. It’s just helping the patient.”

He blushed and smiled.

“I know. It’s just that everyone in this group is so much better looking than I am. I guess I worry.”

She was stunned.

“What? Worry that I would look at someone else? How could I? I am in love with you.”

He adored how she said it so matter of factly and she truly didn’t understand how he could even think it would be a possibility. He also loved that, for her, it wasn’t.

“I know,” he walked to her and his eyes were wet. “I guess I just have some insecurities. I don’t really match up to the accomplishments of everyone else. I just don’t want you to regret being with me.”

She moved to pull his t-shirt off and she ran her hands over his chest.

“I love you. You have done so much in this world that inspires me and those around you. You have protected our country and saved our friends. You love me and you are a survivor. What you’ve been through would turn the strongest person off from love and I am so grateful you have decided to give it a chance again with me. You are the sexiest and the most handsome man I have ever laid eyes on.”

“You’re wrong,” he said. “What happened to me had nothing to do with love. The first and only woman I have ever loved is standing right here,” he pulled her shirt off and she looked up into his eyes.

“The way you look at me is something I wished for my whole life. It’s like you see the man I always wanted to be. You can’t know how much that means to me.”

She took his hand and walked to the tub.

“You make me feel beautiful, Mike. More importantly, you make me feel worth this life.”

He watched as she took the rest of her clothes off and he did the same. They got into the tub and she sat back against him, his arms holding her.

“You are worth it all,” he said as she turned and kissed him.


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Another Favorite…

One of my favorite flashbacks…


Julie walked into Tommy’s bedroom and stood at the door. “Tommy?”

“Go away,” he grumbled and rolled over. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“I don’t feel well, wake up.”

“You have to go to school. Do you have a test?” he mumbled in his sleep.

She walked to his bed and shook him. “Wake up.”

He sat up and blinked. “What is it?”

“My stomach hurts and I threw up.”

“Did you eat anything you shouldn’t have?” he turned the light on and looked at her.

She lay down on his bed and held her stomach. “Something is wrong, Tommy. I’m scared.”

He got up and touched her cheek. “You’re burning up, Jules,” he went to get the thermometer and knocked on Jack’s door. He went back and took her temp. “Shit.”

“What is it?” she asked fearfully?

“Someone better be dying,” Jack said as he made his way into the room. He scratched his chest and yawned.

“Put some clothes on. We need to go the E.R.”

He looked at Julie in the bed and walked over. “What happened?”

“I don’t feel well. My stomach really hurts and I’m so hot,” she moaned and Jack felt her forehead.

“Her temp is 103. We need to go now.”

Jack nodded and ran to throw on some clothes. He came back in and Tommy was helping Julie to stand up. “I can’t move,” she said and Tommy looked at Jack who scooped Julie in his arms and they ran to the car. Tommy sped off to the hospital.

They sat with Julie in the triage area while they waited for the doctor. She had been vomiting and was getting worse. “Am I going to die?” she asked Tommy with a tiny voice. Jack went to get someone in there immediately.

“Of course not. You are going to be just fine,” he said, his chin quivering.

She was shaking and he held her hand, his fears running into overdrive. Jack came in with the doctor. “She has appendicitis and needs to have an appendectomy right away.”

Tommy nodded. “I figured,” he looked at his sister. “Jules, you’re going to have surgery to remove your appendix. They are going to take you now.”

She looked at him and Jack. “I’m scared. Will it hurt?”

Jack smiled. “Nope. You’re going to go to sleep and when you wake up, it will all be over. You’ll feel great.”

“Will you both be here when I get up?”

The men looked at her. “You’re our whole life. We will always be here.”

She cried and nodded. “I love you both very much.”

Tommy kissed her forehead. “Love you Jules.”

Jack leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I love you Julie Bean.”

They took her in and Tommy and Jack walked into the lobby. Jack could see Tommy was ready to lose it and he sat down next to him. “She will be fine. You know that. Most surgeons can do this procedure in their sleep.”

“I didn’t even ask who was operating. Maybe I should observe?” Tommy wiped his eyes.

“We are only students. They won’t let us near the OR and they shouldn’t. She will be fine, Tommy.” Jack looked at his hands.

“You’re worried. I can see it,” Tommy said. “What am I going to do? I can’t lose her.”

Jack shook his head. “Don’t be an ass. This is nothing. She will be fine.”

“Did we miss something? Are we too busy to notice when she is suffering? Maybe she should live somewhere else.”

Jack stood up and looked at him. “I’m not listening to this. I’m going for a walk,” he paced into the hallway and felt his eyes fill with tears. Was Tommy right? Did they let Julie down? She was really the glue that held them both together. She had given them a purpose and she was the best thing in both of their lives. He slid down against the wall and put his arms on his knees.

“You’re right,” Tommy said as he walked up to him and sat down. “She will be fine.”

Jack looked at him and his eyes were wet. “I know.”

“Who would have thought? You and I as parents to a teenage girl.”

Jack grinned. “I always thought when I had a child, it would be with someone a lot more attractive and less hairy.”

Tommy chuckled. “I could say the same thing, but we’ve all seen some of the women I’ve dated.”

The two friends laughed and looked up as the doctor walked out. They scrambled to their feet.

“She did great. She will be in recovery soon and you can see her. She will need to stay a day at least, but then she can go home. We can go over more instructions then.”

“Thank you so much,” Tommy said and he hugged Jack.

“It’s always nice to see couples so devoted to each other. Julie is lucky to have you both.”

Jack and Tommy looked at each other. “Thanks. Julie is the best of both of us,” Jack said and put his arm around Tommy.

The doctor walked away and the two men laughed as they made their way to recovery.

“Julie? Can you wake up?” Tommy asked his sister as he and Jack sat next to her bed.

She opened her eyes slowly and looked at him. “Did I make it?”

Tommy grinned. “Can you see your handsome brother?”

She looked at him. “Since when do I have a handsome brother?”

Jack laughed and Julie smiled. “I’m kidding.”

“That’s not very nice,” Tommy said. “But you did just fine.”

“Is there a scar?”

Jack took her hand. “They went in laparoscopically, so there shouldn’t be any scarring.”

“Good. I need to wear my bikini soon,” she said.

Tommy crossed his arms. “No bikini. You don’t need a bikini. If you want to swim, you can wear a t-shirt and shorts.”

Julie looked at Jack. “Will you talk to him? I can’t deal with him.”

Jack smiled. “How about we discuss this tomorrow?”

“You can discuss all you want. You never need a bikini or make up or a car or anything else that will mean you’re growing up,” Tommy said.

Julie smiled at her brother. “You’re cute when you’re delusional,” she took his hand and took Jack’s hand in her others. “You are both my heroes. Thank you for being here and for being my family.”

The two men were both choked up and looked at their sister. They were blessed more than she could ever know.


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Posting a few of my favorites…

Tommy had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He paced in his office as he went over his colossal failure in Brittany’s office. Two things she had said kept running through his mind. I hate that I met a man who I truly enjoy being around and I know in my heart that it can never be anything more. That’s what she said, and more importantly, she said it saddens me that when you look at me you see my HIV. He was a jumble of thoughts and nerves and he felt like he wanted to punch the wall. No one had ever had the power to make him feel like this. He was scared and excited and angry with himself. He ran his hand through his hair and turned to walk out of his office, he had to do something.


Brittany looked at her watch and realized she had a few more hours before Stephanie’s procedure. She sat down and pulled her long hair up into a ponytail. She took out her lunch and put her iPod in the dock next to her desk. She found the song she liked and began to eat her sandwich and read her magazine. She looked up as her door opened.

Tommy walked in and closed the door. He stood before her, out of breath. Brittany was beyond startled. “Just listen before you throw me out,” he said. “You said your piece and now I need to tell you something,” he spoke fast and with an intensity that surprised even him. “You have to cut me some slack. You can’t be here, at this hospital, and dictate how I react to you. You are irritating and confusing and you make me crazy,” he sat down on her couch and continued. “But you are also wrong. You think I look at you and see your HIV. You think you aren’t able to have a relationship. But you have convinced yourself of this without giving me or anyone else a chance. I am infuriated that some jackass would question your ability to be a doctor. It infuriates me that you just let it happen. I get that this is your issue, but really, it isn’t going to change if the only people who fight against prejudice are those directly affected by it. You didn’t choose to be attacked, you didn’t choose to contract HIV, yet you are alone with the consequences and it isn’t fair. I also don’t know why I care. I don’t know why you get to me and I don’t know how to get through to you. I’m sorry if I didn’t react the way I should have, but I don’t know what’s the right thing to do,” Tommy stopped and sighed. He realized the extent of his rant and turned to look at her.

Brittany sat in silence and wiped the tears, which had fallen down her cheeks. She stood up from her desk and walked over to him. She knelt in front of him and took his hands in hers. “You have nothing to be sorry about. You are right to feel the way you do and I am sorry I gave you the wrong impression about how you need to react. In case you haven’t noticed, I am not the best at expressing my feelings. I think it has been a long few days for you and I think you are on overload,” she stood up and he felt her break their connection. “Look, I am not the one to get involved with. You have so much to offer, Tommy, you need to leave me and go live your life. I am not your problem to fix and I don’t need to be rescued. I am happy with my life,” she lied.

Tommy stood up and nodded. “Okay. I get it,” he turned and walked to the door. “But I don’t think you’re happy, and neither am I,” he said and left the office, leaving her alone again.


Anyone remember when this happened?

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A memory…

“It’s amazing how one moment can change everything you ever thought to be true about human nature. You live each day and expect the same results, some people are nice and some aren’t. Some people expect things from you and some don’t. Some people are there for you and others walk away. Treat others as you wish to be treated. These are simple truths we have all come to rely on. It’s important to have these simple truths, because it allows us to condition our response to certain events, to know what to expect. It is when these truths fail us that we learn just what we’re made of.”

I hope you are all having a great Saturday evening!

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It’s out!

I hope you are all buried in your e-readers, but if you have a minute to stop by, let me know which book you would like me to write about next! I’m loving doing the behind the scenes and I want to know which one you want next.

Pick from the following…

robin nadler ad ragt 66 afh


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Tommy and Jack walked into the room and looked at Julie. She lay on the bed, her body covered and the sheet over her head. Brittany stood behind and simply stared at them, too numb to move.

“How is she supposed to breathe when her face is covered,” Tommy said and uncovered the top of the sheet. He sat down on the side of the bed and smoothed her hair back.

“That’s better,” he said softly. “Now you need to wake up so we can go home.”

Jack went to the other side of the bed and sat down.

“It’s like when she didn’t want to go to school. She would pretend to be sleeping,” Tommy said and smiled. “I need you to wake up now.”

One of my most favorite and heartbreaking scenes from Heartbroken was the moment above. I had such a hard time figuring out how to write Tommy because I couldn’t imagine how he would handle losing Julie. Jack was already a mess because of Stephanie and Tessa, and his reaction was one of utter heartbreak.

But Tommy couldn’t process it. He acted like we would all act- it simply wasn’t true. His heart and mind couldn’t comprehend what Brittany was telling him, and when he uncovered Julie’s face so she could breathe, I had to take a break from writing. It just made me so sad.

Now I knew, from the beginning, that Julie wasn’t going to die. I used to joke that if anyone ever looked at my search history on the computer, I would be in trouble. It was all about how to make someone appear to be dead who wasn’t. I had enough trouble when I researched Arsenic poisoning for Jade, but this was different. I had to concoct a reasonable explanation (albeit far fetched) that Janet could have carried out with limited resources.

So why do it?

I was asked this question a lot.

The answer is complicated, but as a writer, I had to do what I knew would shake up the story the most, and that has always been Julie. She is the glue, as we know, but she’s also Bill’s lifeline and David and Josie’s mom. She’s the ‘normal’ one amid the doctors and soldiers and she is the grounding force for all of them as well as for me when writing.

I took a similar approach to Heartbroken as I did with Love Endures. I began to tell more of Bill and Julie’s story- scenes I had never shown before and moments that were profound for them as a couple. The first being the time Julie learned Bill was a virgin. I loved writing that scene because she had all of these ideas about how he might react hearing she was a virgin and when he confessed, she said all of the things she was afraid of to him.

She also said the things we all thought- he was handsome and strong and in the Army. He was in his early 20’s and he had never had sex? How? Why?

The issues Bill talked about were heartbreaking. He never saw a healthy relationship growing up. His parents were never loving and he knew his mother had to do whatever his dad wanted, whenever he wanted it. Bill fought with that idea. He never wanted a woman to fear him in any way, and he held back on that kind of commitment because it needed to be completely done out of love.

It was just the opposite for Julie. Growing up with Jack and Tommy, Julie saw sex as something they did all the time (not in front of her). It didn’t necessarily mean love, but it was fun and something most men did.

Or so she thought.

Julie hurt his feelings and she knew it. The way they talked it out was a beautiful and profound moment from them, and showed just how much they really were soul mates.

“Bill, no, I’m sorry, I just didn’t expect that.”

“Why? Because I’m a man and all men want one thing?”

She shrugged.

“Well, no and yes. I mean look at you,” she walked over to him. “You are incredibly handsome and smart and sensitive. You treat me like I’m this gift and I guess I just assumed it was,” she stopped.

“It was because I was trying to get into your pants? I was only after one thing? It was all an act?” he said and felt his own eyes fill, furious with himself for getting so upset. He started pacing. “I’m such an idiot.”

The second flashback was another normal day. Julie broke up a fight in school and was a little banged up, but she didn’t call Bill. He had just returned from his year tour in Iraq and he was struggling with fitting back into the day to day. He was upset she didn’t call him and they ended up having a great talk about how grateful they both were to be together and that now was the time to believe it would last.

I also had Jack recall a special moment from the past as he let the news sink in.

He remembered picking Julie up from school once when she was sick. It was sweet and sincere and showed again, their incredible bond.

I chose these moments to show the family because when someone is gone, we don’t tend to focus on the huge memories- it’s the simple moments- the day to day dealings that we miss so much.

I needed a way to bring Julie back and I needed it to somehow explain what happened.

Bringing Bill to the edge the way I did was a calculated risk. Bill values life and he knows that his children needed him. He didn’t really want to die, but he was so completely lost at the idea of living without his wife.

It was also the circumstances. She had been taken because, in his mind, he failed. That was something he couldn’t live with. He didn’t know how to be in the world without her.

So he chose to kill himself.

I knew who would be the one to stop him.

I knew how it would happen.

So I went back. I began to show the moments from Julie’s point of view. I wanted to show her crying out for help and the scenes we had read from the other characters’ perspectives were now shown from hers. The moment Bill put his shirt on her to the moment Tommy uncovered her- she was aware of it all.


Such a simple word.

Bill heard her and everything changed. At the same time, Stephanie was able to tell Jack about what she remembered the carjackers saying and the fight was on to save Julie.

That’s when the real heart of the book began.

What Julie and Stephanie went through had a ripple effect for all of the characters. We had to deal with the immediate aftermath of the health of both women, but also with the trauma they suffered.

Julie had a huge hill to climb, but she was so worried about Bill. She also began to suffer anxiety issues with being alone and being out of control. It was a new thing for her- having always been someone who was in control of her emotions. She was scared and worried and so much of what happened to her was still unknown. That would come in to play little later.

I also had Mike and Jade, dealing with her past and the sudden resurgence of the letters.

To add some lightness to the story, I had Evan and Elizabeth going through the procedure to try and get pregnant. I loved seeing the experience through their eyes and how profoundly excited they were to become parents. I’ve always wanted to see Evan with a child. I couldn’t wait for that to happen.

One of the major points I needed to address was Bill’s shame at almost throwing his life away. I didn’t want it to be a secret, so I had him tell Brittany right away and I needed his support system to be on top of all of it. It also helped Julie to know he wasn’t alone when she couldn’t be there. Another favorite moment for me was the following.

“Brittany is going to set up an appointment with a doctor. Probably Dr. Cruze, the one I saw briefly before. I probably shouldn’t have stopped.”

She was so relieved and thankful for their family.

“Can you get in here with me?”

He stood up and pulled his shoes off before he laid on top of the covers.

“We will find a way to help you,” she said as her own tears fell. “I love you and I am with you, no matter what. Never doubt that,” she tried to hold him, but her arms didn’t move so well yet.

He pulled her to him and she cupped his face in her hand.

“You are my hero.”

“How can you say that? How can you even think that anymore?”

She kissed his chest and shrugged.

“Because you’re here with me. You’ve survived, and that’s what a hero does.”

“Then you are the most heroic of all,” he said softly.

The healing process for both of them would be ongoing, and I never wanted to rush it or make it seem like suddenly everything was okay.

I loved Bill’s scene with his children when he apologized to them. So profound and simple, but necessary.

I also had a minor point I struggled with, and that was Bill punching Mike. It was completely understood and I don’t know of anyone who would blame him-Mike certainly didn’t-, but I have always loved writing the admiration Mike has for Bill. When they were able to finally talk, I felt they came out stronger as a team.

When I look back at writing this book, I realize just how many stories were happening at once.

I had to deal with Stephanie’s recovery on top of everything else and I wanted to really focus on the real issue of PTSD that she may deal with. One of the most heartbreaking scenes was the following:

Julie had gone home with Bill and Stephanie was sitting in the family room with Tessa while Jack finished up some research. He had spoken to her doctor and wanted to try soaking with her in the tub. He put everything away and stood up when he heard a blood curdling scream and then Tessa crying.

“Stephanie? Stephanie?” he yelled as he barreled into the family room. He saw Stephanie struggling to breathe and Tessa on the blanket next to her, sobbing.

He didn’t know what to do first. He looked at Stephanie and she pointed to Tessa for him to help her.

Jack scooped his baby girl into his arms and she was bright red from crying. He held her and soothed her and she quieted down quickly. He kissed her little head and wiped her tears and she smiled at him as her green eyes were wet.

“It’s okay little Tessie. You’re safe,” he said and she fell asleep again. He walked over and placed her in the little portable crib they kept in the room and turned to Stephanie.

“Oh, God,” she said and got up, running outside and collapsing in the snow.

Jack flew after her and quickly picked her up, carrying her back inside. He didn’t know what had happened, but it was obvious to him she was having some sort of PTSD reaction. He sat down on the couch and held her to him, trying to help her calm down.

“You’re safe and Tessa is safe,” he repeated. “I’m here and I love you so much.”

“I’m going to be sick,” she got up and made it to the basket in the room before throwing up. Jack felt his tears fall as he watched her and he wondered what he should do. He ran and got a washcloth.

“Stephanie? I need you to look at me and focus on me,” he said after she sat back. She did and he smiled as he gently wiped her face.

“That’s good,” he spoke softly. “You’re doing amazing.”

She didn’t say anything, she just reached out and held his hand, still struggling to catch her breath.

“You’re doing it,” he said and let his own tears fall. “Try to stay grounded in my eyes.”

“Jack,” she said and he was so relieved. “I’m so sorry. Is she okay? I need to see Tessa.”

He helped her up and showed her their little daughter sleeping sweetly in the crib.

“She’s fine,” he said. “I’m a tad more worried about her mom at the moment.” She felt her legs shake and he helped her to the couch.

“I fell asleep with her on my chest. I woke up and I was back in the cabin and I could feel the cold. I thought she was stuck to me again and I panicked. I put her down and I thought she was dead. I thought I killed her,” she felt her tears flow again and put her head in her hands. “I was so scared, Jack. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what else to say.”

He pulled her into his arms again and they held each other for a long time.

“Okay,” he sat back and smiled at her. “Let’s look at what we know.” She followed his every word and stayed grounded in his eyes. “You had a flashback when you woke up. It’s to be expected and I’m surprised you haven’t more of them.”

She shook her head and wiped her eyes. “It was so real,” she said brokenly. “I felt the cold and the fear,” she said as her whole body shook. “She was so still. I don’t know what happened. I could have given her a heart attack. I scared her so badly, Jack. She was sound asleep and I screamed at her.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” he said softly. “Tessa is fine and you’re going to be okay. As the best heart surgeon there is, I can tell you she will be just fine. She is sleeping and will not remember waking up.”

She stood up and took a deep breath. “I’m going to clean up real quick, okay?”

He nodded and watched her walk into the bedroom. He felt the air go out of his lungs as he sat down. He just wanted to help her. He just needed her.

“Jack?” He looked over and saw she came back.

“What is it?” he walked over to her.

“Can you help me? Can you hold me? I just need you,” she said brokenly.

“My love,” he said as he gathered her in his arms. “I will hold you forever.”

I love writing Jack and Stephanie, and I needed Jack to be able to help Steph with this. He felt so helpless with everything that happened to her and Tessa and he just needed to help her. She needed him as much and it truly helped heal them both.

I also touched on her fears having to use any type of assistance to get around. As someone with MS, I understand the implications of using an assistive device. It’s hard to separate the reasons in your mind. Stephanie struggled with that. I have, too.

Another story that continued at this time was Mike and Rebecca- or at least the house issue. Mike was engaged to Jade and planning a wedding and he was faced with the idea that he lost everything because of the divorce. Rebecca was tying up all of his savings and he was at a low point after listening to her spew her garbage at him.

A little behind the scenes info for the next scene:

Mike walked through his house. He stood in the darkness and crossed his arms.

Pregnant? I don’t know how you were able to have sex with her. I didn’t think you could even do that anymore, what with your injuries. Maybe that’s why you’re with her? She couldn’t do any better than half a man.

He made his way to the master bedroom and stood in the doorway, looking in at the bed. He hadn’t ever slept in it. She bought it and furnished the house while he was away. When he came back, he moved into the guest room.

He walked to the dresser and looked at her things, which still sat on the top. His anger grew as he took his arm and cleared everything to the floor. He turned and walked to the bed, sitting down. What the hell had he done? How was this his history?

It wasn’t like he was forced to marry her. He went along with all of this, and that meant he was okay with it.

The truth hurts, Michael. You have never been good enough. I just believe in telling you what I know. I’ve lived with you. I think it’s time you understood why I did the things I did. All of this was because of you.

She was right. He was and is a failure and he has no one to blame but himself. With Rebecca holding up the house, he has nothing to offer Jade. He can’t afford a wedding or a house. How could he expect her to marry him? He was a loser and a fraud. Jade deserved so much more.

Mike got up and looked around again. He made a decision and walked out.


I was going to have the house burn down. I actually wrote an arc where he was a suspect and nobody knew if he did it. I decided, ultimately, not to do it, but I always wondered about it.

I know this is getting long, but there are so many things I was able to cover in Heartbroken. I had Jade bonding with Elaine and picking out a wedding dress. I had Brittany and Tommy more in love and finally taking some pictures. I had the introduction of a dog into Bill and Julie’s life.

I also had the ongoing struggle of learning to cope with Naomi’s diabetes. The insulin pump helped so much, but anyone can make a mistake. Tommy broke my heart with this one.

“The receiver? Do you have it?”

He paled.

“It’s in the car. Shit,” he ran out and came back a second later. As soon as he got close to Naomi, the alarms went off.

“It’s at 65,” he said. “I’ll get the gel,” he reached for the tube, measuring the amount and quickly wiping it inside Naomi’s cheek. They waited a minute and watched her.

Josie and David sat perfectly and watched while Naomi was attended to and Tramp sat with them.

“Okay, we are doing better,” Brittany said and held her daughter, grateful she was becoming more alert.

“Mama?” she said softly.

“I’m here, mini red,” she said and rubbed her daughter’s back. “How do you feel?”

Tommy grabbed the materials to check her sugar and Naomi started to cry.

“No owie,” she said softly.

“I’m sorry baby,” she said. “Let’s sing a song.”

Brittany sang and David and Josie sang with her, mesmerizing Naomi as Tommy quickly pricked her, not drawing her attention at all.

“All done,” Tommy said to Brittany as he looked at the reading. “Back at 90.”

Brittany smiled and kissed her daughter’s cheek.

“Let’s continue our book, okay?”

“Okay,” the kids said and Brittany sat Naomi in her lap as they all went back to reading while Tommy cleaned up.

Tommy decided the receiver needed to be attached to them at all times. He shook his head at his anger over his own mistake.

It was an easy mistake, but he was so hard on himself. Both of them were. Naomi is a little champ, and she is always proving her strength.

I had an idea with the dog for Bill and I knew it wouldn’t be the one they expected, but rather the dog that needed them as much as they needed her. Poor little Hope was in rough shape and she didn’t trust anyone. The way she came to the children was so sweet and there was no doubt about what dog they would get. Hope was made for them.

There were so many things I loved about Heartbroken.

-Elaine and Evan tricking Nick into telling them what he did to Julie.

-Jade and Evan bonding over their twins.

-Every single Bee and David interaction.

-Jade and Mike’s bachelor/ bachelorette party.

-Bringing Jason back into the story.

-Even though it was scary, I loved Brittany’s issues with the clot because it brought Jack as a surgeon back into the forefront.

-I also loved exploring Jade’s body issues and how she was continually dealing with them.

-Bill’s sessions with Dr. Cruze.

-Potty training both Bee and David.

So many things happened in Heartbroken and it is one of my favorite books of the series. It was controversial and surprising, but also full of love and hope.

Thank you all so much for reading and letting me know what you love about the series.

Enjoy Red!  Available tomorrow.




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