Happy Hump Day, everyone! Today's post features Stacy Juba, who contributed the Rainbow Celebration Punch recipe to Cocktail Cruises: The Collection. Welcome Stacy!
Cassidy Novak from my
mystery/romantic suspense novel Sink or Swim has spent the last few months on a
ship, but it's definitely not a cruise ship. She sure could use a drink from
Allie's collection, though, after the grueling weeks toiling aboard the Atlantic
Devil. During her time on the reality TV show Sink or Swim, Cassidy worked as a
crew member on a Tall Ship, where she
scrubbed toilets, chipped paint off bulkheads and climbed ratlines to
furl the sail. She slept in a wire-frame airless berth stacked three tiers
high, and don't even ask her about the disgusting food! Below is an excerpt
depicting how Cassidy walked the plank after attaining second place during the
final week. Little does she know that a stalker is watching and things are
about to get even worse....
Gabriel’s sword blade brushed
her back. Not only were her dreams drowning, she was about to undergo torture.
The humiliating kind.
Her breath rasping, she eyed the
twenty-foot drop. The end of the plank seemed miles away, though it was only
ten feet. Trying not to look down, Cassidy inched forward. At the verge, she
halted and willed her gaze toward the dark cold water below.
Gabriel stepped up behind her
and touched the cold sharp steel to the nape of her neck. "Time to sink or
Don’t show emotion. You’ve
got to lose with dignity. Cassidy said a silent prayer, folded her arms
across her chest and vaulted off the plank. Ice cold waves pressed around her
shoulders as she thundered underwater. Cassidy gulped a mouthful and shot back
up into a straight line, desperate to break the surface.
Stinging water overflowed her
eyes and Cassidy pawed her eyeballs with wet hands. She squeezed her clogged
ears with her fingers, swallowed to ease her raw throbbing throat.
Treading water, Cassidy hiked
down the sopping shorts that rode up her legs and adjusted her soaked
tee-shirt. She swam over to the rope ladder dangling against the side of the
ship and craned her neck. Dozens of faces gaped down at her.
She climbed the ladder, the
rungs burning her hands and bare left foot. Her right canvas shoe slipped on
each notch; Cassidy’s other shoe had floated away. Teeth chattering, Cassidy
extended her leg over the railing and dropped onto the deck with a bang. A
production assistant tossed her a Navy blanket. Muttering her thanks, Cassidy
wrapped herself in the scratchy warmth.
She had to cheer up. Even though
the amount was a mystery, the runner-up won a prize. Maybe it would be a
hundred grand. Even $25,000 would help to eradicate her college loans and car
But, it wouldn’t finance an
affordable private health club where participants could work out with personal
trainers, a pilot site that could have eventually blossomed into a full-blown
franchise via all the endorsement money and popularity showered on savvy
winners of Top Ten reality shows.
Stacy Juba contributed a non-alcoholic recipe for Rainbow Celebration Punch
to Cocktail Cruises. Stacy loves to write stories about Characters at a
Crossroads: individuals who are finding themselves and getting on the
right life path after overcoming obstacles. She has made numerous bestseller
lists including GalleyCat’s Barnes & Noble Bestsellers and GalleyCat’s
Mystery and Thriller Bestsellers. Stacy has written about reality TV
contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer investigating a cold case,
teen psychics who control minds, twin high school hockey stars battling on the ice,
and teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag. Stacy also offers the
affordable Crossroads Editing Service for writers and does her editing the
old-fashioned way, on a hard copy. In addition, she teaches online writing and
book promotion classes for various writers organizations. Watch for her
upcoming romantic comedy Fooling Around With Cinderella.
Happy Monday! You know what that means...another free read for all of you today, in anticipation of Cocktail Cruises: The Collection releasing next month. Today's read is from Chapter 1 in the second book in the series (Note: series spoilers have been removed from this excerpt). Enjoy!
Two people who’ve always played at love discover the stakes are higher when they let down their guard and open their hearts…
Cassidy Arnez is an elementary school teacher with an enormous secret: a sexually adventurous online life that she leads under a foolproof alias. Her motto has always been to enjoy sex and the single life as much as possible. With a deadbeat dad and a brother who died in combat, she knows she can’t rely on any man to stick around.
Bryce Anderson enjoys his bachelor life as the CFO of a major cruise line, a position that gets him all the sun, sand, and women he could want. But he meets his match in Cass, who’s even less interested in commitment than he is, and her casual, confident sexuality turns him on more than anyone he’s ever met.
When a financial crisis at Cass’s school places her, and her coveted secret identity, at the center of a small town firestorm, she must decide whether she’ll let Bryce become the first man she’ll trust with both her secrets and her heart.
You do not need anyone else to complete your
life – not your professional life, not your personal life, not your sex life.
You are perfectly okay all by yourself.
Cassidy Arnez yanked on a body-skimming black top and
adjusted her silver-and-black lace bra. Her doorbell rang, and she glanced at the clock. With a
little luck, in a few hours she’d be stretched out poolside, with a drink in
hand and nothing but three days of cruising and sunshine ahead of her.
“Coming, I'm coming, hang on,” she called. She stuffed a
floral bikini into her carry-on and dug through her drawer for mascara. “It’s
open,” she added.
Cass’s best friend Louise walked inside the spacious
apartment. “You’re not ready?”
Lou leaned in the bathroom doorway. “Traffic will be
terrible if we don’t get to Tampa before four.”
“I wish you could come,” Cass said.
“Me too. But I need this temp job, especially in the middle
of tax season.”
Cass finished her eye makeup and added some blush and
lipstick. She wasn’t about to turn down a free cruise, even if she had to go
“You look great,” Lou said, “even though you’re way
overdressed for a cruise.”
Cass arched a brow, zipped her makeup bag, and placed it
into the top of her open suitcase. “There’s no such thing.” She put her laptop
into its black leather case and settled it into the suitcase. She grabbed the envelope that held a personal letter from
the Cocktail Cruise Line, along with her boarding pass to the Spirit of the Sea. According to Lou,
everyone who’d been on that fated cruise back in February, the first and last
that featured the Charming Hearts speed dating service, had been given the same
On behalf of the
entire cruise line, we would like to offer you a complimentary four-day cruise
anytime during the month of April or May…
Since spring break for the Hope’s Landing school district
fell conveniently in the first week of April, here she was.
Cass stepped into black wedges and pulled on an over-sized
floppy hat. She turned off the lights and slipped her purse over her shoulder.
Then her gaze stopped at the picture hanging by the door, the way it always
did. Cass and her twin brother Carlos stood arm in arm on the Hope's Landing
High School football field, on the sunny afternoon of their graduation six
years ago. Wide smiles and matching dimples. Rabbit ears made with their
fingers over each other's heads, the way they'd always posed for pictures back
then. Long, sweeping beams of June light surrounded them, casting shadows at
their feet. Draped over the silver frame was Carlos's Purple Heart, given
posthumously to the Arnez family almost two years ago.
Cass wrapped a rose-colored silk scarf around her neck and
slipped on designer sunglasses. “I'm dressed like this because I never who I’ll
run into,” she said to Lou, “or what might happen around the next corner.” She
opened the door and rolled her suitcase down the sidewalk to Lou’s waiting car.
Or how many times she would learn to reapply makeup so the
world didn't know she'd been crying, or the ways in which she could recreate
herself in order to keep getting up every morning.
* * *
“I can’t make it to the game tonight.” Bryce Anderson
shifted his cell phone from one ear to the other, thankful to be working from
home today. He winced and rubbed his temples. Too many shots of tequila after
glasses of champagne last night, celebrating at the office over the first
quarter’s numbers. “I’m going on a four-day with the Spirit of the Sea.” He popped two aspirin and downed half a glass
of water. Why the hell had the Florida sun decided to shine full strength this
“Oh yeah,” his best friend Toby said. “Forgot. That’s a
rough life you’ve got.”
Bryce grinned. Didn’t he know it. His family hadn’t handed
him the CFO job at Cocktail Cruise Line, though; he’d had to earn it fair and
square. An MBA and two years of experience working at one of the top firms in
Miami had convinced both his father and his Uncle Max that he deserved to
manage the cruise line’s money. He liked the job, and he was good at it. First quarter numbers through the roof. Cruising every so often was just a nice fringe benefit.
“You taking Sheila with you?”
“Nope. She can’t make it.” A cute redhead that he’d been
seeing for a few weeks, Sheila was leaving tomorrow for a month-long motorcycle
trip, and Bryce didn't do motorcycles. Or long-distance.
“All right, man. Call me when you’re back.”
“I will. See ya.” He clicked over to answer a number he
didn't recognize. “Bryce Anderson.”
“Well, hello there.”
Not Sheila. Not the new secretary on the first floor of his
office building either, though they’d been flirting on and off for the last
month. Bryce flipped back through his recent dates but couldn't find a face
that matched the lilting voice on the other end of the line. “Hi.”
“It's Theresa.” Pause. “From last night.”
He rolled his head from side to side. Last night after the
office party, he'd hit a strip club with a couple of the other guys. He didn't
recall giving his number to anyone, but his memory wasn’t always reliable,
especially after tequila. “Hey, how are you?”
She laughed, and he got a vague memory of her face. Tiny
frame, big hair, lots of makeup. Hour-glass figure. He couldn't recall anything
else. “I'm still missing a shoe, but otherwise I'm fine.”
A shoe? He searched his brain and came up with nothing.
“Are you free tonight?” she asked. “I thought we could grab
“Aw, I can't. I'm sorry. I’m actually leaving on a cruise in
a couple of hours.”
She didn't laugh this time. “If you don't want to see me
again, just say so.”
“I’m serious. I have to go for work.” He wondered if he’d
even told Theresa where he worked or what he did. “I’m leaving today and coming
back Sunday morning. If you want to get a drink next week sometime, though,
that would be cool.”
“'Cool'?” She clicked her tongue, and Bryce got another
quick recall of her face. Blue eyes and a smile he wouldn't mind seeing on the
pillow beside him. On another day, or maybe in another life, when he didn't
work eighteen-hour days, Theresa might be a nice girl to spend time with. But
in the here and now, they didn't have a prayer. He could tell Theresa right now
that coffee or no coffee, great sex or lukewarm, they'd be done within a month.
She'd want a commitment, and he'd pull away.
It wouldn't work out.
It never did.
Want to read more? Pre-Orders for the entire Cocktail Cruises Collection are now available at all of the following retailers. Grab your $1.99 copy today!