Imagine the Kiss
Crystal Creek Book 7
by Laura Haley-McNeil Genre: Clean Romantic Suspense
Two people open themselves to the truth and open themselves to each other.
Her marriage in ruins, violinist Teagan Whitloch Munroe escapes into her music and the solace she finds at the Crystal Creek Ranch. Practicing in the woods helps her piece together her life, but she isn’t alone. When she hears someone hiking nearby, she demands he reveal himself, but the only revelation she gets is a soothing voice that heals the pain in her heart.
Maimed by a crushing accident, the once famous architect Phineas St. Cyr protects the world from his disfigurement by sequestering himself in the woods on the Crystal Creek Ranch. When he hears the intoxicating strains from Teagan’s violin, he can’t resist the beauty that quiets his aching soul, and he yearns to know the woman who creates such beauty.
Teagan finds sanctuary in her friendship with this connoisseur of music, but soon realizes Phin’s hiding more than his hideous scars. As they become entangled with each other, Teagan is stunned to learn they share more than a love of music. They are caught in a web of deceit by someone threatening to reveal Phin’s secrets. His exposed past endangers Teagan, and he can no longer walk away. This time he must face the enemy determined to defeat him. He’ll fight to the finish to protect the woman he can never love. No price is too high to keep buried the secret that will mark Teagan for destruction.
Teagan Whitloch Munroe was trembling. She was trembling, and she couldn’t stop. She’d been trembling for more than two hours—since she’d left the downtown Denver condominium she shared with her husband, Dr. Wilbert Munroe. What she’d seen inside the condo—in their bedroom—made her want to vomit. A cold knot of disgust and revulsion gripped her stomach.
When she’d walked into the master bedroom, she must’ve gasped. Will was lying on the bed, but he wasn’t alone. He’d lifted his head from the pillow. He looked right at her.
He didn’t look surprised. He looked annoyed.
She’d pressed a hand over her mouth.
Blinded by tears, she’d backed into the doorjamb and stumbled into the hallway. She didn’t remember running out of the condo, but she must have. Her legs throbbed, and her chest ached. The only thing she remembered was her husband calling her name. What had he said? Let’s talk? She didn’t know if she should laugh or sob.
And she remembered the dulcet laughter of the naked woman who was servicing him in bed. Teagan’s and Will’s bed. Teagan had thought Ginny Andrews was her friend.
Some friend. Ginny who was svelte and toned. A contrast to Teagan who’d struggled with her weight since she was seven years old.
A shuddering breath rocked through Teagan’s lungs. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She wiped them away.
She barely remembered driving to the Crystal Creek Ranch, throwing a saddle on her favorite horse, Champagne, and racing through the meadows until she reached the aspen forest covering Crystal Peak.
Fighting against the despair that filled her, she wrapped shaky fingers around the reins and urged the Arabian horse through the trees bursting with spring green leaves. Her vision blurred, and she tried to focus on the pink wild roses and purple elephant’s head mingling with the green undergrowth. The splashes of Crystal Creek tumbling over rocks sounded next to the trail. It was happy and musical and far from the darkness that crowded her heart. Her stomach roiled and begged to be emptied of the half sandwich she’d eaten during the orchestral rehearsal that afternoon.
She ran her hand over the horse’s neck damp from perspiration.
“How’re you doing, Champagne?” Her voice was husky, and she asked the question again.
The mare snorted. She shook her head. Her mane danced through the air.
Defending Her Heart
Crystal Creek Book 6
His head says no. His heart won’t let go.
JT Whitloch can’t close his eyes without seeing the body of the woman who drowned in his swimming pool two years ago. Though he doesn’t remember that night, he blames himself for her death and walks away from a life that gave him everything he ever wanted…almost everything. His move to Crystal Creek gives him the solitude he longs for, but still he can’t find peace.
Then Gretchen Moore moves to town, and she doesn’t just stir up his desire. She stirs up his past, a past with a secret so deadly it could destroy her.
Gretchen wants nothing to do with JT. Because of him, someone wants her dead. The terror from his past forces them into an alliance that soon ignites their passion. Fighting these feelings leads them to the secret of the woman floating in JT’s swimming pool, but the knowledge doesn’t ease JT’s inner turmoil. Instead, it reveals an answer that could destroy him and Gretchen. His own destruction he could accept, but he’ll defend Gretchen to his death.
A novel of suspense, revenge and a love so deep that it can only be released through forgiveness.
Hollywood producer Trent Parker has one goal – to own the film option for the breakout novel Sunset in Maui. His problem? Actress turned producer Charisse Whitloch. She’ll do anything to produce the film. Trent can stop her, but not without getting close to her, a bond he can’t risk.
Charisse has found the film project that will prove she’s her own woman – not her father’s daughter. One person stands in her way – Trent Parker. She’s faced opposition before, but she isn’t prepared for Trent. Her charisma has softened Hollywood’s hardest hearts, but is she a match for Trent’s heart of stone?
Trent’s defenses against Charisse crumble - loving her will heal the darkness in his soul and open the door to a secret he buried long ago. When Charisse is threatened, she and Trent face her adversaries. They piece together a plot more sinister than any Hollywood movie, but the key to their survival lies in Trent’s past – the key that will lead to Trent’s destruction.
She agrees to enter a loveless marriage, but the man who stole her heart will do anything to stop her.
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?
Giselle Whitloch has no time for love. As a college grad, she’s on track to land her dream Wall Street job. Her great grandmother’s ring gives her strength to pursue her goal. When she doesn’t get the job, she flees to the Crystal Creek Ranch to regain her courage to step back into her job hunting mode.
Niccolo di Saluzzo has been searching for the ring that will save his family--the ring that disappeared from his family’s possessions one hundred years ago. He will pursue the ring even if he has to follow the one woman he can never love to an isolated ranch in Crystal Creek, Colorado. Even if pursuing this woman costs him his life.
Niccolo and Giselle battle over ownership of the ring in a fight that takes them from New York City to Crystal Creek, Colorado, to the Balearic Island of Mallorca, to the pinnacle of love both must deny. But the final battle is waged when they meet the man who plans to destroy them both--all for the possession of a ring with a powerful secret.
Celebrate Christmas with the Whitlochs.
When a blinding snowstorm shuts down the Crystal Creek Ranch’s cattle operation, the Whitlochs have one mission – save the cattle. ER doc Jake Whitloch joins in the rescue, but the form he finds in a snowdrift is no cow. It’s a woman, a woman who consumes his thoughts despite that two carat diamond sitting on her ring finger.
Noelle Beaupré thanks the rugged doctor for rescuing her from freezing to death and the Whitlochs for taking her into their home, but now it’s time for her to leave the ranch. She longs to stay with the man who’s determined to protect her, but she doesn’t dare. Her deadly secret is in hot pursuit. Any delay and she’ll endanger the family who opened their home to her.
Noelle leaving Crystal Creek Ranch? Jake can’t let her go, but how can he convince her he’ll do anything to keep her safe?
This book includes your favorite Crystal Creek characters from Book One of the Crystal Creek Series and several new characters, including Max Whitloch’s children from his previous marriages who come to the ranch for Victoria and Garrett’s wedding. All Max’s children will have their own books as they pursue their quests for love.
Threatened by a stalker, she turns to the only man who can help her - the man who walked out of her life ten years ago.
Artist Victoria Whitloch escapes the clutches of a stalker only to stumble into the arms of the man she never wants to see again, bad boy prosecutor Garrett Reynolds. To protect Victoria, Garrett whisks her away to an isolated lodge. Major problem for Victoria—how does she help Garrett capture the stalker while guarding her heart against the man who broke it once before? Garrett thought his heart had healed when Victoria left him ten years ago. Garrett’s bigger problem—capture the stalker determined to imprison Victoria. Keeping Victoria safe is no easy task for Garrett, but getting her to trust him is an entirely different challenge. He puts his life on the line to guard the woman who is more deserving of love than any woman he’s known. But love takes a back seat to the Whitloch-Reynolds feud. At the center is the Crystal Creek Ranch. The Whitlochs own the ranch. The Reynolds are the rightful heirs.
Laura Haley-McNeil received degrees in Spanish and German from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She taught Spanish and then worked in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library translating the correspondence of Bishop Joseph Machebeuf.
After moving to San Diego, she worked as the accountant for a Christian television station, then transferred to Hardin, Montana, and performed technical production for the television station there.
She returned to Denver and supervised accounting departments for a title company and a stock brokerage firm. During this time, she renovated homes, bought and managed several residential properties and obtained a real estate license. She has also worked as the property manager overseeing five business office complexes,, high-rise office buildings and producing newsletter and marketing material.
She is an accomplished ballet dancer having studied and performed in that area for more than twenty years and has studied piano for over forty years. Musical studies also include violin and organ. She has been on the board of directors of two Colorado orchestras and is a past member of the American Liszt Society.
Several of her short stories have been published in national magazines, and she has written book reviews for Book Lover's Magazine. She is the author of the Crystal Creek Series and the Beaumont Series.
What inspired you to write this book?
There were several things that inspired me to write Imagine the Kiss and the Crystal Creek Series. I have always loved the Colorado Rockies. My father grew up on a ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We would visit the ranch during the summers and it was such a beautiful place. I always felt free when we were there, loved how fresh everything smelled and was wild about the horses. The house, the barn, the bunkhouse and the other buildings were old and had such a rustic feel about them. We found wonderful things in the barn such as the church organ that my grandmother used to play for church services and other old furnishings. In the house basement was an old generator my grandfather had built out of glass jars. It was so large it took up half the basement. There was a chute where the trucks would dump the coal to heat the house. The furnace was like an octopus spreading through the basement. In the bathroom, a pull out seat had been built into the wall so the bather could sit and dry himself. My grandfather was the postmaster and he had one room in the house where he kept his roll top oak desk and the ink stamps he used to mark envelopes for special sending instructions. It was all amazing to me and I wanted to place my characters on a ranch that showed that amazement.
For many years, I wanted to write about a classically trained musician. Because my husband is a classically trained musician, most of our friends are musicians. I’ve become good friends with a violinist who performs throughout the country. Though she doesn’t play a Stradivarius, she has a beautiful instrument with an exquisite tone.
I’ve patterned my heroine after a young violinist I saw perform a few years ago. She was so delicate and beautiful. Watching her perform was as wonderful as hearing the music she played. She had mounds of curly hair piled on her head and she wore a beautiful ball gown. Many classical musicians try to compete with their rock star counterparts and wear something sexy but this young woman was elegant. I knew she was the heroine in my book.
What can we see from you in the future?
There are more Crystal Creek books to come. Because Max Whitlock, Sr., the patriarch of the Whitloch family, is a serial marrier and has married four times, he’s fathered children with each wife giving me plenty of characters to write about. Max’s fourth wife, Rose, owns the Crystal Creek Ranch. Each of his children has a book, and now it’s time to move on to other members of the family. Right now, I’m working on Book 8 as yet untitled, which features the nephew of Max’s fourth wife. Troy Merrick comes to the ranch after serving an overseas assignment but finds he has little in common with his friends and family. He’s ready to return overseas when he meets Ella Perez who’s not only beautiful but has a very curious interest in Troy’s Uncle Max.
How did you come up with the name of this book?
About a year ago, I read an article comparing the vocabulary of nineteenth century romance novels to contemporary romance novels. The article’s author counted the number of times the words LOVE and KISS were mentioned in the nineteenth century novels and compared that number to that of contemporary romance novels. According to the author, these two words were used more frequently in nineteenth century novels than they are in contemporary romance novels. I found this conclusion interesting because what two words could be more romantic than LOVE and KISS? Why would contemporary novels use these words less frequently? I have no answer to that, though I’m assuming it has something to do with our changing society, but curiously, nineteenth century novels are still popular today. Because of the use of these two words? I can’t say, but I was so intrigued by this analysis that I decided to make an effort to use these two words more and why not start with the titles for my books? I write romance novels and I want my readers to know that when they pick up one of my books they will read about falling in love and that a kiss is a very special part of love. Because I write clean romance, that’s as far as the hero and heroine go in my books. They feel urges like anyone, but in my novels, the characters’ internal conflicts prevent them from acting on these urges, which keeps the romance in the clean category. With the seventh novel in the Crystal Creek series, I decided to brand my novels with a new theme in the titles. Imagine the Kiss is the first book in this new branding of the titles.
What did you edit out of this book?
A ton! I keep a separate folder for scenes and characters I’ve removed from the final draft of the book and have posted these files on my website. This file is called The Cutting Room Floor (https://laurahaleymcneil.com/cutting-room-floor/?doing_wp_cron=1547764863.6830930709838867187500). I’d written several books before I decided to save these excerpts so you won’t find these files for my earlier books. I don’t edit these files though I do perform a spellcheck, and I don’t post the excerpts in chronological order, but I do hope readers will find the excerpts interesting. In these folders are scenes and characters that no longer worked in the final story. Some of these cuts were my editor’s suggestions. When I write a book, I have so much I want to say. My editor goes through the manuscript and points out what makes the story lag and what deviates from the main theme of the book. Sometimes it’s difficult to remove these scenes that I believe have been so cleverly written, but my editor is wise and I trust her and into the delete files these scenes and characters go. I don’t look at these scenes again. Usually, my book has taken a tangent such that these scenes would never work again. I’ve often thought some of these characters would make an appearance in another book, but that hasn’t happened yet. It is difficult to remove a scene that has taken me days to write, but the story is the important part and I want to make sure that the reader sinks into the plot and characters without any information that would detract from the original purpose of the story. The reader is the most important part of writing a book. If I could stick to my outline, I’m sure I wouldn’t have so much to cut from my story, but once the story starts, I follow where the story leads and usually have to rewrite the outline to make sure I reach the desired ending. For one book, I rewrote the outline four times. The book kept taking a tangent that deviated from my original idea. I wrote the outline to keep my writing on track but alas it didn’t work and I wrote a book that was not what I had originally intended, but it was still a fun book to write.
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