The publisher has asked for reviews not to be posted until the release day, but I will let you all know this is a fabulous love story. Matt McKinney is a hero to swoon over and Abby, plus her four engaging children, steal your heart too. I pulled out my Kleenex box with this story and want to tell all of you to get your one-click fingers ready to add it to your library!
So, welcome Claudia and congratulations on WORTH THE FALL!
Guest Post by Claudia Connor
A Writer’s Mind~Are you sure you want to know?Since Worth the Fall is my first book, just about everyone I know has asked me, Have you always wanted to be a writer? No one knew this about me. Not my best friends, not my mom, not even my husband. Why didn’t they know this deep dark secret? Because there was no secret. I never even considered being a writer.
I didn't particular enjoy writing in school, though I was okay I suppose. I pulled too many excruciating all nighters in college writing papers on Early Childhood Development for my masters degree. So no, I was never thinking writer.
But, I’ve always been a reader, gobbled up romance since my first Sweet Valley High, AND, I’ve ALWAYS seen stories in my head. Like vivid full color movies with all five senses. This is about the time I get the head tilt and the smile that says, Uh, okay. I have no idea what you’re talking about but good for you. Gotta go.
Lucky for them, I don’t continue with I often catch myself staring into space, smiling, sometimes even crying. Which is particularly embarrassing when I’m getting my oil changed. And I don’t tell them I see a line of gorgeous men waiting not so patiently outside my closet door.
— Yes, that’s where I work. My closet fetish could be its own post.—
Anyway, outside the closet there’s a lot of, I was here first and she likes me better. And I’m like, Shh! I’m working!
And when they’re really becoming a distraction I turn around in a huff and say something like, You. I point at the 6’ 4” 250 pound man crowding me. I already said, you were next, go find something to do.
Hmm...you’re cute but way too young.
And you, super hot, interesting face, but you don't have any real problems. Come back to me when something terrible happens to you.
Last guy. Ahh...you’re new. Why don't you hang around until I’m done and we’ll talk. *wink* He gives the others a smug, Told you she liked me, and I go back to work.
In a complete lapse of judgement, I recently shared this with one of my teen daughters. Note to self: Do not give your children any additional reason to think you’re insane.
So that’s what happened with Worth the Fall. I saw Abby and Matt and the kids ALL the time. I watched them, listened to them, cried with them. It was just as much an escape as watching a full length movie. In fact, it’s like my favorite movie that never ends. I love them. I could spend forever with them.
And that’s a glimpse into the mind of writer, or maybe just mine. Strange, but hey, at least I’m never lonely!
The McKinney Brothers, Book 1
Worth The Fall by Claudia Connor
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Prepare to be swept away by a talented debut author with a passionate, powerful story to tell.
They meet on a beach. . . . Abby Davis isn’t wearing a skimpy bikini or sipping umbrella drinks, not when she’s busy chasing around four little ones. And Matt McKinney isn’t looking for fun—he’s a Navy SEAL, a grown man with a long list of missions . . . and fallen brothers.
They only have a week. . . . Abby has brought her children to this beach to start over, to give them the enjoyable memories they deserve. Matt’s been sidelined by a combat injury, and haunted by the best friend he lost and the promise he made: to remain a SEAL—focused and dedicated. This leaves no time for what he’s always wanted: a family.
But a week is all it takes. . . . Matt opens her heart while Abby soothes his soul. And though they plan to say good-bye when the week is over, something magical happens on that beach, something neither can forget. Something utterly, completely worth falling for.
EXCERPT ONE FROM WORTH THE FALL
The morning sun reflected off the meandering, free-form pool. Ornamental grasses and tropical flora offered intermittent patches of shade.
“Mommy, can we get in?” Gracie asked.
“Sunscreen first.” Abby dug in her beach bag for lotion, then started at Annie’s shoulders and worked her way down. The others sat waiting, feet dangling in the water.
She glanced around for Wicked Witch of the White Pants, not really expecting to find her at the family pool. Her mind strayed to the tall man with horrible taste in women. But wow. He had looked good in that shirt. Stark white dress shirt against his dark complexion, cuffs rolled up, his hands so big that one had covered Charlie’s entire back. And he hadn’t been at all concerned with clinging chocolate fingers.
Abby froze, then peered up at the man blocking out the sun with his big body. He stood close enough she had to crane her neck to see his face. And he continued to stand there, not saying another word. Oh. Yeah. Probably waiting on her.
“Hi,” she finally choked out.
“Mind if I sit?”
“Um, sure.” But he was already halfway down, not waiting for her mumbled response.
He wore dark blue swim trunks and a gray T-shirt with the word “Navy” stretched tightly across his chest. A huge presence in a small space. The lounge chairs were packed so closely together their knees practically touched. He smelled nice—not a heavy cologne smell but a more subtle man-product scent, like aftershave. The kind of smell that woke up more than your nose.
“Hey!” Jack joined them, all smiles to see his football-throwing friend.
She finished Annie and went for Jack. “Sunscreen,” she told him, pulling him closer.
True to his honest and forthright nature, Jack blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Your girlfriend is mean.”
“Jackson Moore!” Abby admonished.
“Well, she is,” he insisted, trying his best to dodge her efforts to lotion his crinkled nose. “Is she your friend? Because you don’t have to be friends with people that are mean, but you can’t hit them. Right, Mom?”
“Right.” Abby held the back of Jack’s head to keep him still. She really needed to teach her son not to voice every thought.
“No, she’s not my friend,” he said.
Abby gave him a quick skeptical glance.
Jack smiled. “That’s good. I don’t like girls either. What’s your name?”
“Matt, and you’re right. She is mean. But some girls are nice.” He said the last part looking right at her.
Good grief. He must catch a million unsuspecting girls with that movie-star handsome face.
Gracie climbed up beside Matt, clamping a small, wet hand onto his shoulder. She leaned around so they were nose-to-nose. As if hearing her wasn’t going to be enough, she had to make sure he saw her too. “Hi.”
Abby gave Jack’s back a pat. “Okay, you’re free.”
“Are you going to tell me your name?”
Matt’s deep, smooth voice matched his soft brown eyes, and she couldn’t help wondering why he was here. With her.
Gracie wobbled on the uneven slats of the lounge chair, then steadied herself by grabbing on to the sunglasses strap hanging around his neck. “Her name’s Mom.”
Matt laughed and caught his glasses. “Hi, Mom.”
She pulled her daughter off the chair and stood her between them. Okay, she was a nice enough person, her looks didn’t repel people in general, but this was a man who definitely had more options than a pregnant woman and the preschool crowd.
All thought evaporated with the intense sensation of dropping off the highest point of a roller coaster.
Brain scramble. Had he asked a question? Yes. Name.
“Abby. It’s Abby. My name.”
His smile widened and she fumbled with the bottle of sunscreen, inwardly groaning at how stupid she sounded. She had little experience with men and zero with flirting. Not that she was trying to. Which was good, since saying her name was obviously more than she could handle.
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EXCERPT TWO FROM WORTH THE FALL
The morning sun hung like a bright yellow ball, already heating the sand under Abby’s feet. It would heat up the North Carolina coast to near a hundred degrees before it finished. The kids raced past her to the water as far as they were allowed.
She’d needed to get away from him yesterday, away from his slow, sexy smile and knowing eyes. The intense way he held her gaze and her hand. However unwanted, her attraction had evidently multiplied overnight. But there was no mistaking Matt’s tall form striding toward her before she dropped her bags on the sand.
He waved and smiled, and she waved back, then turned to raise her umbrella. His deep voice vibrated through and around her as he greeted the children. That alone caused a flutter in her stomach.
Settle down. He’s only a man.
Using the upper body strength she’d honed at the gym, she strained to crank the stubborn umbrella. She could do it. She’d done it yesterday. For God’s sake. Don’t look completely incompetent.
“Need some help?”
“No, I’ve got it.”
He moved in behind her until he stood so close she felt the loose strands of her hair catching on his chest. Abby inhaled hot skin and male deodorant—a heady, masculine combination that had her struggling to focus.
“Let me help you.”
“I can do it.” She tried to sound forceful and confident, but it came out breathy and—
“I know you can, but I can help.” His words whispered against her cheek. His arms came around her and he easily raised the umbrella, his body brushing hers with each turn of the crank. Then his arms were gone, leaving a strange void.
She turned to face him. He was so close. Nothing between them but the warm breeze. His sunglasses hung around his neck, revealing chocolate-brown eyes. Beyond beautiful, deep and rich, fringed with black lashes. A strong man with soft eyes. Eyes that could talk a girl into anything.
It was unnerving, being this close to him, especially wearing nothing but a bathing suit. Trying to imagine what he saw, she fought the urge to tug her top higher. Breasts on the small side—barely a C-cup when she was pregnant. Her straight dark hair hung in its usual ponytail, rebel pieces already flying free. A bit of tinted sunscreen was all the attention her face had received. Not what he was used to.
Needing a reprieve from his hot gaze, she looked straight ahead. Big mistake. Fine black hairs feathered across sculpted pecs, swirling around dark nipples.
Lord, she needed water. To drink or splash on her burning face, she wasn’t sure. She forced her gaze up and found him watching her intently.
He raised his hand slowly toward her face. “Sand,” he said, brushing his thumb lightly across her temple.
Her lips parted and she stood blinking up at him like a complete ninny, his smoldering brown eyes melting her into a puddle.
“Hey, Matt. Where’s our castle? I brought my football. Can we throw in the water?” Jack shot off his questions, oblivious to the fact the two adults in front of him stood like frozen statues.
Matt’s eyes held her captive another long second before he turned his attention to her son and she let herself breathe.
“Yeah, sure. One sec.” He walked the few feet to where he’d left his beach chair and came back with two. “There.” He set up the chairs under her umbrella. “You’ll like it better with a chair.”
“Thank you. If you tell me how much, I’ll—”
“Matt—” She reached for her beach bag, but he stopped her with a hand on her arm.
Her mind went blank at the feeling of his hot hand on her skin and the sensation he was touching her everywhere.
“Matt!” Jack was about to burst a blood vessel he was so excited.
Abby tried unsuccessfully to unglue her eyes as he walked down to the water. Matt’s sleek body dove through the waves as he played with Jack, and each time she held her breath, waiting for him to resurface. When he did, he burst through the water looking like a Greek god, chiseled out of smooth stone and coming to life right before her.
But the way he smiled at her son and gave him high fives made him even more beautiful. And the way she’d felt standing between his arms . . . Ridiculous, but still the word “safe” came to mind.
He stood in front of her, drops of water clinging to his arms and chest, dripping down the ridges of his stomach.
Jack ran up beside him. “We’re swim buddies. Right, Matt? Matt says you should always swim with a buddy.”
Matt’s raised eyebrows and the smirk he was fighting told her she’d been busted for gawking. “Do you want to come out? The water’s great.”
“Um, no. No, thanks. I’m not a strong swimmer. I mean I can swim, I just—”
“I’ll be your swim buddy.” He grinned and she caught a hint of dimples.
“The ocean still hasn’t grown on you, huh?”
She swallowed hard. “It’s growing.”
Claudia Connor attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. Always a lover of happy endings, she enjoys movies, reading, and spending her days putting on paper the stories in her head. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
Keep in touch with Claudia
What? Wanted to know about her, he meant. Out of curiosity. Like you might want to know about your waiter or your mailman. But you didn’t want to know them.
“Good grief,” Matt said, then softened his exasperation with a smile. “What’s your favorite color?”
Really? Abby’s heart was pounding, so intensely aware of his nearness, and he was talking colors? “You’re serious?”
“Yes.” He sat back, closed his eyes. “And that’s an easy question.”
She bit at her nails. Okay, she could do this. She could be relaxed, or pretend to be, sitting inches from the most amazing man she’d ever met. She cleared her throat. “Blue.”
“When’s your birthday?”
“March third.” Not a day she celebrated. “If we’re playing twenty questions, we can at least take turns.”
“Okay. Dogs or cats?” she asked.
“Dogs. Real tree or fake?”
“Real.” And one of her very favorite things about Christmas. “Doughnuts or cookies?”
“Mmm, that’s a hard one. Are we talking homemade cookies?”
She smiled at the question. “Yes, homemade.”
“Then I’m going with cookies. Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?”
“Neither,” she said sweetly. “I’d be Princess Leia, of course. Which one did you want to be?”
“Solo,” Matt said with a sexy grin. “He got the girl.”
Like I bet you do.
Not a pleasant thought, Matt getting the girl. She imagined he left a string of heartbroken women in his wake. “Did you have the costume and everything?”
“I did, but my older brother, Tony, always got to be Han, and our next door neighbor, also older than me, was Luke. I had to be Chewie. I’m pretty good, though. Want to hear it?”
He did such an impressive impersonation of Chewbacca, she laughed until tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes. She waved off Jack when he came over to see what was so funny, then she sat back, getting her breath, with a hand on her belly and a smile on her face. He was cute. Not a word you’d think applied to him at first glance, but . . .
“Okay, now that you’ve gotten the hang of talking about yourself, tell me something no one else knows.”
Would it sound too pathetic, she wondered, to say no one knew any of what she’d just told him?
He leaned in close. “And make it good.”
He’d meant it to be funny, but he didn’t understand how hard this was. In the world of foster care, you either tried to get noticed or you tried desperately to disappear. She’d gone with the latter.
“Come on.” Matt gave her a playful shoulder bump.
“I’m not that interesting.”
He rolled his head against the back of the lounger and shot her a get real look.
“Okay,” she huffed and pursed her lips trying to think of what to tell him. His attentiveness when he listened to the kids was endearing. Not so much when directed at her.
“There’s a time limit.”
“All right. Jeez.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “I hide Lucky Charms in my closet. And I eat them,” she added. “In the closet.”
“You,” Matt began, pulling his sunglasses down enough for her to see his brown eyes twinkling with laughter, “should not tell people that.”
Her answer was automatic. “I don’t.”
“You told me.”
Abby blinked, absorbing his words. Why had she told him?
Their eyes locked in a grade-school staring contest. He was too big, too intense, too . . . She didn’t know, but something cut below the surface of wherever they’d been just minutes before. She caved first and looked away. “It wasn’t that interesting.”
“Wrong.” His voice was so definitive she looked up. “Everything about you interests me.”
She sat, pinned like a butterfly, weighed down under his intense gaze. Had she ever been the object of anyone’s undivided attention? And Matt wasn’t just anyone.