Welcome to my Friday bonus feature called Karen’s Killer Fixin’s **Author Special**!! Today, in lieu of one of my own recipes, I’m going to introduce you to a new author who will share one of her favorite recipes. Not only will you and I occasionally learn how to make something new and delicious, but we’ll get a chance to check out some wonderful authors. Introducing author, LAURA HALEY-McNEIL, and her favorite recipe for HIP PADDED BARS.
STEALING HER HEART
Crystal Creek, Book 4
By LAURA HALEY-McNEIL
The holidays are over, and aristocrat Anna Whitloch must leave Crystal Creek and return to Eastern Europe. She made a promise, a promise that will save her mother’s estate.
Someone else has other ideas. Ideas that will get Anna out of the way permanently.
Anna can take care of herself, so why was Deputy Rocco Ventali assigned to protect her? She can’t depend on him, as he proved that night ten years ago when they had planned to meet. He never showed.
The last thing Rocco needs is to be assigned to protect Anna, but it soon becomes clear no one else is qualified. So how does he protect the woman he never stopped loving from the secret that could endanger her?
And how does he remain this close to her, and not love her, when the love in his heart refuses to be reined in?
STEALING HER HEART
Crystal Creek, Book 4
By LAURA HALEY-McNEIL
The second day of the new year, Anna Lyubov Whitloch gathered with the rest of the Whitloch family on the front porch of the Crystal Creek ranch house. Goodbyes sprinkled like the falling snow over departing family members and guests.
Anna’s twin sister Charisse slid into the back seat of a hired car. Her next stop would be the airport where she would board a private jet. In a few hours, she would be sitting in her Malibu home, sipping wine and listening to the waves crash over the beach.
Anna’s half-sister Teagan packed her Stradivarius violin in the front seat of her Mini. That evening, she would walk across the stage of the Boettcher Concert Hall where she would perform with the Colorado Symphony.
Anna’s niece Giselle and her fiancé Niccolo packed suitcases into his red Ferrari. They drove around the circle drive. Gloved hands extended out the windows, they waved goodbye. They would soon be on a plane to Italy where Giselle would meet Niccolo’s family and discuss plans for their wedding.
Anna rested her shoulder against the front porch pillar, let the steam from her coffee mug warm her face. She wanted to grasp the moment and tuck it into her heart. She may never return to Crystal Creek again. May never see her family again.
The time to leave Crystal Creek had come. The time had come for her to return to her mother’s estate in Estonia and fulfill the promise that would save her mother’s estate.
Emptiness welled in the back of her throat – rough and hot and pushed tears into her eyes.
She forced them back. She wasn’t going to let the bleakness of her future ruin these jewel-like moments she could collect in her memory and cherish. She would need these moments for her new life, a life that held no promise.
Something warm touched the icy shell covering her heart. It was subtle but the tenderness made her want to reach out and wrap the feeling in her arms, press it to her face. It had been years since she had felt the affection. She had almost forgotten that touch had once slid across her cheek.
She lifted her gaze.
Deputy Rocco Ventali stood in the open door of his patrol car. He looked relaxed as if he were enjoying the family farewells. Tall and powerfully built, he was more handsome than he had been in high school when he became a friend of the family. His muscular physique pressed against at the seams of his shirt and pants. He looked as if he worked out several hours a day. As a deputy, Anna knew he had little time for that.
His gaze locked into Anna’s. In their depths lingered a darkness that could have sent a chill down her spine. Not from a message of fear. It was something she couldn’t assess. Not at first, anyway.
For the first time since she had arrived at Crystal Creek, she looked, really looked, into his eyes. In their depths, she saw questions. Why? Why had she left ten years ago? Why had she never answered his letters? And the biggest question of all – why had she said she loved him.
Why indeed? She knew she could never have him.
The fear of having to answer those questions was an emotion that made the muscles in her neck lock down.
During the entire holiday week, Anna never spoke to Rocco, nor had he tried to talk to her. It was as if he knew the answers to his questions.
But he couldn’t know. No one knew why she couldn’t talk to Rocco. She had to keep her distance from Rocco. She had to make sure she said nothing that would endanger him.
Rocco’s stare intensified. The demand for an answer reflected in his eyes. Anna looked away. She couldn’t give him an answer.
If he hadn’t lost interest in her yet, he would soon.
She rippled her fingers around the coffee mug. She’d only taken one sip of the rich tasting brew. Standing in the crisp morning air had cooled the liquid.
The last car drove down the driveway, the sound of its engine captured and swallowed by the trees lining the driveway.
Rose, Anna’s stepmother, climbed the front steps. The forty plus year old woman had managed the ranch on her own since her husband, Max Whitloch, Sr., left her.
“That’s the last of the visitors.” Rose sounded wistful. “No more visitors until we have another holiday.”
“Or a wedding.” Emily, Anna’s seventeen-year-old half-sister, walked up the steps behind Rose. “Someone’s got to get married here soon, don’t you think, Mom?”
“We can only hope.” Rose gave her daughter a one armed squeeze. She turned to watch Niccolo’s Ferrari disappear down the driveway lined with frost-covered trees, their branches pointing to a crystal blue sky. “Let’s hope we have a wedding soon. Christmas is too far away before seeing everyone again.” She pushed open the front door. With her head, she motioned for Anna to come inside. “That cup of coffee can’t be keeping you very warm after standing out in the cold all this time. Come on in. I’ll pour you a fresh mug.”
“Thanks, Rose. I have time for another cup and then I need to start planning my own travel arrangements.” Anna’s cut glass accent was a sharp contrast to the lazy accent of her stepmother and half sister.
“Travel? Where are you off to in such a hurry? You kids are always jetting across the country and across the globe. Rest your bones. Take advantage of clean mountain air and country sunshine.”
Anna laughed. “That’s an invitation I hate to refuse. If I could make a New Year’s wish, it would be to spend the rest of my life here at Crystal Creek.”
“I’ll grant that wish,” Rose said.
“You always were the fairy godmother to the rest of Max’s kids.”
“Phfaw.” Rose’s gaze dropped to the stone flooring covering the front porch.
For a moment, Anna thought she saw a bit of color creep into Rose’s weathered cheeks.
“I’m taking care of family. There’s nothing magical about that,” Rose said. “What’s Rocco doing out there? He needs to come in and get another cup of coffee, too. Rocco.” When the deputy looked up, Rose swept her arm toward the house. “Come get some coffee.”
“Oh, Rose.” Fear trembled through Anna so that her coffee cup shook. She pressed it to her chest. The fear felt worse than the day Anna’s mother told Anna what her future held. Anna had been terrified that day. She was terrified now. Heart stopping, blood chilling, terrified. “Rocco can’t come into the house.” Her voice was a low, raw whisper.
Rose dipped her chin as if the grizzly she’d shot last summer had risen before her. “Of course, he can. Why don’t you want him in the house?”
Anna stuttered a laugh. “It isn’t that I don’t want him in the house. Of course, if he wants to come into the house he certainly may. It’s just that he’s busy. He’s a deputy. He has a job to do.”
Rose narrowed her eyes into slits that barely let the blue of her eyes peer through. “No one has to tell me he’s a deputy. He’s old enough to decide if he’s too busy to come into the house. I can see you’re afraid of him. The question is why.”
“Me? Afraid of Rocco? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” Anna’s chest cinched so tightly she could barely breathe.
“I hear a lot of protesting from you but you’re not convincing me.”
“Thanks, Rose,” Rocco called out to her. “I need to make a call. I’ll take a raincheck.” He slid behind the steering wheel of his patrol car and shut the door.
Little sips of air leaked out of Anna’s lungs. Her chest ached from the grip her lungs had on the air they held as if it were the last air molecule on the planet. Why had she reacted that way to Rocco? She’d known him since high school, that summer between their junior and senior year. If he wanted to come into the house for a cup of coffee, he was perfectly welcomed. He could go anywhere he wanted for all she cared.
“Looks like you got yourself a reprieve,” Rose said.
“Rose, if you think I’m afraid of Rocco, you’re mistaken. I’ve known him since high school. He’s a nice man, a family friend. You are free to invite whomever you wish into this house.” Anna stepped through the front door. Her shoulders dropped slightly, then dropped a little more. The hitch in her throat relaxed. She whispered a silent prayer that Rocco’s call kept him from being near her. If he didn’t come into the house, she wouldn’t have to pretend she had no feelings for him.
“Enough with the protesting.” Rose wrapped an arm around Anna’s shoulder and guided her into the kitchen. “Let’s get us a cup of coffee, and then it’s time for me to get to work.”
“Rose, I want to help you with the chores. I can muck stalls, feed the horses, exercise them. Tell me what needs to be done, and I’ll do it.”
“First on the list is to see how the new colt is doing. Once we’re down at the barn, we’ll get a good idea of what needs to be done. Now you relax while I warm up your coffee. ”
Laura Haley-McNeil is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and women’s fiction in novel length and in short stories. Her work has been featured in several women’s magazines. She has studied piano and ballet and has been a board member of two community orchestras. She and her husband reside in Colorado. When she isn’t writing, she jogs, bicycles and crochets.
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I hope you enjoy the recipe Laura is sharing with us today on Karen’s Killer Fixin’s. Happy eating!
P.S. We’re at 270 recipes and counting with this posting. Hope you find some recipes you like. If this is your first visit, please check out past blogs for more Killer Fixin’s. In the right hand column menu, you can even look up past recipes by type. i.e. Desserts, Breads, Beef, Chicken, Soups, Author Specials, etc.
HIP PADDED BARS
[Makes 9 x 13-inch pan]
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 c. chocolate chips
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix first 6 ingredients together: blend sugar, butter and egg; gradually add flour, baking soda and oatmeal. Will appear somewhat lumpy. Place 1/2 of this in bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan. Then add the “Mixture” all over and top with other half of crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Refrigerate before cutting.
Note: Eat 2 so there is equal padding added to each hip.
This is a recipe that I received from my sister’s mother-in-law. I made them for a Christmas brunch. Afterwards, there was a lot of food left over, but no hip padded bars. There was just enough for all the guests to eat two apiece.
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Laura is giving away an ebook copy of STEELING HER HEART to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Fixin’s blog. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your stories and recipe with us.
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!