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Mai's Ties

When Mai meets Brit, an insurance agent and soon-to-be-grandpa twice her age, the last thing she wants is her relatives playing matchmaker. But what's a girl to do when the guy turns out to be fun, sexy, good looking, a fantastic salesman and the most determined vegetarian she's ever seen gardening in the buff? She can't leave Dubuque until her mother's broken leg heals. The solution? Move Mom and herself into a big, rundown Victorian with other two senior citizens, creating a communal household. And since the oldsters are very generous with their post-garage sale items, why not open a flea market upstairs? Brit is Mr. Helpful- until he discovers Mai's flea market is next door to his new, upscale apartment building. Besides, his plans include turning the Victorian property into a private park for his tenants. Still, some folks think Life-with-Hot-tempered-Grandpa could have its charms. But what about Brian, who disappeared on Mai's honeymoon?

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

C.J. Winters

     C.J. Winters was always more interested in Tomorrow than Yesterday. Then she discovered the American Past offers a wealth of backgrounds for some of her offbeat story ideas. Combining such backgrounds with her fascination for the extra-normal has led to ten-and-a-half books published or soon to be published by Hard Shell Word Factory. Show-Me Murder is a paranormal cozy mystery trio. Right Man Wrong Time, Sleighride, Moon Night, and A Star in the Earth are paranormal romances. The love stories of four generations of an American family unfold in Foredestined Summer, Fires of War and Winter, A Dazzling Spring and Autumn in Cranky Otter. Still to come is a contemporary romance, Mai's Ties, and half of a paranormal anthology, Deadknots. C.J. also has eight short stories included in five anthologies.

     Iowa born-raised-educated and Missouri seasoned, earth-bound C.J. feels compelled to follow her characters through their times, lifetimes, and the gauzy curtains separating them. Although she lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, she prefer rustic settings for her stories. Creating intense relationships and helping them unfold through intriguing, subtle or whimsical interplay is her idea of fun. She says, "Story plotting is like weight-lifting for the brain. You collect puzzle pieces and then find places to fit them."

     About herself, C.J. says, "My fantasy life began early, through movies more than books. Star-struck, I played Western roles on my pony, and kept a nightly serial story going in my head at bedtime, naturally casting myself as the heroine.

     "When my career as a copywriter ended, I began writing a different form of fiction--love stories with a different twist than those being published at the time. Then along came e-publishing, and a new, limitless niche opened. Admittedly self-indulgent, I first write to entertain myself, and it looks like I'm addicted to a life of fiction!"

     For more, visit my website, www.cjwinters.com


5 hearts

"Mai's Ties is a wonderful read. It has everything--fresh, original characters that you can really care about, a complex plot with some wonderful little twists, an upbeat, very readable style and a little bit of something to think about at the end. This book is definitely a keeper."

Kara Lynn Russell -- The Romance Studio

4 roses

"I got a real kick out of MAI'S TIES and a whole new appreciation for the idea of gardening in the nude. Oh, the things that can happen when wearing nothing but a pair of gardening gloves...."

Kay James -- Romance Reader at Heart

4 cups!

"Mai's Ties is a refreshing read. It has some unexpected twists and turns making the book fascinating. I liked Brit and Mai the moment they clashed at his apartment. No matter what their age difference, they were great together and the dialogue was excellent. Taking care of a garden in the nude was quite a unique spin too. C.J. Winters weaves a real McCoy tale that is neat in every way. She creates an easy flowing story that enchants the reader."

Cherokee -- Coffee Time Romance

Chapter 1

ACCOMPANIED BY THE sounds of scolding robins and the swish-swish of a nearby watering system, Mai Fagan sneakered her way up the flagstones to the California-style house high above the Victorian heart of Dubuque, Iowa.

Brit Twitchell, owner of the low-slung house, wasn't expected home until Thursday. Half an hour ago, Mai's old friend, Kathy Anker, had pressed the house key into Mai's reluctant hand.

"Brit gives us his house key when he goes out of town," Kathy had said, "in case of an emergency at his apartment building. He wouldn't switch on the alarm without telling us."

Kathy had a dental appointment, so if Mai was in a big hurry to see her mother's possible new apartment, she'd have to get the key to the apartment herself. Kathy's instructions were simple.

"Go down the hallway to the kitchen, get the key to A-4 off the rack in the cabinet behind the purple glass dinnerware. Lock up on your way out."

"You will arrange bail for me, won't you, if Neighborhood Watch calls the cops?" asked Mai.

The cops, though, would probably take one look at her sweat-suited bod and scraggly, blond-tipped hair, and run. Still, it was a relief not to have to dress to impress.

When Mai had heard about her mother's accident, she'd left Kansas City in a hurry. Now her other clothes and possessions were heaped in her mother's living room.

Unlocking the Chinese red lacquered front door, she stepped warily inside, half expecting a burglar alarm to screech its fury throughout the quiet neighborhood. Peace, however, continued to reign.

Inside, the Twitchell house was a minimalist's dream, a Victorian's nightmare. Mai rubbernecked her way along the bisecting white hallway, her soles squawking on the sleek marbleized floor.

Sliding glass walls on either side of the hall displayed the four rooms beyond them. On her right, the living room offered a gray stone fireplace stretching to the cathedral ceiling, gray carpet and off-white walls. That was it. No furniture.

If you looked closely, the gray-and-off-white dining room held furniture: a glass and clear plastic table, matching chairs, and a giant chrome chandelier that would look at home in The Museum of Modern Art. To Mai, the setting cried out for watercress, smoked salmon and chardonnay.

On her left, an office and a bedroom displayed off-white storage walls, no doubt hiding computer and home entertainment clutter. In the office, a couple of ebony drawers dangled from a glass-topped desk, and gray filing cabinets flanked the mini-blinded window. Central to the stark room, however, was the Herman Munster-size black leather desk chair. Visitors might sit in virtually invisible chairs, but the master would loom from the ghoulish depth of his black throne. The bedroom offered a king-size bed with white comforter.

A pair of penguins would feel right at home here, thought Mai. All it needs is a blanket of ice cubes.

An ant couldn't hide in the exposed rooms. With a shudder, Mai pushed through the swinging door at the end of the hall, into the kitchen. Not surprised, she found more white tile, white cabinetry and glass.

The entire back wall of the kitchen was glass, but she could appreciate its use here because it looked out on a garden secluded by a high white wall—a Betty Grable-John Payne Technicolor vision of immaculate grass edged in vibrant flowers and small, artfully shaped evergreens. A white-stone patio with a pair of white loungers bulged gracefully into the manicured lawn. In the center of the garden, a white fountain sent flares of sparkling water arcing into a circular basin.

The contrast between the cold artificiality of the interior and the breathtaking natural beauty of the garden drew Mai to the glass division between them.

Except there wasn't any glass.

Apprehensive and cautious, she stepped onto the patio. Had the house been broken into during Twitchell's absence? Perhaps that explained the decor, or lack of it—everything moveable had been stolen!

She paused, overlooking the enclosed garden, the only movement the spray of the fountain and a higher, sprinkling arch attached to a green garden hose attached to… a naked man!

With a yelp—more of a squeak, because her voice stopped working in the middle—she leapt backward into what should've been the doorway to the kitchen, but wasn't. Erring to the left, she instead backed over and into a large urn full of red geraniums.