A Little Too Late, an all-new romantic standalone from Staci Hart is coming October 24th!
A Little Too Late by Staci Hart
Publishing Date: October 24th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with the nanny.
When my wife left, she took the illusion of happiness with her, and I’ve been caught in a free fall ever since. For nine long months, I’ve been fighting to figure out how to be a single dad, how to be alone.
For nine long months, I’ve been failing.
When Hannah walked through the door, I took my first breath since I’d found myself on my own. She slipped into our lives effortlessly, showing me what I’ve been missing all these years. Because Hannah made me smile when I thought I’d packed the notion of happiness away with my wedding album.
She was only supposed to be the nanny, but she’s so much more.
The day my wife left should have been the worst day of my life, but it wasn’t. It was when Hannah walked away, taking my heart with her.
The first time I saw Charlie Parker, I didn’t see one thing at a time; I saw all of him. It was an assault on my senses, an overwhelming tide of awareness, and for a moment, the details came to me in flashes over what was probably only a few seconds but felt so much longer.
His hair was blond and gently mussed, his face long and nose elegant. I could smell him, clean and fresh with just a touch of spice I couldn’t place. I tipped my chin up—he was tall, taller than me, and I hovered just at six feet—and met his eyes, earthy and brown and so deep. So very deep.
And then he smiled.
He was handsome when he wasn’t smiling. He was stunning when he was.
I was so lost in that smile, I didn’t register the flying gob until it whapped against my sweater. Tiny splatters of something cold speckled my neck.
This was the moment the clock started again, and the sweet serenity slipped directly into chaos.
A blond little boy looked up at me from his father’s side with a devilish gleam in his dark eyes. The spoon in his hand was covered in blood-red jam and aimed at me like an empty catapult.
Several things happened at once. Charlie’s face morphed into embarrassed frustration as he reached for who I presumed to be his son. The boy—Sam, I guessed from the names I’d been given by the agency—spun around lightning fast and took off down the hallway, giggling. Another child began to cry from somewhere back in the house, and a bowl clattered to the ground, followed by a hissed swear from what sounded like an older woman.
I glanced down at the sliding, sticky mess against my white sweater and started to laugh.
Charlie’s head swiveled back to me, his face first colored with confusion, then in horror as he looked at the Pollock painting on my sweater.
“Oh my God,” he breathed, his apologetic, wide eyes dragging down my body. “Jesus, I am so sorry.”
I was still laughing, almost a little hysterical. I couldn’t even tell you why.
I waved a hand at Charlie, and he took my elbow, guiding me into the house as I caught my breath. Another crash came from the kitchen, and a little girl came toddling out into the entry, leaving powdery footprints on the hardwood.
Charlie’s face screwed up. “Sam!” he called, stretching the word, a drawn-out promise of consequences.
A riot of giggling broke out in the kitchen.
We both snapped into motion. I followed him as he scooped up his crying daughter and stormed toward the kitchen. The little girl watched me over his shoulder with big brown eyes, her breath hitching in little shudders and her small finger hooked in her mouth.
Charlie stopped so abruptly, I almost ran into him.
When I looked around him and into the kitchen, my mouth opened. I covered it with my fingers as laughter bubbled up my throat.
A bag of flour sat in the middle of the floor, the white powder thrown in bursts against the surrounding surfaces and hanging in the air like smoke. The floor next to the bag was the only clean spot, shaped like a small bottom—the little girl’s, I supposed. A bowl lay upside down, its contents oozing from under the rim and slung in a ring from ceiling to cabinet to floor, as if it had completed a masterful flip on its way to its demise. And in the center of the madness stood an older woman with flour in her dark hair and dusted down the front of her. Clutched under her arm was a wriggling Sam, offending spoon still in hand.
Her face was kind but tight with exasperation. “Please tell me this is the new nanny,” she said flatly.
“I doubt we could convince her to stay at this point,” he said with equal flatness.
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About the Author
Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.
From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.
Connect with Staci:
Today we have the teaser reveal for The Outpost by Devney Perry! Be sure to pre-order your copy now!
Title: The Outpost
Author: Devney Perry
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Day: November 7th
About The Outpost:
Trapped in his tiny mountain cabin, she didn’t expect to fall for his big heart.
Exposing a prominent criminal family with an investigative news report didn’t exactly work out the way Sabrina had hoped. Instead of basking in the glory of her article’s success, she’s on the run from a powerful man who wants her dead. To stay safe, she’s forced to trade one bad situation for another. Stuck in the Montana wilderness, she’s secluded from anything resembling civilization or the modern-day world. The only good thing about her situation is the gorgeous mountain man assigned to protect her. Too bad he isn’t the slightest bit interested in a city girl like her.
Beau likes his life quiet and simple. Give him a peaceful day hiking in the woods with his dog, and he’s a happy man. He has no use for large crowds, noisy cities or dramatic women. So when a hotshot reporter rolls into town, dragging her big-time problems with her, he should have run for the hills. Instead, he volunteered to keep her safe. Bringing her into his world won’t be easy, but if he can convince her that Montana isn’t as terrifying as she believes, they might just be the perfect match.
Check out the trailer:
About the Author:
Devney lives in Montana with her husband and two children. After working in the technology industry for nearly a decade, she abandoned conference calls and project schedules to enjoy a slower pace at home with her kids. She loves reading and, after consuming hundreds of books, decided to share her own stories.
Are you ready for THE FLIGHT OF HOPE by USA Today Bestselling Author HJ Bellus?
This Standalone Contemporary Romance set to release October 26th.
PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE NOW
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2xU1AtS
Amazon INT: getBook.at/TheFlightOfHope
A tragic accident. A mother in mourning. Can a second chance rise from the wreckage?
Marlee Foster’s life was just getting started. She couldn’t wait for the return of her husband from deployment. After all, he’d be there just in time for the birth of their daughter. The welcome home party is full of joy, but on the way home, tragedy strikes…
When Marlee loses her husband and daughter, her friends and family do their best to heal her broken heart. But painful reminders of a future she’ll never see haunt her every day in the small town. Her only hope at a second chance is to leave it all behind…
As she sets out on a soul-searching adventure, the mourning widow wonders if the wilderness will give her hope for a brighter future or if she’ll forever be chained to a devastating past. During her journey, Marlee is about to learn that love has a funny way of coming back to those who need it the most…
The Flight of Hope is a heart-wrenching contemporary romance in the vein of Nicholas Sparks. If you like emotional journeys, strong-willed heroines, and second chance romances, then you’ll love HJ Bellus’ touching tale.
Buy The Flight of Hope to settle in with a tear-jerker today!
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There are people. Rows and rows of cars. Black everywhere. I can’t feel my feet as my high heels sink into the grass. My face is numb, as are my fingers. The searing pain burning my insides is alive and well.
Momma urges me down into a chair draped in velvet. It’s front row. My view? Two caskets with flowers covering every surface. The sweet, floral smell is making so sick; to the point, I clutch my stomach.
“You okay?” Mom whispers in my ear.
I shake my head. If I open my mouth, a torrent of emotions will seep out. Sara screams in the background. I peer over my shoulder to see Maddie with tears streaming down her face, trying to soothe her upset toddler. She offers me a comforting smile, but I don’t return it. I can’t stand the sight of Sara, and her cries only infuriate me.
“Mom, shut that baby up now.”
“Marlee, that’s enough.” She clutches my hand.
“Mom.” This time my voice escalates to a scream. “I can’t take it!”
“Okay. Okay.” Mom rises, and it’s only minutes later until Sara’s cries fade.
I turn to see the backside of Maddie making her way to the parking lot. She glances back one more time before disappearing behind a row of trees. She’s devastated, but I don’t have it in me to care.
Silence. Caskets. Flowers.
The pastor welcomes everyone before the Military Honor begins. A muted bugle starts to play “Taps,” the well-known song for a fallen soldier. I stare at the man in his uniform playing the song. He’s only feet away. The song should be so much clearer, but it’s not. I’m drowning.
Once the song is over, our country’s beautiful flag is stretched before me and my family. The soldiers are meticulous as they present, fold the flag, and salute. Why couldn’t it have been them? Anyone, but who God chose to take.
A soldier with bright blue eyes kneels before me. His pristine white glove is on top of the flag. Mom tries to get me to stand, but I refuse to. Dad’s arm wraps around my waist, pulling me to my feet. He keeps me clutched to his side.
Nightmare after nightmare has played out in my sleep of this scenario and now I’m living it. My knees begin to quake, the effects of the pills wearing off, and I sob. The first, wracking my chest with a brutal force. I can feel my sternum crack under pressure then it becomes hard to breathe. The soldier’s words are barely recognizable.
“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army, as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Dad grabs my hand, holding it out to receive the flag. The red, white, and blue material burns my palm. My gut reaction is to let go of it in hopes of making this whole scene disappear. Dad won’t let me. He’s my rock right now.
The smell. The sight. Every damn element destroys me to the point it hurts to think about surviving. Once I’m able to pull in oxygen, a brutal force slams into my spine, reminding me of what I had. It was all taken away in a split second. The decision to run a red stoplight unraveled my past, present, and future.
My life flipped upside down. That doesn’t accurately represent what happened. I died that day. My soul vanished, and my heart quit beating, yet, I’m still alive with blood pumping through my veins, but I was a casualty on the side of the road.
I had everything, and it was the idyllic American dream. Hell, some would label me as spoiled, and I wouldn’t have argued. It was always my life. I was the center of everyone’s attention. A girl and then a woman who had to be the best at everything no matter the circumstance. I had no friends. I had him. Then he was gone.
“Birdie, lunch is ready. Your favorite, sweetie, grilled cheese and tomato soup.”
I peer up to my mom, regretting losing the scent of him once my nose leaves the sheets. His scent is barely there, and all it does is shatter the already broken pieces of my heart. I’m forced to bury my face back into the bed sheets. I do my best to shake my head. She knows I don’t want to eat, but she’s never given up on me.
Mom has made my favorite meals day after day. Grilled cheese and tomato soup used to make my world spin, and I’d squeal like a little girl. But, then again, I used to love life.
“Baby girl, you need to eat something.” The bed dips and then her familiar hand soothes trails over my dirty hair.
I shake my head again. My raw throat is sliced open by agony, making it sore, dripping with pain and blood. I’m unable to speak a word.
“Here, Birdie.” She nudges my shoulder. “Take these, and when you wake up, I’ll have another meal ready for you.”
I hold my palm open and hear the crinkle of the water bottle placed next to me on the bed. These three little, white pills have been the only things holding me together. It’s the magic keeping my shell of a body glued. But I’m tired, so sick of being numb, tumbling into slumber, and then springing right back into heartbreak. When the effects of the pills wear off, it’s unbearable to open my eyes. I hear it, smell it, and feel death all over again.
My chest grips my heart. My vision fills with their caskets we buried in the fertile soil of the earth. The smell of fresh dirt was tearing me apart, and all the while, I sat there and watched their bodies sink down six feet.
“It’s not fair, Mom. He fought for our country and then…” It hurts too much to finish my sentence. My words die off like they have since the doctors hit me with the news.
“I know, Birdie.” Her tender lips pepper kisses all over the side of my exposed face. “You have to push on, baby girl; so many love and need you. You’ll always have us. Always.”
I remain silent, waiting for her to leave the room. The pills roll around in my palm. The silent clinking of them screams to the point of gifting me with a migraine.
It’s at this moment I decide I can’t stay here. I don’t belong here any longer. The place I called home for so many years and then built a future with my husband doesn’t belong to me anymore. I’m a foreign stranger trapped in the confines of a house.
The pills fall without sound to the sheets. I take one long inhale of his scent, branding it to memory forever. I’ll never ever forget the man who was my first love and my only love who gave me everything. He was and always will be my best friend. No one will ever replace his force. It’s too painful to stay. Death is screaming my name and clawing for my soul.
One slit of the wrist with the sharp edge of my fishing knife or a forceful stab to the heart. That’s what I want. I hunger for the blood to drain from my body until my heart ceases. I won’t have time to bleed out in peace before someone barges in, checking on me. My parents and his parents are enduring the same kind of hell I’m stuck in. I can’t put them through more pain, but I can’t breathe here. It’s too damn much.
I have one option.
Run and never come back to my personal hell.
I take his shirt and the bag next to our bed and do just that, never looking back again.
Fox’s Awakening by FG Adams is coming soon on OCTOBER 12th!
Keep reading for an excerpt!
ADD to your TBR → http://bit.ly/2uwfc02
Brenton Fox is a guardian of mankind. By day, he guards humanity as an agent for the FBI. By night, he is the leader of a secret organization called Hunters. He is a man on a quest to find an ancient relic needed to free the God Zenon and the Goddess Augusta. The only hurdle he faces comes in the form of the unearthly beautiful twin Goddesses Jazmine and Jada accompanying him on this mission. His attraction for both of the sisters is a distraction he doesn’t need.
Goddesses Jada and Jazmine share a powerful secret. The closer they get to the sexy Brenton Fox, the more the secret is revealed and the more his dark, alluring charms become irresistible to them both. The sisters’ journey could prove to be their undoing or save the universes within the realm under their protection.
Deep in the wilds of Africa, they must locate the portal to a hidden realm full of unknown dangers. The demented nature of the God Baako creates treacherous and unforgiving obstacles the trio must bind together to overcome. Will the unconventional hero tame the animal fighting deep inside and master the Goddesses he has come to desire?
Brenton turns in our direction. His cat eyes swirling with a scowl challenging us as he stalks closer and waits for our decision. We glance between each other, longing simmers in our soul. Decision made. His dominance demands we comply. Jada submits and vacates her current chair to move one chair down. He then takes his seat between the two of us and the raging animal within him calms with the nearness.
“Chaac, what do you have to report?” Marcus questions with an air of authority, beginning the meeting.
Chaac is a legend of old in the Earth realm, controlling the state of the atmosphere at any given place and time. The heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain all beckon to his will. He has long been a friend to Marcus and the twins. Even though the origin of his existence isn’t known to the masses, he is a longtime confidant of the Enchanted Immortals. Zenon entrusted him with the elements from the launching of all that exists. We have watched his tenacity in fighting against Baako.
“Yes, my lord. Baako is on the move. His forces have begun to infiltrate the continent. We believe they are searching for the access to the other realm where the relic is reported to be.” Chaac obediently answers.
“They will need the key to open the portal, correct?”
“Yes, Aldin. You are correct. Only the one holding the key can open the wards protecting it. Thankfully, we are in possession of the key, therefore locating the opening is of little use other than to annoy us. It will not waylay our efforts.”
“We are the only ones knowledgeable of how to achieve the opening.” Jazmine divulges. We hold the key. Brenton glances my way confusion in his eyes.
“Time and the place are vital elements in opening the realm. Regardless of Baako’s efforts he will fail.” Marcus states unconcerned.
“Brother, do not fear. We understand our role.” Jada acknowledges with a sadness in her faint tone.
Jazmine lowers her head in thought. Brenton reaches out to comfort the Goddesses both arms stretched the palms of his hands connects on our knee, touching us with heart felt concern and need. The instant he does, he is caught up in a magical time warp of mystical proportions. Driving him forward to her realm. Standing on the precipice of time, he gapes at the stark blankness surrounding him. He is balancing on air, nothing above or below him.
“What the fuck is going on? Where am I? I’m in the Twilight Zone, right? Must have been that second slice of pie I ate for lunch.” He inquires, searching the vast unknown.
“Hello Brenton Fox. I have been waiting on you for many ages,” a woman in white says as an hourglass figure comes into the light.
Start reading in this world NOW with Aldin’s Wish
FREE with #Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon → http://amzn.to/2uO0MUp
About the Authors:
F.G. Adams writes contemporary and paranormal romance about sexy alpha heroes and feisty-mouthed heroines. The wonder twins forming F.G. enjoy a healthy obsession of reading that started at a young age. Their books reflect an avid imagination that was cultivated by their grandmother who taught them the mind has no limits and to use both hands when reaching for the stars. Partners in writing, they both thrive on creating unique storylines for you, the reader to enjoy.
When not writing, you can find them on a beach with their significant other enjoying the waves or riding a Harley on a country road somewhere in the USA.
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Are you ready for FOREVER DEVOTED by CA Harms? Check out this EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from the book below! And great news, you can pre-order your copy today too!
“There is a tall, handsome and might I add dreamy hunk of a man waiting just outside for you.”
I tried not to laugh at the wide-eyed expression of the teenage girl standing in my doorway. She was awestruck apparently, and the way she was smiling had to cramp her cheeks.
“Did you get his name?” I asked, already knowing who it was.
Her smile faltered as she looked over her shoulder, then back to me. “I forgot to ask,” she said in a high-pitched voice. “I guess I was distracted.”
It was my turn to smile, “Believe me when I say I know exactly how that can happen.” She looked a little relieved. “His name is Ben, and you can send him in.”
With a nod, she stepped out and within seconds he appeared in the open doorway.
“Good morning,” he said as he moved in and sat on the edge on my desk. His large frame practically swallowed up the surface beneath him. “You avoiding me again?”
“No.” I leaned back and crossed my arms over my chest. “I’ve actually been busy.”
He watched me closely, as if I would somehow show him I was lying. Arching my brow, I remained in place and his smile grew wider. “Have lunch with me.” It wasn’t a request.
“Busy,” I replied, holding up the stack of papers on my desk and giving them a little shake.
“Dinner then. I’ll even bring it to you if you can’t get away.”
“What are we having?” I asked, still not yet agreeing.
“What do you want?” His eyes remained locked on mine as he gave me a mischievous grin. Ben and I had developed this little flirty game. In fact, we’d pretty much mastered it. I knew he wanted me, and I wanted him. That was never the issue. I just had to learn to get past my hesitance and fears of what could go wrong.
“Steak,” I finally said, ignoring the flutter in my stomach. “Seasoned vegetables and garlic roasted potatoes.”
“Can we forego the garlic? I kinda wanna kiss you later and I don’t want any excuses from you. If I add garlic into the mix, well, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.”
I couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up and spilled from me. “You’re insane.”
“For you, yes.”
We are super excited to share with you all a sneak peek of FOREVER DEVOTED by CA Harms! This Contemporary Romance is set to release September 26th!! We hope you enjoy this TEASER!
Taming Mr. Flirt, a sexy all-new standalone from A.M. Madden & Joanne Schwehm is coming September 12th!
Taming Mr. Flirt by A.M. Madden & Joanne Schwehm
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publishing Date: September 12th, 2017
Here’s a tip: never say never.
It all started in a barn, rolling around in the hay with a hot brunette. When I hooked up at my best friend’s wedding with the bride’s best friend, I had hay in places it should never be. And how my bowtie ended up around my dick was an entirely different story. I’ll give you a minute to consider the possibilities.
That first romp set the tone, and each sexual encounter with her that followed became more intense. The fact that all my fantastic orgasms were coming at the hand of one woman baffled me.
A lifetime of observation taught me that monogamy equated to boredom. Variety was the spice of life, in and out of the bedroom. I enjoyed the company of a sexy, smart, confident woman. It was my kryptonite. I was a master flirt, and my sexual skills were unrivaled.
With this woman, I had met my match.
Her carnal appetite a perfect match for mine, and she also taught me a few things along the way.
She called me Mr. Flirt, and could bring me to my knees at every turn.
Lesson learned: Sex always trumps sanity.
I spun back around, taking her hand with me and started around the rink until we made it to the small break in the railing. With a tilt of my head and a small tug, she knew I wanted off the ice.
Rubber mats greeted the blades of our skates. As if we were marching rather than walking, we carefully made our way to the dimly lit corner of the rink. The small corner was the perfect place for what I had planned.
“What are we doing back here? I could go for that drink now.” She started toward the opposite end where the bar was located.
“Stay.” Her eyes glanced up at me. I lowered my mouth to her ear. “Turn and face the rink.” Vanessa’s brows furrowed, but she did as I asked. “Put your hands on the railing, and don’t move until I tell you to.”
Her head craned back. “Okay, but why?”
The strobe lights were back in full force. I pressed my body against her back and kissed the curve of her neck. “I’m going to fuck you.” Even in the dimly lit rink, I could see her white-knuckled grip on the railing. “Do you remember when Jude and Brae almost walked in on us fucking in the barn? Do you remember what you said?”
“Something about getting caught was hot?”
“Yes. You said the thought of getting caught in public was a complete turn-on. When you said that, the thought of fucking you in public made my dick stone hard. I know I’m turned on right now… are you, Nessa?”
“Good. Ready?” A short quick nod and her ass shifting backward into my crotch could be compared to the effects of a green flag for a Formula One race car.
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About A.M. Madden:
A.M. Madden is a USA Today bestselling published author with Loveswept/Random House as well as Ever After Romance.
A.M. is a wife, a mother, an avid reader of romance novels, and now an author.
“It’s all about the HEA.”
A.M. Madden is the author of the popular Back-Up Series, as well as several other contemporary romances. She is also a published author with Loveswept/Random House.
Her debut novel was Back-up, the first in The Back-Up Series. In Back-Up, A.M.’s main character Jack Lair caused readers to swoon. They call themselves #LairLovers, and have been faithful supporters to Jack, as well to the rest of his band, Devil’s Lair.
A.M. truly believes that true love knows no bounds. In her books, she aspires to create fun, sexy, realistic romances that will stay with you after the last page has been turned. She strives to create characters that the reader can relate to and feel as if they know personally.
A self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, she loves getting lost in a good book. She also uses every free moment of her time writing, while spending quality time with her three handsome men. A.M. is a Gemini and an Italian Jersey girl, but despite her Zodiac sign, nationality, or home state, she is very easy going.
She loves the beach, loves to laugh, and loves the idea of love.
Connect with A.M. Madden:
Join her Reader Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/893157480742443/
About Joanne Schwehm:
Joanne is a mother and wife and loves spending time with her family. She’s an avid sports watcher and enjoys the occasional round of golf.
Joanne loves to write and read romance. She believes everyone should have romance in their lives and hopes her books bring joy and happiness to readers who enjoy modern day fairy tales and breathless moments.
She is an independent romance author and has written several contemporary romance novels, including The Prescott Series, Ryker, A Heart’s Forgiveness, The Critic and The Chance series.
Joanne looks forward to sharing more love stories in her future novels.
Connect with Joanne:
FB Group Page: www.facebook.com/groups/joanneschwehmsreaders/
The Swamp is about to get a whole lot hotter! The Outskirts by T.M. Frazier is coming September 12th!
The Outskirts by T.M. Frazier
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Sawyer wants a life of her own.
Finn wants to forget he ever had one.
After a tragedy, Finn Hollis escapes
into the swamp to be alone.
That is until Sawyer Dixon shows up,
all SCORCHING HOT innocence,
claiming she owns the land less than
fifty feet from his front door.
Sawyer gets under his SKIN, but even worse?
She makes him WANT things.
Things Finn hasn’t wanted in a very very long time.
Finn WANTS Sawyer gone.
Almost as much as he wants her in his BED.
The Outskirts is Book One in the Outskirts Duet.
My throat tightened and a heaviness grew in my chest like my heart didn’t know whether to beat faster or stop beating altogether. “Did you leave me all this to show me the life you could’ve had, but didn’t? Why!?” I pounded the wheel again and then again, and again and again until my vision was blurry and all I could see was the redness of my own heated rage. “You’re a fucking coward! You fucking COWARD!” I screamed to no one, pounding on the wheel until the skin across my knuckles split and blood dripped between my fingers.
Strong hands bit into my biceps, yanking me from the cab. I was spun around by my shoulders and found myself face to face with Finn. “I like it when you swear,” he said, pressing close.
“Finn, get off me! Get off me! Let me go!” I wailed, struggling to free myself from his grip. Kicking out my legs only to connect with the air as he evaded my every move.
A growl tore from his throat. Finn picked me up and walked me to the back of the truck, setting me on the open tailgate. He pushed himself between my legs and hovered over me to keep me from leaping off.
“Let me go,” I demanded, pushing at his hard chest. “I don’t have time for your broodiness right now.”
Finn held my wrists together with one hand. “No, of course you don’t. You’re too busy tearing up pictures and screaming at no one.”
“Let me go,” I repeated.
“No,” he said between clenched teeth.
“Just go! Leave me alone. Leave meeeeeee!” I wailed as I pounded against his stone chest.
“You don’t want to hit me,” he warned, his eyes hardened.
“Then let me go.”
“Why?” He stepped in closer, unaffected by my attempt to fight against him. My inner thighs were touching his outer thighs.
“Because she did!” I screamed, my eyes sprang open to find his cold blue gaze. “She could have run anywhere and taken me with her. Instead she left him but she left me too. She was a coward who couldn’t make the right decision and I love her. I love her…but I hate her. I hate her so much…so…” I was interrupted when Finn’s lips pressed against mine, momentarily rendering me stupid. I pointed my toes toward the sky to avoid my initial instinct which was to wrap my legs around him. It was so consuming that I momentarily forgot to fight him off, but I didn’t need to, he pulled his lips from mine.
“Stop doing that,” I said. I pushed him off but he stayed between my legs, his hands on my bare back just under the hem of his big t-shirt I was wearing. His gaze hardened. I could see the conflict written in his lined forehead and the deep V between his eyes. I had no doubt the conflict had everything to do with me.
And kissing me.
“It’s your fault that I do it,” Finn said, his voice deep and smooth against my chin and then my neck.
“So that’s your plan? Kiss me every time you want to shut me up?” I asked, still feeling every bit of my anger but also feeling something else. Something that sent tingles between my legs and an ache in my core. “Thank you for saving me. Really. Thank you. I appreciate it,” my voice cracked. “But you can just leave me alone now. And please, STOP kissing me.” My words a whisper.
“I’m going to kiss you whenever I want to kiss you,” Finn stated as if I didn’t have a say in the matter.
The early morning sunlight highlighted the beads of sweat trickling from his shoulders down his broad chest and across the valleys of his defined abs. He was standing so close that we were breathing in each other’s air.
“Whenever you want to kiss me?” I laughed. “I don’t understand you. I don’t understand any of this. You’re always mad at me. Why did you save me? Why do you keep kissing me when you’re always mad at me?”
“It’s when I’m pissed off at you that I want to kiss you the most,” Finn said, his voice flowing over my skin like a silky blanket. He slid me closer so I could feel the outline of his rigid erection as if he were proving a point. He lowered his lips to mine and consumed my mouth in a greedy kiss that had me shaking with need and spinning with confusion.
“Do you always kiss everyone you hate?” I asked, yanking my lips from his.
“Does this feel like hate to you?” he growled pushing his hard length between my legs.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2uMXHFt
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Amazon CA: https://goo.gl/MBRYK2
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The Paperback is LIVE! Grab yours today!
About the Author:
T.M.Frazier is a USA TODAY bestselling author. She resides in sunny Southwest Florida with her husband and her young daughter.
When she’s not writing she loves talking to her readers, country music, reading and traveling. Her debut novel, The Dark Light of Day was published in September of 2013 and when she started writing it she intended for it to be a light beachy romance.
Well…it has a beach in it!
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Loving Storm by Carian Cole is coming soon on OCTOBER 13th!
Be prepared to fall in love all over again!
I met him in a snow storm…
We spent forty-eight hours trapped in the back of his pickup truck.
She literally crashed into my life…
The last thing I wanted was a relationship. Especially with a quirky chick who drove me insane. But something about her got under my skin, and into my heart.
And I had to have her.
All of her.
Falling in love in the back of a truck, just the two of us, was easy.
Dealing with psycho fans, jealous exes, and demons from the past….not so easy.
While Loving Storm can be enjoyed as a STANDALONE, it is best read after reading Storm.
Grab STORM now! FREE with #KindleUnlimited!
ONLY 99 pennies!
Amazon US→ http://amzn.to/2wnFcuv
Amazon Universal → myBook.to/StormCarian
Check out this amazing EXCERPT of Blood Guard by Megan Erickson!
Coming soon on September 12th, you’ll want to sink your teeth into this romance!
Kobo → http://bit.ly/2vZ4aQX
“Megan Erickson knows how to bring the heat! With a kick-butt heroine and a hero to die for, Blood Guard kept me reading all night long.”—New York Times bestselling author Tracy Wolff
Enter a world of immortal danger and desire—and discover an incredible fate borne of blood.
Tendra: One minute, I’m a bartender in gritty Mission City; the next, I’m whisked away by a vampire named Athan who tells me that I’m the lifeblood of his clan. It sounds unbelievable, but he’s got evidence I can’t deny. Turns out, Athan belongs to an underground society of vampires who feed only on humans with their consent. Their enemies have no such qualms, and they want me dead. The only thing standing in their way is strong, sexy Athan. And the closer we get, the more tempted I am to let Athan feed. . . .
Athan: How could I have known when I snatched this snarky, beautiful human off the streets that she would change my destiny? As a loyal soldier, I must deliver Tendra to our future king—my brother. Empowered with the blood of ten generations of the Gregorie breed, she is fated to rule as our queen. But there’s something between us that’s so intoxicating, so carnal, I can’t help wanting Tendra for myself . . . even if it’s treason.
The panic welled in my chest. I was trapped in a strange apartment with a strange man who probably outweighed me trifold. I opened up my mouth to scream but he held up his hand and said in a deep voice. “You scream, and I’ll just put you to sleep again.”
My jaw snapped shut. I focused on breathing. In and out. In and out. I wanted to thrash and yell, and holler, but he’d somehow knocked me out before and I would be useless if he did it again.
I glanced around. The only light was from a small, dim bare bulb above us. The rest of the room was in shadow. There was nothing I could use for a weapon, not even my shoes. I focused back on the man in front of me. “How’d we get here?”
“I carried you,” he answered, his voice a rumble that I felt down to my bones.
Something moved in the corner of my vision and I peered into the dark. A form materialized, and I must have been dreaming still because Brex was there. He stalked toward me, rubbed against my leg, then sat down by my feet like a feline guard. I tried to be calm, but I was close to losing it. I didn’t date. Was this how people dated now? Maybe it was a thing. “Why is my cat here?”
My captor didn’t move, and half of his face was in shadow. “I brought him.”
“I don’t keep my ID on me, so how’d you know where I live?”
“I didn’t need your ID.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “I’ve been watching you.”
Oh, just fucking great. A stalker. I’d be lucky if I made it out of here without him wearing my skin like clothes and my head in a freezer. “Okay, cool. Well, uh, hi. I’m Tendra. I applaud you for your unconventional, um, greeting. Want to untie me? We can go for a drink. I make a mean screwdriver.”
Confusion flickered over his face, then his scowl deepened, like uncertainty angered him. “No.”
I didn’t want to make him mad, but I’d never been great at keeping my mouth shut. Sometimes me opening my mouth was the reason we had to move. “Do you want money? Because I’m sorry to say, you kidnapped the wrong girl. Especially because I just paid rent. I’m eating peanut butter out of the tub for the next week.”
Again with the angry confusion. He rubbed his forehead. “I don’t want your money.”
I gritted my teeth. “Well, now you have me here. What do you plan to do to me?” The panic was slowly switching over to anger, the fight instinct my mother instilled in me strong as ever. If he was going to kill me, maybe I could piss him off enough that it would be quick. “Because I’ll tell you right now, I will fight you to my dying breath and then come back from the dead and haunt you until I convince you to cut your own dick off.”
His expression didn’t change. “Charming.”
I was signing my death warrant, but I couldn’t resist getting a shot in. “Fuck you, you creeper.”
His chest rose as he inhaled sharply. “Right, so let’s have it out. I’m your guard, because you’re destined to be delivered to my older brother in order to make our clan stronger.”
I didn’t move. Not an inch. Because holy shit, not only was he a creepy stalker, but he was out of his gourd, too. I couldn’t just have an evil stalker. Oh, no, I had to have a lunatic one, too. Zero of what he said made sense, so I focused on one thing at a time. “Excuse me? Clan? What are you, cavemen?”
I thought he’d take offense, but instead he just looked bored. “No, not cavemen. Vampires.”
And blinked again.
But nope, he was still there. This was still happening. Only me. If I made it out of here alive, what a story I’d have to sell about my stalker who thought he was a vampire. I had visions of the guy trying to bite my neck with his blunt teeth. Which made a giggle bubble up in my throat, which turned into a laugh, which turned into me throwing my head back in hysterical laughter until tears streamed down my cheeks.
When I dropped my head and focused on him through my tears, he was watching me carefully, that impassive expression still on his face.
He reached down and picked up Brex by the scruff of his neck, which immediately ceased any and all amusement on my part. “If you hurt my cat, swear to God—“
Brex yowled and swiped a paw across the man’s face. A thin line of scarlet bloomed on his cheekbone before the man dropped Brex, who scurried off to hide under a small table near an old couch. “Good job, Brex!” I shouted after him. “Now come back and finish the job!”
I turned to my stalker, and whatever I was about to say died in my throat. I watched as the cut sealed up and vanished before my eyes.
No mark, no blood. No nothing.
And those dark eyes were still trained on me.
About the Author:
Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.
Connect with Megan:
BLOOD GUARD releases September 12, and to get you in the mood and introduce you to Mission City, here’s a FREE short story that is completely standalone!
I think you’ll want to read about what happens when Roxy heads underground to a vampire club and meets Dru. Spoiler: Sexy stuff happens. A lot of it. Oh, and there are fangs involved.
BITE THE HAND THAT BLEEDS by Megan Erickson is totally FREE!
Download it here: https://www.instafreebie.com/ free/4xBMx
From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new, sexy standalone novel.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Look up Landon Roderick, that boy from childhood whom I’d never been able to forget—even though he so easily forgot about me—and call him.
Then again, anything sounds like a good idea when you’ve had a little too much wine before bed, right? It was supposed to be just a quick, meaningless, prank call. Instead, I went off on him—unloading thirteen years of pent-up emotions.
I didn’t think he’d call me back.
I certainly could never have anticipated the weeks of sexually tense phone conversations that followed as I got to know the man he’d become.
Turned out, Landon had never really forgotten me, either. That special connection we had was still there. I opened up to him, but there were also things about me he didn’t know. And he had his own secrets.
Over the countless hours we talked on the phone, I wondered what would happen if we actually saw each other. One night, I did something impulsive again. Only this time, I went to the airport and booked a ticket to California. We were about to find out if one phone call could bring two lost souls together or if my drunk dial really was all just a big mistake.
A complete STANDALONE.
Audio | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Amazon Paperback
(No Amazon e-book preorder. Will go live on/around release day.)
Copyright © 2017
By Penelope Ward
After that evening, I hadn’t heard back from him for a few days.
Then, one night, a text came in from the same phone number I recognized as Landon’s. It was the first time he’d texted me.
I looked down to find he’d sent a photo.
It was a heavily tatted man set against the backdrop of the ocean at sunset. Oh, my. It was him—a selfie.
Fuck. Me. He was beautiful.
I wouldn’t have even known it was Landon were it not for the blue eyes I recognized instantly. The shaggy, caramel hair I remembered from the past was now a darker shade of brown and shorter, cropped closer to his head. His arms and his chest were inked, his body so perfect that if I squinted, it almost resembled carved stone.
I couldn’t stop looking at him. My eyes wanted nothing more than to explore the ridges and valleys of his stunning body.
Was this a cruel joke?
This was not Landon!
But, it was.
With my thumb and middle finger, I kept zooming in and out, examining the details of the ink across his chest and on his arms. There was really nothing sexier than a guy with perfect arms and a full sleeve tattoo.
Even though his lips seemed fuller than I recalled, they still curved into a familiar grin that oozed confidence. The eyes and that smile were the only traces of the boy I remembered. I wished I could’ve leapt through the screen to smell him, touch him.
“Hi, Landon,” I whispered, for a brief moment talking to the boy inside, not the man in front of me.
This Landon was the polar opposite of the Ivy League yuppie image previously in my head. The only thing the man pictured might have majored in was badassery. He looked like a rockstar, a rule breaker, displaying a sense of arousing danger—someone who must have had women from all walks of life drooling over him for the sheer fact that either they couldn’t have him or shouldn’t have him. It suddenly became clear why, as he’d alluded to, a woman might have been begging him for sex. That made me wonder if he had any secret tattoos in spots I wasn’t allowed to see.
A fire was burning inside of me, and I knew it was my crush exploding into a full-blown obsession.
A self-conscious feeling came over me. If I was scared to show him a picture of myself before, now I was really hesitant.
The message that went along with the photo simply read:
Now show me you.
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of thirteen novels. With over a million books sold, her titles have placed on the New York Times Bestseller list sixteen times. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope, her husband, and kids reside in Rhode Island.
Connect with Penelope Ward
Other standalones from Penelope Ward:
Stuck-Up Suit: (co-written with Vi Keeland)
Cocky Bastard: (co-written with Vi Keeland)
Sins of Sevin:
Are you ready to be SACKED?
Sacked in Seattle is an emotional romance that is about more than just sports!
Keep reading for an excerpt
Release Date: August 24th
He’s loved Tiff since high school–but tragedy has blockaded her heart.
Tyee University football player Riley Black has adored Tiff since high school, but she’s never felt the same way. As Riley enters his senior year of college, he’s finally moving on and enjoying the perks of being a star athlete. Until one glimpse of Tiff unearths all those old feelings of longing and desire, not to mention the trauma of their shared past.
Tiffani Vernon has been running from her demons for seven years. When she’s forced to return to Seattle for financial reasons and attend the same college as Riley, she’s confronted with the traumatic event which has shaped her future and scarred her memories of Riley. Tiff struggles to avoid her secret high school crush, but he’s not having any of it. He’s pursuing her with a relentless determination to prove once and for all, they were meant to be together.
Can love finally heal their wounds or will they succumb to the pain and forever wonder what could have been?
* Riley *
Life-changing moments can be as obvious as a guy holding a gun to your forehead or as subtle as glimpsing a face in a crowd.
That gun and that face haunted my nights and often my days.
I hadn’t laid eyes on Tiffani Vernon since the night of our high school graduation over three years ago. She couldn’t leave Seattle fast enough, while I’d never considered going anywhere else. Seattle was the only real home I’d ever known, and I wanted to stay here and make things better. Face my fears head on. You know, crap like that.
Tiff ran from her fears, and our last night together had been epic, unforgettable, and scary as shit. She sped out of town and never looked back—especially not at me.
I knew why. It wasn’t personal, but that didn’t make me feel any better.
I reminded her of that horrible, awful day when our lives hung in the balance, the world shifted in a matter of minutes, and nothing would ever be the same again.
And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
Except move on.
And I had.
Or I thought I had, until I saw her standing across that proverbial crowded room. Our eyes met. Her brown ones to my blue ones. Recognition flashed in her eyes, then panic. Her mouth opened as if she were going to say something. Her expression went soft with regret. Shaking her head, she turned and ran, weaving through the crowd faster than a running back angling for the end zone. Her little pink skirt swished back and forth, calling attention to her fine ass and shapely legs. She was so smoking hot, heads swiveled as she passed.
Pain stabbed deep in my gut. Memories flooded back and slammed me to the turf, leaving me stuck to the beer-soaked floor. Graduation night. Her skin glowed in the moonlight as she gave herself to me, body and soul. I lost myself inside her, certain we’d be together forever. She left town the next morning, and I never saw her again.
Squelching that memory, I stood alone in a crowd of people, hearing nothing, sensing nothing, seeing nothing but the place where she’d stood a second ago. People elbowed me in their haste to get to the keg of beer I was blocking.
I shook my head, attempting to clear it.
She couldn’t be here.
She should be at USC starting her senior year, just as I was starting mine at the Ty, what us locals call Tyee University on Lake Union in Seattle.
She’d traded the rain and mud for sun and sand, and she’d traded me for surfer dudes and Hollywood wannabes.
But now she was back.
My feet refused to follow my orders. All I could do was gape open-mouthed like some creep with a stalker crush. There’d been other times I’d sworn I’d seen her, only to race after her and embarrass the hell out of myself when I found out the poor girl I’d dogged wasn’t Tiffani.
But we’d locked gazes this time, and there wasn’t any doubt in my mind. She was here. I tried to swallow, clear my throat, gulp in some oxygen. I swear my organs were either shutting down or going into overload. My heart slammed in my chest as if building to detonation, and my head pounded to the beat of the music in the room.
Oblivious to my disinterest, the blonde who’d been hustling me all night leaned in closer and gripped my arm. She slipped her tongue in my ear while her hand migrated to my crotch. I gave her a gentle shove, not giving one shit how rude my behavior was, even though I usually prided myself on being a nice guy.
“Later,” I told her and pushed through the throng of frat-house party-goers.
Almost frantic, I shoved my way to where I’d last seen her and caught a flash of blonde hair as she slipped out the door. I dashed after her down the sidewalk into the street and glanced left and right. She was gone, vanished into thin air as if she’d never existed. I waited five, then ten minutes, she never reappeared.
With a sigh, I trudged back to the party, ignoring the curious stares of the guys. I sank onto the couch in the living room, next to a couple of teammates, and faked interest in a football game on TV. My heart thudded wildly, and my hand shook as I lifted a pizza slice to my lips.
My eyes met the concerned blue gaze of my best friend, Gage Harmon, the team quarterback, campus man slut, and proud of both titles. He was chewing slowly and staring at me as if he expected me to strip naked and dance on the table while stone-cold sober.
“You okay, Ry man?”
“Yeah, fine. Thought I saw someone. I was wrong.”
One brow crept upward, disappearing under his messy blond hair. “Female?”
I nodded, refusing to meet his gaze on the off-chance he’d see the pathetic truth and peg me for the idiot I was. What kind of loser pines after a girl this long when he has the world at his feet?
Tiff was the only girl I’d ever truly loved.
And I’d never stopped loving her, as fucked up as that was.
* Tiff *
Running into Riley Black was inevitable. The Tyee campus was big, but obviously not big enough. Even so, I hadn’t expected to see him during my first week of classes. I’d carefully avoided the areas where he might be hanging out, such as Greek Row, and opted for an off-campus apartment. I planned my classes to avoid being near the football field and gym in the afternoons when he’d most likely be practicing. I timed everything with careful attention to detail and avoidance. Lot of good that did me.
Coming to this party had been a lapse in judgment. I should’ve known he’d be here. Maybe I secretly hoped to run into him, just to torture myself. Maybe I was all kinds of screwed up.
Okay, well, that’s stating the obvious. Ask my family. Ask my counselor. Ask my horse. They’d all agree. I, Tiffani Grace Vernon, was one fucked-up girl, and years of therapy had barely put a dent in my tormented past. Through no fault of his own, Riley brought back every traumatic memory of that fateful day when my charmed life became a living nightmare. He was a victim as much as I was.
Now, here we were. At the same frat party. I shouldn’t have come.
Our eyes met, and recognition instantly lit up his gaze. Those same cobalt blue eyes had studied me intently from across the room in our high school biology class. They’d watched me ride my horse in endless circles at the arena near his aunt’s house. Those same eyes had opened wide in horror as my ex-boyfriend, also his teammate, pointed a gun at each of us, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The loud bang had deafened me, and the smell of iron had filled my nostrils, followed by the wrenching pain of being slammed to the ground.
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
Seeing him brought it all back as if it had happened six minutes ago instead of almost seven years.
Maybe seeing me did the same for him, too? He’d gaped at me like he’d seen a ghost. Momentarily frozen in shock, his mouth opened and closed as if he were trying to say something but couldn’t. Not that I would have heard him over the sea of drunken partygoers and the roar in my ears.
My brain clawed at the last shred of sanity as wave after wave of dizziness sucked me deeper into a swirling abyss of darkness. My lungs begged for oxygen until I had to be blue in the face. My legs wobbled, and I stuck out a hand to steady myself. Swaying like a drunken sailor, I accidentally buried my fingers in some sorority girl’s cleavage. She raised her hand to take a swing at me but was too wasted to come close.
“You stupid, perverted bitch.”
Whatever. She was the least of my worries.
The music was so loud, no one paid attention to us. I wasn’t a fighter, and the time had come to get my ass out of here, not so much to run from her—I could handle her—but to get away from him and the demons nipping at my heels
I abandoned my beer on a windowsill and shoved my way through the crowd, desperate to exit as quickly as possible. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Riley dodging people in the crowd with deft footwork that would do any running back proud. Only he wasn’t a running back. He was a tight end. The starting tight end for Tyee University. A big man on campus with an NHL star uncle.
And I was—
And I planned on keeping it that way. I didn’t have any interest in being in the spotlight or even in a flashlight.
It’d been a mistake to enroll here, but I hadn’t had a choice. My parents’ divorce had been costly, leaving no money for out-of-state tuition. So here was I was. Back in the area I both loved and despised among the best of memories drowned out by the worst of tragedies with the one person who played a part in both.
I ran out the door and down the front steps, knowing he was only seconds behind. Glancing around desperately, I dived into some bushes in front of the apartment building next to the frat house and huddled in the darkness.
I waited what seemed like hours.
Finally, I peeked through the branches of the bush. Riley stood there, several feet away, gazing down the street with such profound sadness, you’d think he’d lost his best friend. His big hands hung loosely at his sides. He still had that one lock of dark hard that refused to stay in place. He looked the same, but different. A familiar face, yet a stranger.
Shaking his head, Riley trudged back inside, his shoulders slumped and his feet dragging.
I almost ran after him—almost—but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t invite the one person back into my life who could destroy every bit of progress I’d made since high school. Even worse, I couldn’t drag him down with me.
I waited long after he’d gone inside before creeping along the side of the building, and around the corner. I ran the several blocks home and collapsed on my bed. Only then did the wrenching sobs shake my body and wring every bit of emotion from my soul until nothing was left but bone-deep weariness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
USA Today Bestselling Author Jami Davenport writes sexy contemporary, sports, and new adult romances, including her two new indie endeavors: the Game On in Seattle series and the Men of Tyee series. Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her Green Beret-turned-plumber husband, a Newfoundland dog with a tennis-ball fetish, and a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat. She works in computer support in her day job and juggles too many balls, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Connect with Jami!
Subscribe to my newsletter to receive a free novel and be notified of new releases, special sales, and contests: http://eepurl.com/LpfaL
Website Address: http://www.jamidavenport.com
Twitter Address: @jamidavenport
Facebook Address: http://www.facebook.com/jamidavenport
Wren Lemiere has prided herself on being a love ’em and leave ’em girl her whole life. She’s all about equal opportunity in the battle of the sexes. Why should guys like her brother and his best friends get to be the only ones allowed to play the dating game? One wrong move, however, and she finds herself in violation of her own rules.
In need of a fake husband and baby daddy for her unexpected bundle of joy, Wren finally accepts Jensen is the logical one to ask for help. Except he has a counteroffer…one with so many strings attached, they may just find themselves wrapped up in ties that bind. Forever.
Five months earlier…
Wren Lemiere felt awful.
The kind of awful where you felt like you were dying.
Not that she had ever been the victim of an almost-death, but she was pretty sure it felt like what she was feeling.
Why she came back home to Colorado when she was this godforsakenly sick was beyond her, but then she hadn’t felt like death when she got on the plane. It was once she got off and for the following three days that the death hit her. She didn’t know what was going on, but she just wanted some drugs to make the excruciating nausea go away. That was all. Just some drugs.
Holding her face in her hands, she inhaled a deep breath before letting it out in a whoosh, begging the turning of her gut to stop. She wasn’t sure what she ate or what bacteria she picked up, but when she found out whatever did this to her, they would suffer. Slowly and painfully. It was probably Vaughn, her brother’s best friend. He was a walking cesspool. Ugh. She had never been so sick in her life, she swore it, but then again, that time she had the flu, she was sure she’d thought the same.
Either way, she was dying.
Plain and simple.
“Ugh,” she moaned as she swallowed back the bile that was threatening to come up her throat. When the door opened and the doctor stepped in, she cried out in relief. “Please, give me something. Anything. Knock me out if you have to.”
Ryan Churner laughed. They had gone to school together, dated briefly, but they’d been just kids. Now, he was married and happy—with lots of kids of his own. Wren, though, was living the single, carefree life. Much to her mother’s dismay. Her mother wanted grandbabies, and since her brother, Wells, was gay, it was easy to say it was Wren’s job to give her mother babies. Which was not going to happen. Wren would suck as a mom. Plus, she couldn’t find a decent guy to love her large ass. So that left her brother, and Wells could adopt. Yeah, he should do that. Take some of the pressure off her. She needed to call him about that.
“I’m afraid there are no drugs for what you have.”
Wren threw up her hands. “It’s a virus?”
He laughed. She didn’t like the sound of that laugh. Or the way he said, “Um, no.”
Her face wrinkled in confusion. “Then, what?”
He grimaced a bit before looking up at her. His dark blue eyes held her gaze as a grin pulled at his lips. “When was your last period?”
She shrugged. “Like six months ago. I have polycystic ovary syndrome, though.” She added while pointing at him, “Not sure that’s in my chart.”
He nodded. “It is, but I hadn’t realized it had been that long.”
“Yeah.” She had maybe two periods a year, possibly three. It was a problem, but her problem. One she was blessed with when she was younger. Her PCOS kept her a little on the thicker side and also wreaked havoc on her hormones, but she managed. She wasn’t going to let it bring her down or dwell on it. She already did that enough.
“Okay, well, are you in a relationship right now?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Are you sexually active?”
“Always,” she said with an exaggerated wink. Then she paused. “Wait, I’m not hitting on you.”
“I know.” He laughed and she grinned, though, it was brief before she felt a wave of queasiness. “But your pregnancy test came up positive.”
Wren could only blink as her body went cold. She started laughing because surely, she’d heard him wrong. “You weren’t this funny when we were younger.”
“I’m not joking.”
“Your pregnancy test came up positive, but sometimes with PCOS, you can get a positive result. So I want to do an ultrasound.”
“To see if you’re pregnant.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile before he stood, walking to the door. “Well, usually when you have sex, a baby can be made as a byproduct of all that passion.”
“But…” She trailed off, her heart jumping into her throat. Surely that wasn’t the case. She couldn’t be pregnant. They’d used protection. “I have sex with condoms, and I’m on birth control.”
“Are you consistent with your birth control?
She shrugged. “Sure.”
He raised an eyebrow. “That’s not believable, Wren.”
Her face wrinkled more as he called out to the nurse. Sitting there, she tried to remember when this could have happened. She was home last month and had seen him…a lot and all of him, but they’d used condoms. Hadn’t they? Shit.
Soon a cart was brought in, and she was asked to take off her pants. It was all a blur, lying there with a drape over her bottom half and Ryan shoving some damn probe up inside her. Staring at the ceiling, she didn’t know what to think. She hadn’t even thought this was a possibility. With her PCOS, it was supposed to be hard for her to get pregnant. Not to mention, she didn’t want to be a mom. She would suck as a mom. And he would suck as a dad. They were selfish.
“Yup, there it is.”
Turning her head, she looked at the screen to see a little peanut. Seriously, a peanut, or at least, that’s what she assumed it was. But in the middle of the peanut was a little flicker. It was so small, almost undetectable, but she was sure she could see it. Was that the heartbeat?
“That’s it? I’m pregnant?”
Blinking hard, she gasped. “Oh, fuck.”
The words felt funky.
“I am pregnant,” she said to her reflection in the rental car’s visor mirror. “We’re having a baby.” She tried saying it while waving her hands. But that felt weird too.
Holy shit, she was pregnant.
She was almost thirty. She had a good job, and she was in a good place. It was not even the least bit expected, nor was it good timing since she wasn’t thirty yet, nor was she married. But it was fine. They would get a quickie marriage, and bam, they’d be good. No one would have to know she was pregnant before they decided to elope. It would be fine. Everything would be fine; her inheritance wasn’t in jeopardy.
But, shit, she didn’t want to move back to Colorado. She would have to because he wouldn’t be able to leave his job. He owned the damn firm, while she was contracted by the Nashville Assassins, the professional hockey team back in Nashville, Tennessee. Her gig was awesome, so damn awesome, and she loved it, but it wouldn’t work. She’d have to be the one to move. Damn it. She’d finish out the season for sure, but that meant she couldn’t sign the five-year extension that was sitting on her desk back home. With the lovely bonus that was going to pay off her car early. Damn it.
She wasn’t sure how he was going to take it, but they were good. They had known each other their whole lives. Been fucking for years, so it was time. She loved him. Ish. Kinda. Well, obviously a little since she continued to sleep with him, but he was a cool dude. And even if marriage was the last thing she wanted, she knew she had to do it.
She needed the money from her inheritance that her dad was holding, which had been passed down from her grandfather. When she turned thirty in October, it would be hers. The only catch was she couldn’t have a baby out of wedlock before she was thirty. It was stupid, and it was barbaric in her opinion. But it was what her grandfather had written up, and her father was standing behind it. It was annoying, to say the least, but if she wanted to pay off all her debt and live pretty damn comfortably for the rest of her life, along with providing a comfortable life for Wells, she had to do what she had to do.
She just hoped he didn’t let her down.
Getting out of the car, she swallowed hard as she walked toward the doors that read Washington, Fieldsman, and Barnes. When she opened the door, she was greeted by the receptionist, and Wren shot her a quick, curt smile. She was nervous. Why was she nervous? Crap, was she going to puke?
Dipping into the bathroom before his office, she threw up the rest of her guts and sat there shaking her head. “You’re lucky I love you, kid.”
Wow, that was quick.
Wren had never seen herself as a mother. She’d thought she was going to grow old with lots of money and dogs. She hadn’t seen love or babies in her future. She’d seen lots of fucking, but that was about it. She didn’t have the best luck in love and really hadn’t imagined this coming, but now, she saw herself holding a baby.
Problem was, she still didn’t see him in her picture.
But that would change…right?
Washing her mouth out and then popping some gum, she walked out of the bathroom and right into another person. “Ah!”
“Crap! I’m sorry, Wren.”
Wren clammed up. Shit. “Hey, Shanna. What you doing here?”
“I had to see Bradley. What are you doing?” her best friend for her whole life asked.
Dammit, Wren hated lying to her.
“I have a meeting with him. He has to go over my contract for the Assassins.”
Shanna lit up. “Cool! Are you still coming for dinner tonight?”
Wren was shaking. Why was she shaking? Shit. “Shan, I texted you. I had to move my flight up, remember?”
“Oh, yes. My bad. Next time.”
“Of course,” she said before Shanna embraced her. Squeezing her eyes shut, Wren knew she would have to tell her. But Bradley had wanted to keep them under wraps. Plus, Wren knew how overprotective Shanna was of her baby brother. Wren had known better, but the dude was hung like a horse and hot to boot. She just hoped she wouldn’t lose a friendship over this. But Shanna would be excited. They’d be sisters like they’d always wanted, and there’d be a new baby. Shanna would love that.
Don’t freak out. This is fine.
Saying goodbye, Wren waved as she walked toward his office before knocking on the door. “Come in.” As she opened the door to the huge, posh office, he stood behind his desk, looking every bit as gorgeous as the day was long. His suit was pressed and clung to him. His blond-brown hair was brushed to the side, while a bit of stubble dusted his jaw. She only saw it because the sun was kissing it, shining on it ever so sweetly. He was a good-looking man, beautiful even, but still, she couldn’t see herself married to him. Shit.
Wren smiled though, and when Bradley looked up, heat filled his gaze. “Hey, you.”
“Hey,” she said, shutting the door as he came around the desk to her. Gathering her in his arms, he kissed her hard on the lips, dipping her back slightly as she clung to him. This had to work. He was a great guy.
Pulling back, he kissed her nose. “You look hot.”
She laughed, waving him off. “I look and feel like death.”
“Still?” he asked, concern filling his handsome face. He was a year younger than her, and growing up, they’d called him the baby. Though, he didn’t look like a baby. When he had first kissed her, eons ago, she hadn’t expected it. And even though they had both been with other people over the years, they somehow always gravitated back to each other.
But that was about to change.
“Yeah. I went to the doctor today.”
Moving his thumb along the inside of her palm, he smiled. “Is it contagious?”
She shook her head, her face filling with heat. “No.”
“Oh, good,” he said, gathering her in his arms and pressing his lips to hers. “So we can take this discussion to the couch.”
She stopped him as he tried to pull her to where she knew they would likely have all kinds of hot sex, but she needed to get this out. “Not yet.”
His brows pulled together. “What’s wrong? Don’t feel up to it?”
She swallowed hard. “It’s not that. It’s…um…” Inhaling deeply, she met his gaze. The gaze she had known her whole life. Though right now, she felt like she was going to puke, her nerves were so bad. “I’m pregnant.”
She watched as his eyes widened, his jaw dropping before he dropped her hands. “Pregnant?”
He only blinked. “Is it mine?”
She nodded. “You’re the only guy I’ve been with for the last six months.”
He blinked once more, his eyes burning into hers. “Are you sure?”
She gave him a deadpan look. “I think I’d remember if I happen to fall, pussy first, on a cock other than yours.”
He didn’t laugh like she wanted, nor did he look her in the eye. Instead, he chewed his lip, looking anywhere but at her. “So, no other chance it isn’t mine?”
Her brows drew in. “It’s yours, Bradley.”
Turning his back to her, he walked away, going to the windows as he looked out of them, his hands folded across his chest. “I didn’t expect this. We used condoms.”
“And you’re on birth control, I thought.”
“I am, though I don’t take it as often as I should.”
He looked over at her. “So you trapped me?”
She glared. “You’d better be joking.”
He didn’t answer; he just looked away as her heart started to speed up.
This didn’t feel right.
As he started to pace, she watched him, her blood beginning to boil. She didn’t like his comment, nor did she like the way he wouldn’t look at her. Clearing her throat, she watched him as she said, “Okay, well, I know this is a lot at once, and it’s a lot for me too. But we have something that could pose an issue—my inheritance.”
His face wrinkled up as he snapped, “How does that have anything to do with me?”
She glared at the side of his face. “It has to do with you because your baby is inside of me, and I’m not thirty yet. So if I have this baby before I turn thirty and I’m not married, I’m fucked.”
“Then don’t have the baby.”
Her jaw dropped. Actually dropped, almost catching flies. “Excuse me?”
Still looking out the window, he shrugged. “Go get an abortion.”
“Listen, I don’t want this. I don’t want a kid, and fuck, this is going to mess everything up.”
Her heart was in her throat. “Mess up what?
Turning to her, he yelled, “I’m marrying fucking Fieldsman’s daughter.”
It was as if he’d hit her. Reaching out, she braced her hand on the window. He had been seeing the girl, but he swore it wasn’t serious. They were just cool; it was business as he said. But marriage? “What? You said you didn’t want to get married.”
“I know, but I have no choice.”
“You do. You can marry me and help out the mother of your child.”
“No, I can’t. I was going to tell you tonight, that we had to break this off. For good.”
Drawing in a breath through her nose, she shook her head. “Wow.”
“Yeah. So listen,” he said, walking around her and to his desk, but she didn’t move as the tears gathered in her eyes. “Go get an abortion. It’s for the best. Here, this should cover it.”
When she opened her eyes, he was filling out a check before holding it out to her. Shaking her head hard, she muttered, “I don’t want your money.”
“Take it, Wren. Please. I can’t have this fuck up what I’ve got going for me. I’ll have more stock in this firm once I marry her.”
Her lip started to tremble. “But I’m having your baby.”
“I don’t want it,” he said simply. “I don’t want any of it. She will get pissed. She’s already so jealous and thinks I’m fucking around.”
“I know, but not anymore. So, please, get rid of it.”
“Wren, come on!”
“You can’t do this. We’ve known each other our whole life.”
“I understand that. So please do it.”
“Don’t be stupid, because I’ll deny it. You fuck around. Everyone knows it, and I’ll deny the kid is mine. You’ll have to take me to court to prove it. But by the time that happens, you’ll already have it before your thirtieth birthday, so you’ll be fucked anyway. Just do the right thing. Get rid of it, Wren.”
She wouldn’t let her tears fall. Not for this fucking douche. “I thought I knew you, you selfish asshole.”
The words didn’t even faze him. He glared at her. “I thought I knew you. How could you let this happen? We were never serious. We were just fucking.”
Looking down at the ground, she bit into her lip to keep the tears from falling. Yeah, he was right, but she thought she’d meant more to him than just a fuck. “Just fucking, huh?”
“Yeah, it isn’t like we love each other. I mean, come on. You’re not even my type.”
“Wren, come on,” he said simply, holding his hands out. “You’re not trophy wife material.”
She was going to deck him. “I can’t believe this.”
“Just take the check.”
He held it out once more, and her eyes landed on it through her tears. She should take it. It really was the only option, yet she knew she couldn’t.
Meeting his gaze, she swallowed hard as she shook her head slowly from side to side. “No.”
“Wren, don’t be an idiot.”
“You’re being fucking stupid—”
Standing erect, she stepped over to him, her eyes burning into his and completely cutting off his words. She was sure her eyes were full of heat, full of rage because his words shook her. To the core. She wasn’t sure who this man was, but he sure as hell wouldn’t be the father of her child. Over her dead fucking body. “Fuck you, Bradley. I don’t need your money or even you. So. Fuck. You.”
And with that, she walked away.
With no clue what she was going to do now.
Except for the certainty that she wasn’t killing her baby.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
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Rachel wants one thing in life, a family of her own. But she’s not going to get it without a man. Or can she?
They may have ruined their chances in the past, but Matt and Ethan know Rachel’s the woman for them. When they discover her plans, they tell her they’ll give her exactly what she wants. The old fashioned way. Because once they get their hands on her, they’ll hold her close and never let go.
Warning: Panty melting! Hold Me Close is book 4 in the wildly dirty series where two obsessed alpha cowboys give the woman of their dreams exactly what she desires. This standalone HEA is all about her – no M/M.
With my hand raised, I stopped her. “Hold it right there, missy. Turn around and close the door.”
I tried for my sternest tone, loving the way her cheeks turned pink the moment she realized I was in boss mode. That was what she called it when I got all commanding and bossy in the office. Or in the bedroom. Yeah, she liked to be dominated by her two men. And she liked playing up the sexy secretary role to the hilt. She did as I commanded, then turned back around.
I happened to know she got turned on instantly when we went into boss mode. A wet pussy never lied. Hell, I’d guess she was already wet for me right now and I’d barely even begun. I nodded toward the cute skirt she wore. It came to just above her knee. Nothing immodest or inappropriate.
“Lift it up.”
She bit her lip but didn’t protest. Her fingers gripped the hem and she hitched it up slowly, offering me a teasing glimpse of her creamy thighs. Shit, she’d learned how to be quite the tease in just a matter of weeks. Give her another month and Ethan and I would be royally screwed—so totally crazy in lust, we’d be too hard to walk.
When she hitched it up over her hips, I caught sight of her lacy white panties and I shifted in my desk chair. The sight of her, skirt hoisted, panties visible, was so sexy. Thankfully the bulge in my pants was hidden behind my desk. I cleared my throat and looked up at her with raised brows.
Her blush deepened, but a small smile played at her lips. “Sorry, I forgot.”
I shook my head in feigned disappointment. No panties was another rule we’d instituted when even tugging off those silly lace numbers became too much of a hindrance. We’d ripped more off of her than we could count. When she got upset at us for ruining so many, we told her she shouldn’t wear them any more.
“What did we say about panties? They only get in the way. If you want us to keep that pussy filled up with our seed, you can’t be wearing them.”
She nodded. “I know. I’m sorry.” She didn’t look sorry at all and I tried not to grin. Panties would not be keeping us from filling her pussy.
I nodded toward her panties. “Lose them.”
On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.
Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.
But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?
It feels so good.
I wasn’t planning to see her naked—I swear to God, I wasn’t. The day was a scorcher, one of those godforsaken New England summer days that makes a guy wonder how he ever said fuck you to winter. I stood on the roof her house, three stories above the Maine woods, with a far-off view of the ocean. It was pretty, yeah, like the kind of shit real estate companies put on complimentary calendars. But in that heat, it was like standing on top of a goddamned toaster, turned all the way to burnt. I could feel that shit in my socks, straight through my work boots. At my feet was a stack of shake shingles, old school, to replace the ones that were missing. Her house had a few slow leaks, and one over her bathroom that made the ceiling look like a huge Rorschach test. She said it definitely looked like a rose in bloom, I said it definitely looked like Batman. But I told her hidden meanings wouldn’t make shit for difference when the ceiling collapsed into the tub, so there I was. Fucking miserable work, but I was glad to do it. Glad to do anything for her—anything she needed at all.
In the forest on every side around the cottage, the cicadas screeched. It sounded like a needle squeaking off a record player. I knelt down by the stack of shingles, using my utility knife to score a line through one to fit a nearby gap. I snapped it with my hands and tossed the scrap end off the edge of the roof. A trickle of sweat ran down my forehead, and I wiped my face with my forearm. One droplet got away, sparkling in the sun. It caught my eye, and I watched it fall, as it landed on the skylight window with a splat.
And that was when it happened. Boom.
There she was, right under me. She couldn’t have been more than six feet away, but she felt even closer. I had a direct line of sight down into her gorgeous, soft cleavage, bright and pure in the sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing her, but at first I didn’t really process that it was Rosie at all. My dude brain said, I want that woman.
Then my regular brain said, Don’t be an asshole, man. It’s Rosie. Have some respect.
Respect I definitely had, but of course I’d thought about seeing her naked before. She was so fucking beautiful that any man would have thought about it. Sometimes, like right then looking down into her dress, I couldn’t fucking help it. Sometimes we’d be out doing something ordinary, like eating dinner, or I’d be changing her oil, or she’d be teaching me to do shit I should have learned at some point in the last 34 years, like iron a dress shirt without screwing up the collar, and I’d catch myself watching her cleavage rise and fall as she breathed, or thinking how nice her legs were, and I’d think, Holy hell.
Now she was directly underneath the skylight. The angle of the sun cast my shadow down the roofline, away from the skylight, so I didn’t give myself away. Like that, I watched her. I gave in to my dude brain and just took her in. Her light brown hair glinted, and a beam of light caught the curve of her shoulder.
That was when the goddamned striptease started, beginning with the left strap of her sundress.
Her movements were graceful, sexy, sassy—the sway of her hips, the shake of her shoulders. I realized I might be in real fucking trouble, because I loved that sexy sass. It wasn’t normal Rosie-cute. It was naughty, like nothing I’d ever seen her do before. I liked it so much, I couldn’t look away. She shimmied out of her sundress, and it fell to the floor in a pool at her feet. No big deal, I tried to tell myself. I’d seen her in her bikini a thousand times. This was no different from that.
Except it was, because then she reached around to undo her bra. Before I could tell myself Don’t look, dude. It’s Rosie, don’t look, it was too fucking late. The straps slid down off her shoulders, and for one perfect second got caught on her nipples, swinging in the air before falling to the floor.
I pressed my clenched fist to my mouth and groaned into my hand. All my blood was leaving my head. The roofline was getting wobbly.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know her curves; we’d spent whole summers on the beach—I knew her shape and her softness, I knew her lines and her freckles. Every curve of Rosie Madden was sacred in my book. Fucking douchebags on the beach giving her eyes had to answer to me and my eyes, right behind her. She did that to me—I was one punch away from defending her honor, always. But this? This was different. Seeing your best friend in a bikini at a clam bake is one thing. Protecting your best friend from assholes with wandering eyes is part of the guy-girl best friend creed. But seeing your best friend, absolutely naked in her bedroom, without knowing she can see you? That was a different deal.
Part of me knew I should keep my eyes off of her. She thought she was in private, I had no business spying. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy. I hated that guy. But the other part of me, fuck. The other part of me was nothing but want.
Then she bent at the hips, and time slowed down, like some kind of stop-motion Jackie Chan kung fu sequence. All the cicadas went silent, at least in my head they did. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. It was just her, and her perfection, in the sunshine underneath me. I felt like I was on one of those glass-bottomed boats, looking at a world I never knew existed.
She tossed her bra aside, and it landed on her neatly made bed. She shimmied out of her panties, shaking her ass as she did. I growled into my fist, and that’s when I went down into a crouch.
Because as she shimmied I saw it in a V above her ass. My kryptonite. A skimpy thong.
All these years, all these decades, I’d had her pegged for cute cotton panties—pastel polka dots, thin stripes, shit that was sweet and sensible. But I was so fucking wrong. Black. Strappy. Tiny. Not sensible at all. Now it was in a rolled-up ball at her ankles. Using her toes, she plucked her panties from the floor, and caught them on one finger.
She was completely naked, not a thread on her. Every thought I’d ever had got sucked out of my brain, like dishwater down the sink drain. What was left was only one true thing, and it wasn’t about her ass, or her skin, or her breasts. It was the one thing I think I’d always known but never let myself feel. Until that moment.
She is the most beautiful woman in the world.
Part of the reason I thought that was, yeah, obviously, she was fucking stunning, every inch of her straight out of a dream. Not just my dream, either. Guys would slow down on Main Street to give her the elevator stare, and I’d quietly crack my knuckles and give them don’t-you-fucking-dare stares. But the other part, the part that wasn’t in my gut but that was in my heart, was that I fucking adored her. Adored her so hard it hurt.
She crouched down to pick up her dress, lifting the delicate straps with her small, sweet fingers. She pivoted, so I had a view of her other side of her body for the first time. There it was.
I groaned again. I wasn’t prepared for this shit; three stories up, that body was dangerous. It was a rose tattoo, snaking around her hip, on the milk-white skin that was always under her bikini bottoms. The part of her I’d never seen. It was serious ink, real art, not some namby-pamby temporary tattoo or some amateur shit she might’ve gotten in an hour at a tattoo parlor on a dare on a cruise to Puerto Rico. It was complicated, detailed, and artful. Multiple visits to some tattoo artist, touching that creamy skin—goddamn.
It took every fucking ounce of strength I had, but I did manage to look away. I felt as disoriented as if I’d been sucker punched. Not cotton—lace. Not cute—hot. Not my friend—my fucking fantasy.
She was so important to me, such an integral part of my world, that I’d never let myself think of her as more than what she was. She was like running water, or electricity, or the sunshine itself. She was one of those things that was perfect exactly as it was, and one of those things only an idiot would want to change. I never looked at her and thought, I wish I could have more of her than I do already. That would be like thinking, I wish I could turn that cold glass of water into a swimming pool. Or, I wish electricity came through the air. Fuck that noise. Perfect things are perfect things, and Rosie Madden was a perfect goddamned thing, from the tips of her toes to the freckles on her nose. And that rose, holy fuck, that rose.
I was strong, but not that strong, and I let my eyes move down again. She’d disappeared from view, mostly, except for the edge of her ass. I watched her rifle through her closet, and a few dresses fluttered onto her bed. On her bedside table, I caught a glimpse of the picture she always kept there, of the two of us together. The memories flew back at me like a runaway train. The first time I’d ever seen her was the day my parents and I moved to Truelove, at the start of middle school. The first time I ever saw her, she was volunteering at the community gardens. She had a smudge of dirt on her cheek, and I thought she’d looked super badass. I’d helped her dig up carrots and had been too fucking tongue-tied to say a goddamned word.
That’s how I felt, all over again times a thousand.
I’d never made a move. She’d cried on my shoulder through a line of guys who were never good enough for her. Jocks and pricks and a brief and seriously unfortunate stint with a guy who was a drummer for a reggae band who I hated so much it made me grind my teeth. But I never said shit about it. She was perfect even when she made mistakes. Tips of her toes. Freckles on her nose.
Never mind that rose. Like Banksy took on a temple.
One more time, I glanced down. Now she was sitting on her bed, and I saw that dark V shadow between her thighs. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. I watched her put on a pair of red panties. Equally skimpy, equally not-sensible, equally ball-busting. They were only tragic because they hid the parts of her I’d never seen before.
Christ. All. Mighty.
As the world started to spin, I realized fixing the shingles could wait. I’d been working on old houses long enough to know that if you found yourself on a dangerously sloping roof and felt like you might be less than 100% on the ball, you needed to reconsider your game plan. I needed to get my shit together—that body had me totally fucking derailed. So I made my way down the roof, basically bouldering down backward. I focused on my grip, and my steps, like a climber coming down from Everest without enough oxygen. When I got to the gutter, I worked my way around the corner, standing on the eave, and hooked my leg over my ladder, making sure to put one foot after another and keep a tight grip on every rung.
When I stepped off the ladder, I grabbed a bottle of water that she’d left for me and filled up my palm and then splashed my face. My sweat stung my eyes through the droplets of water, and I rubbed away the tears. I heard the hinges on the screen door creak. “All done?” she asked.
I opened my eyes. They stung like hell, but I didn’t give a fuck. There she was, in a dress I’d seen before. Striped and sweet. But now I knew the secret. There were red panties under there. Red. Cherry red. My eyes fell on that part of her hip that I knew was inked.
I managed somehow to snap out of it. “Sorry. Getting there. Spotted something weird with the skylight.”
Rosie cocked her head. “Were you up there? Above my room?”
Awesome, dude. Smooth. “Just noticed it out of the corner of my eye.”
“I don’t like you being on the roof.” She pursed her lips. “Too steep. Promise you’ll get some ropes up there or something? Promise?” She reached out and put her hand to my arm, her fingers with their short pink nails pressing into my tanned skin. I had a quick but totally unavoidable image of her gripping my forearm in a very different situation. I want that. So fucking…
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
When I didn’t answer—I knew that if I opened my mouth the first words out would be You. Me. Right Now.—she looked up at the roof and squinted into the sun. She peered suspiciously up at me and shifted her nose, kind of like a bunny. Adorable. She wasn’t very tall, so whenever she looked at me she had to lift her chin, which used to be cute. But now looked…like everything I’d ever wanted. “Have you had too much sun?”
I was vaguely aware that she’d said some words, but I wasn’t hearing them because I realized that I couldn’t see her bra straps, so that had to mean she was she was wearing a strapless…
Knock. That. Shit. Off. “I’m good.”
“Mmm.” She nodded and furrowed her delicate eyebrows, which had never looked so pretty as they did at that moment. I didn’t even know eyebrows could be pretty. They’re eyebrows, for fuck’s sake. But suddenly I felt like for the last ten years, I’d been looking at her through a standard definition television, with a shitty cable connection. Now someone had handed me an HDMI cable, and she was in 1080 dots per inch. Christ.
“Lemme make you a sandwich. You’re acting strange.”
Rather than answer her, I dumped the remaining half a bottle of water over my head, like Andre Agassi used to do between break points at the French Open.
“Ham? Or turkey? I’ve got both. Or chicken salad!” She clapped her hands together, compressing her cleavage. “Do you want a pickle?”
She means an actual pickle, you fuckwit. “Surprise me,” I told her, and dragged my eyes off the curve of her cleavage. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pressed it to my eyes. I had to get out of there. I needed a cold shower, or a call from my tax guy, or an unexpectedly urgent trip to the DMV—anything to stop myself seeing her stark naked every goddamned time I looked at her. Anything to get my mind off that ink.
As I wiped my face, she cleared her throat, and I dropped my shirt. “What?”
She pressed her lips together and rocked back on her sandals. “Nothing!”
I followed her eyes and glanced down at my fly, but the stallion was still in the barn. “Come on,” I said, finding myself smiling right along with her. “What are you looking at?”
“Just…” She swallowed hard. “Looking good there, champ.” She glanced at my stomach, where I’d shown her my bare abs. She made a fist and gave me a mock punch, soft and sweet. “That P90X is working great for you.”
Here we go again with the fitness videos. For everything else she was—beautiful, smart, funny—she was also a fucking ball-buster sometimes. She’d worked up this whole narrative that I spent my nights with Tony Horton on my houseboat, getting cut and doing reps while I drank protein shakes with a straw straight from the blender. It was her only explanation for why I didn’t have a girlfriend. P90X it had to be, she’d said. Or maybe, she’d whispered like a co-conspirator, “Jazzercise.” Now, though, I had a better idea than ever about why I was so picky: not a single woman held a candle to her. I’d been fucking blind to it, but now the mist had burned right off. “I’ve never even seen the opening sequence. Never have. Never will.”
“They’re streaming now!”
Rosie snorted and made a long wheeeeee. “Sure. Surrrrrrre,” she said, stifling her giggle. “One ham-and-turkey, coming right up.” She spun on her sandals and disappeared into the house. Hips swinging. Red panties invisible, but not to me.
★★★ EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT ★★★
By Leann Ashers
“Fucking made for me,” he growls and gives me a deep, wet kiss. He slows down and rises on his elbows, which are on either side of my face. “Made for me,” he repeats. He slowly moves inside me and my toes curl. “I love you, my Shay.”
“I love my Butcher.”
He grins and presses his forehead against mine. I grip the back of his neck, holding him to me. We come together as one, staring deep into each other’s eyes.
“I have nightmares that this is a dream,” Butcher whispers and my heart breaks a little at his words. His dark eyes look deep into mine, his face scarred up and beautiful.
“It’s real. I am real.” I take his hand and press it to my heart. “This is yours.”
“I don’t deserve you, my Shay. But I am selfish and will take you any way I can.”
I shake my head furiously and grip his face between my hands. “I am the one who doesn’t deserve you, Butcher.” I kiss him deeply before placing my face in the crook of his neck. I feel Butcher relax into me and I close my eyes.
Butcher, the newest addition to the Devil Souls MC series by LeAnn Ashers is releasing August 17th!
Add to your TBR: http://bit.ly/2jh5mIR
Haven’t read this series yet?
Now is your chance to get caught up!
LeAnn Asher’s is a blogger turned author who spends her days reading and writing She released her debut novel early 2016, and can’t wait to where this new adventure takes her. LeAnn writes about strong minded females and strong protective males who love their women unconditionally.
7 Dirty Lies by Alexis Anne is coming soon!
Dirty never felt so good…
Release Date: August 17th
ADD TO YOUR TBR→ http://bit.ly/2t0GZEU
It was right out of one of my movies:
Tropical island, sexy single man, two hot nights of nameless passion.
Except instead of falling into each other’s arms, we went our separate ways, never to be seen again.
Of course I thought about him all the time. The way he laughed, the way he saw right through me, the way he took no shit as his strong hands roamed my body. If there was one night I could repeat, it would be that one.
I never expected to see my mystery man again.
Fast forward to my new movie set and the handsome property owner. Yep, same guy. Same sexy, sexy guy. Our chemistry is still off the charts but there’s one tiny problem: he doesn’t trust me.
Okay, so I skipped a few important details. I don’t blame the guy. But they were just little white lies. Unfortunately if I want that movie-perfect ending I’m going to have to set the record straight…and hopefully have a little fun in the process.
I couldn’t sleep. No amount of hiking or bedroom gymnastics could make me fall asleep, apparently. My body was exhausted but my mind wouldn’t stop. Not with the way Colt had me wrapped around him, holding me in place like he enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.
Maybe I didn’t want to sleep because I knew it was the last time I wouldn’t be alone for a while. Even when I did have “company” it was rare that it was as nice as this. Okay scratch that. I’d never had company this nice before. Colt was funny, warm, and generous. He was great in bed and enjoyable outside of it, too. Plus there was this. Just dozing off in his arms was so relaxing and peaceful.
There definitely wouldn’t be relaxing or peaceful after this.
Nor would anything be this sexy.
So yeah, I was up hours later than I should be, soaking up every moment I could before my vacation became a memory.
“You’re awake, aren’t you?” he said just loud enough to be heard over the waves crashing outside the open bungalow windows.
“Why?” His fingers began to lazily stroke my arm. It was soothing. He was soothing.
“Can’t sleep. Why are you awake?”
He paused, his fingers near my shoulders, before he changed direction and moved to my hair. “I don’t really know. I don’t usually have trouble sleeping.”
Knowing he was having the same problem filled my chest with warmth. “We should be exhausted.”
He made a grunt of agreement. “Are you ready to go home?”
Another grunt. “I need to go back. I can’t believe I left things for this long . . . ” Then he kissed the top of my head. It sent electricity racing over my skin. My heart pounded. “But the last thing I want to do is go back.” He shifted, sliding down beside me so that we were nose to nose on our sides. “I want another day like this.”
“Five. Fifty. Why can’t real life be like this?”
God he was handsome. Even in the shadows of the night. The moon cast the faintest glow through the white curtains, lighting the side of his face up enough for me to admire. He’d shaved this morning, so there was a decent layer of stubble on his rugged chin now. His nose was long and narrow but not perfect. When I got to his eyes I froze. He was waiting for me. Waiting with a look so desperate for me it overwhelmed every thought in my head.
“I forgot what you just asked.”
“Why can’t real life be like this?” he whispered, hoarse.
Raw. He was raw. His eyes, his words—everything—stripped bare, down to his soul, for me.
He swallowed. “Right now I don’t care about any of them.” He brushed his lips over mine. “I’m fucking miserable. Day in and day out I work myself to death for all of them. Why?”
I didn’t know the answer to that. “You love them?”
His eyes pinched at the corners. With pain? Sadness? “I’m starting to wonder if it’s enough.” He kissed me again. “I’m giving up—” he hesitated, his lips moving but no words coming out until, “—this.”
A sharp ache sliced through my chest. Even if we threw everything out the window and tried to see each other again, it wouldn’t be the same. The man and woman who went on a waterfall picnic weren’t who we really were. It was better that we keep that memory pure.
Didn’t make it hurt any less.
Besides, how would I ever explain that I’d lied about who I was? If I wanted to enjoy these last few hours with Colt, I needed to hold tight to this illusion I’d created for us both.
“What if we come back next year? One year from now we’ll be different people. There’s no way I’m going home and picking up where I left off. Maybe you shouldn’t either.”
“A year?” His voice held a mix of disappointment and hope. “A year to change.”
“You’re a workaholic and my life is kind of a mess right now. I think if we tried to keep this—what we have right now—we’d ruin it. I don’t want that.”
“Neither do I.”
Good. A year would give me enough time to figure out how to explain my little white lies. And maybe he’d be so happy to see me again he wouldn’t care as much as he would right now.
“I’m a sunshine and rainbows, glass-half-full, pot-of-gold, pain in the ass, but I have goals, Colt. Just because I think positive doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to reality.” I took a deep breath, hoping it would give me the courage to finish this. “The last two days have been the best I’ve ever had. Because of you. I hope when I come back next year I’ll see your cowboy hat by the pool. Maybe we’ll be ready by then.”
“Is this a brush off? When I come back will I be all alone again, pining for a woman who never really existed?” His tone was teasing, but his eyes were deadly serious.
I just wish he wasn’t so damn close to the truth.
“I’ll be here, Colt. That’s not even a question. I’m a little bit addicted to you and I want more.”
“Good. Because I think it would kill me if I never saw you again.”
Oh god. “You’re making me want to stay again . . . ” I rolled on top of him, straddling his hips. “Fuck reality. We’re going to blow every penny we have to stay here until we’re broke.”
He laughed, sliding his hands up my hips and pulling me down against him. “This place is expensive. Maybe we can find a cheaper alternative to make it last longer.” Then he pulled me down, his arm along my spine and his hand between my shoulder blades as he held me to him. “I’ll be ready for you next year. Just know I’m not letting you go again. Be prepared for a fight.”
It was taking all the fight I had to leave tomorrow. No amount of time would give me enough courage to fight him off a second time. If, after he knew the truth, he still wanted me, I would give us everything I had to see if we could recreate this magic off the island.
About the Author:
Former archaeologist Alexis Anne (who also writes romantic suspense as Alexis Sykes) has worked as an oral historian, GIS specialist, field archaeologist, college professor, and small business owner, before deciding that working from home and writing books was a lot more satisfying. She writes steamy, sexy romance with one half of her brain and romantic suspense, action adventure, and children’s books with the other half.
Growing up she traipsed through the islands of the Gulf Coast, camped in the Everglades, dove the Keys, and generally felt more at home spending her days outdoors with a good book. She currently lives in a home filled with wild men (otherwise known as her extremely extroverted husband, The Sexy Editor, and their two kids), a husky, and a superhero guinea pig.
Drafted first round pick when I was seventeen, playing first line at eighteen, branded NHL’s bad boy at nineteen. At twenty-three I was cut from the team and living back home with my parents. A knock on the door brought an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. All I had to do was prove I learned from my mistakes, so no way would I fall for a chick with a pouty mouth even if I wanted to spend all day devouring it.
When my father gave me a job, I had no idea it would be to babysit some washed up NHL player. He wanted me to be his chaperone, his overpaid babysitter. I thought it was a joke. Then I met him, Matthew Grant. I wasn’t prepared for this particular bad boy. He’s not only hot but he’s arrogant and kinda sweet in a ‘you make me crazy’ kind of way.
Basically now that he’s finished screwing up his life, he’s decided to turn mine upside down.
She’s the first thing I’ve ever wanted more than hockey.
He’s the guy I know I should stay away from.
But what if this thing that started out so wrong turns into something so perfect?
From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a sexy, new standalone contemporary romance in her Fusion Series, THE BEAUTY OF US, releasing August 22, 2017! Check out the chapter below and get to know Trevor and Riley!
About THE BEAUTY OF US:
New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby delivers another sizzling novel in her delectable and sexy Fusion series.
Riley Gibson is over the moon at the prospect of having her restaurant, Seduction, on the Best Bites TV network. This could be the big break she’s been waiting for. But the idea of having an in-house show on a regular basis is a whole other matter. Their lives would be turned upside down, and convincing Mia, her best friend and head chef of Seduction, that having cameras in her kitchen every day is a good idea is daunting. Still, Riley knows it’s an opportunity she can’t afford to pass on. And when she meets Trevor Cooper, the show’s executive producer, she’s stunned by their intense chemistry.
Trevor’s sole intention is to persuade Riley to allow Best Bites TV to do a show on her restaurant. But when he walks into Riley’s office, he stops dead in his tracks. The professional, aloof woman on the phone is incredibly beautiful and funny. But can he convince her that he’s interested in Riley for himself? Or is he using the undeniable pull between them to persuade her to agree to his offer?
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
And Don’t Miss the First Three Novels in the Fusion Series, LISTEN TO ME, CLOSE TO YOU, and BLUSH FOR ME!
I didn’t sleep worth shit last night. I waited for a response to my e-mail from Riley for a while; I’m not exactly sure why. I just don’t like the thought of her being embarrassed.
Because she has no reason to be. She didn’t know who I was, and it was closing time. She was venting to her friends.
It’s really no big deal.
But I could see the mortification in her big blue eyes when she realized who I was, and that doesn’t sit well with me.
When no response came, and for all I know she hasn’t even read the e-mail yet, I sat down for a game on the PS4. I don’t travel anywhere without it. Some people read to unwind. Some go to the gym, and there are times I do the same. But to truly relax, I enjoy gaming. I have since I was a kid.
So I settled in the apartment the network has rented for me this month and played online with my friends, talking about our days and shooting the enemy.
We played well past midnight, and I usually would have gone right to bed afterward, but my mind was still turning, making falling asleep impossible. The restaurant is better than I imagined through my research on their website and customer reviews. It’s visually stunning, the food is fantastic, and they’ve hit the mark on the sexy factor.
But added to that, the five women who own the place are all beautiful, smart, and will make for great TV. Viewers will eat this show up, pun intended.
I lean over the sink and wash my face, not bothering to shave today, and as I dry off, I reach for my phone.
I have several new e-mails.
The most recent is from Riley Gibson.
Thank you for your kind email. I apologize again for the conversation last night. I would like to promise that we don’t always talk like that at work, but that would be a lie. At least we keep it to closing time over a glass of wine.
I grin and sling the towel over my bare shoulders. Riley isn’t what I had pictured in my head before I got here. I knew that she was pretty because their photos are on their website, but she’s much prettier in person.
Working with her will be fun.
And a test to my libido. Because Riley is fucking sexy. I’ve never mixed business and sex before, and I don’t plan to start now, but keeping my hands off her will be a test of wills.
And that too should be fun.
After my run this morning, I stopped by a bagel place to eat and read a newspaper, came back to the apartment for a shower, and I think I’ll go to Seduction for lunch. I hadn’t planned to go back there until my meeting with Riley tomorrow, but I also haven’t had lunch there yet.
I dress quickly in jeans and a red T-shirt and walk the six or so blocks to the restaurant.
They’ve just opened, so they’re not busy yet. The atmosphere is calm, the lighting a bit brighter than last night, making it a fun spot to meet with colleagues or friends for lunch.
I’m seated on the far side of the restaurant, where it meets the bar, and I can see Riley and the other women sitting around a high table, talking.
Loud enough for me to hear.
“So, he’ll be here tomorrow. Filming doesn’t start for another week, unless the timetable has been moved up,” Riley says, studying her iPad and checking things off a list. “It would be great if we could watch our language.”
“Right,” Mia says, rolling her eyes. “Because that’s gonna happen.”
“Just watch the F-bombs then,” Riley says with a grin. “And I’ll do my best not to vent to him about my horrible dating experiences. Not that I’ll be having any more of those.”
“I wish I’d been here for that,” Addie says with a smile. “It’s hilarious.”
“No, it’s not,” Riley says, but smiles and covers her lips with her fingers. “Okay, it’s a little funny. I’ll be working from home today.”
“Why?” The blonde speaking, I presume Cami, asks.
“Because I have a roofer coming today,” Riley says. “But if you need me, just call. I can come back after he leaves.”
“Go.” Mia waves her off. “We’ve got this.”
The girls all stand, about to go their own ways to get their day started. They’re clearly good friends, which will come across well on film.
Riley walks out of the bar and glances up, spotting me.
“Hi.” I offer her a smile and motion for her to join me. She sits, sets her iPad aside, and squares her shoulders.
I love a woman with grit.
“Why are you here?” she asks.
“I’m having lunch,” I reply, and gesture to the salad sitting in front of me. “It’s delicious. Adding the brussels sprouts is smart.”
“I’ll pass that along to Mia,” she says, and then laughs. “I guess you heard the part where I asked the girls to not swear.”
“I did,” I reply, and patiently butter a piece of warm bread. “Don’t worry about that stuff. They’re adults.”
“With potty mouths,” she says.
“And we can bleep stuff out, or ask them to rephrase. You’ve already got the gig, Riley. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. This isn’t an audition.”
“I know.” She sighs and reaches over to take a piece of my bread, surprising and delighting me. “I just want things to go smoothly.”
“Perhaps you should order lunch too.”
“I don’t have time,” she says, and then her blue eyes widen as she realizes what she just did. “I’m so sorry. I eat when I’m stressed out, and I didn’t—”
“No.” I hold my hand up to stop her. “It’s fine. I like that you’re relaxed with me. I think you need to relax more often.”
“What are you, my life coach now?”
“If you like. Did you cancel those dating sites like I suggested?”
She bites her lip and looks to the side, then nods. “I did.”
“Good.” I take a bite of salad and nod. “Are you sure you don’t want some food?”
“I rarely have time to eat,” Riley says, and checks the time on her phone. “In fact, I should go. I have to meet the roofer at my house.”
“What’s wrong with your roof?”
“It’s old,” she says with a shrug. “That’s what happens when you buy an old house. I’m fixing it up a little at a time.”
I nod, and find that I don’t want her to go quite yet. I want to talk more, to learn more about her.
“Why don’t you come to my apartment tonight and I’ll cook you dinner?”
She pauses and stares at me for a moment. “Why?”
I laugh and set my fork down. “Because I asked you to. We’re going to be working closely over the next few weeks, we might as well get to know each other a little better. Also, we can discuss my new duties as your life coach.”
“Well.” Her lips twitch as she thinks it over for a moment, a myriad of emotions moving across her beautiful face, and finally she says, “Okay. Do you mind texting me the address and the time?”
“Not at all,” I reply, and immediately pass her my phone. “Plug in your number and I’ll text you this afternoon.”
She complies, passes it back, and smiles. “Okay, see you later.”
And with that, she’s off. Her ass swaying enticingly in her tight skirt, calves flexing from the height of her heels, and the food I’m currently chewing immediately tastes like cardboard.
And I just voluntarily offered to spend time with her. Alone.
I’m a fucking glutton for punishment.
“I’m starving,” Riley immediately says as I open the door. She’s in jeans and a well-loved University of Oregon sweatshirt, her hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and she looks like she could be a co-ed herself. “I forgot to eat today.”
“Does that happen every day?” I ask as I gesture for her to come inside and close the door behind her.
“Most days,” she admits. “Is this one of those bad choices that you’re gonna coach me through?”
“Yes,” I reply, and lead her into the kitchen. “You have to eat.”
“I know, I just get focused on other things, and the next thing I know, the day is gone and I’m starving.” She passes me two bottles of wine. “I didn’t know what we were having, so I brought red and white.”
“Thanks.” I grin and set them both on the counter. “I made salmon and asparagus with baby red potatoes. What goes best with that?”
Her eyes light up. “The white. Holy shit, are you a chef yourself?”
“I went to culinary school,” I reply, and squeeze some lemon on the salmon before plating it. “But I discovered I was better at a desk job.”
“That’s unusual,” she says, her head tilted to the side as she listens. “Most people fight to get out of a desk job.”
“Not me. I have a ton of respect for Mia, because being a chef isn’t easy, and pleasing people sucks.”
“True.” Riley nods. “She doesn’t get many plates sent back to her, but there are a few. Can I pour you a glass?”
“No thanks,” I reply, and reach in the fridge for a bottle of water. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Oh.” She frowns. “I’m sorry. I can drink water too.”
“It’s fine,” I reply, and pat her shoulder. “I don’t mind if you drink. I just don’t.”
“But last night, you were drinking Jack and Coke.”
“Nope, just Coke.”
She sits at the table, still frowning. “I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I set our plates down. “I’ve been sober for ten years. I’m not the kind of alcoholic who can’t be around others having a drink. It was never that bad for me. I’m just a better person if I don’t drink.”
“Good for you for knowing that,” she says, holding her glass out to clink against my water. “This looks delicious.”
“You sound surprised.”
“I expected pizza or Chinese takeout,” she says. “Honestly, that’s probably what you would have gotten from me. I’m also surprised that you’re not staying in a hotel.”
“I’m here long enough that the network sprung for the apartment. They usually do when I’m somewhere longer than a week or so.”
“You must travel a lot for this job,” she says, eating her food like a starving child. I don’t know if she even tastes it, she’s eating so fast.
“I travel often,” I reply, and grin when she takes the last bite. “Are you going to lick the plate?”
“Maybe,” she says with a grin. “I’m not even embarrassed that I ate that so fast. It was delicious.”
“I’m glad you liked it. There’s more.”
“No, I’m good,” she says, and reaches in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. “You can eat while I interview you.”
“For the position of life coach,” she says with a sassy grin. I want to kiss that grin right off her face, but instead I take a bite of potato and gesture for her to begin.
“Okay, first question: What qualifications do you have that make you a good fit for this position?”
“Well, I have a few years on you, so I would say wisdom with age.”
She tilts her head to the side, the way she does when she’s turning something over in her head. “You can’t be that much older than me.”
“Seven years,” she says, rolling her eyes.
“A lot can happen in seven years,” I reply, and sip my water.
“Okay, I’ll give you that.” She checks something off on her paper.
“Did you really write down questions?”
“Of course. I’m the queen of lists and the roofer was at my house forever.” She bites her lip as she looks at her list. “How many women have you life-coached in the past?”
“Well, I didn’t have an official job title, but I have two younger sisters, and an ex-wife, so I would say three.”
“But the wife is an ex, so maybe that did go well?” Riley asks. “And are your sisters productive members of society?”
“As opposed to being in jail?” I ask, laughing. “You’re hilarious, Riley.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“My sisters are great. The older one is married, a stay-at-home mom with two kids, and the younger one is a waitress.”
“But the ex-wife thing didn’t work out.”
“She’s not a mess, we just both decided that she shouldn’t be my wife anymore.”
I sit back in my chair and wipe my mouth on my napkin. “Because she thought it was a good idea to have sex with other men.”
Her eyebrows climb on her forehead and she blinks twice. “That’s a good reason.”
“I thought so.”
“Okay, next question.” She checks something on her paper and looks up at me with a smile. “How do you intend to be compensated for your work?”
“I’m working pro bono,” I reply with a wink.
“Because I’m going to be here anyway, and why not.” I shrug and finish the food on my plate. “What else do you want to know?”
“Is my coming to a virtual stranger’s apartment by myself one of the bad decisions you should have coached me on?”
I smile and set my plate aside so I can lean on the table. “Did the girls tell you that coming here by yourself was a bad idea?”
“I only talked to Cami and she thought I should come. Plus, I have a concealed carry, so I feel pretty confident that I’m safe.”
I raise a brow and cross my arms over my chest. “You carry a gun with you?”
“Hell to the yes,” she replies, and offers me a sweet smile. “I’ve been meeting strange men on the Internet. You bet your ass I’ve been armed.”
“Good idea,” I reply with a nod. “There are a lot of crazies out there.”
“Yes. But I think that if you’re gonna meet a crazy, it could be anywhere. Online, in a bar, at the gas station. They’re everywhere.”
“That’s true too,” I reply, and nod. “Well, I’m glad you’re being cautious.”
“I’m nobody’s victim,” she says, as casually as if she’s telling me her shoe size.
That’s fucking sexy.
“Do you have any other questions?”
“Not really,” she says, and shrugs. “I didn’t really write anything down. But it was fun to interrogate you a bit.”
“Now I have questions,” I reply, and smile when she cocks her head and purses her lips. “Do you really think you need a life coach?”
“No, I have my shit together,” she says with a grin.
“Why were you really on all of those sites?”
She shrugs. “Because it’s not easy meeting people. And sometimes a girl wants to go out on a date.”
“You don’t need me,” I reply, and smile. “But I’ll be around for a while, just in case.”
“Just in case I slip and fall back into the online dating?”
“That, or if you just want to have dinner, or chat. And I think we should watch a marathon of Star Wars. Your lack of knowledge is cause for concern.”
“It’s kind of a guy thing,” she says.
“I know many women who like Star Wars.”
“Well, I would watch one or two.”
“You need to see them all to understand what’s happening.”
“That’s a lot of hours of my life that I’ll never get back,” she says with a frown. “Aren’t there CliffsNotes somewhere? A speedy way to get caught up?”
“No,” I reply, and fist my hands in my lap so I don’t reach out and tuck her hair behind her ear.
Or yank her against me so I can kiss the fuck out of her.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
“Are you always this observant?”
“I’m an overthinker,” she says. “So yeah, I’m an observer.”
“I’ve been labeled an overthinker too,” I say with a grin.
“Would you say it’s an accurate assessment?”
“Oh yeah,” I say with a nod, and stand to clear our plates away. She stands to help. “I’ve got this.”
“No way, you cooked, so I’ll help clean.”
She walks ahead of me, her empty glass in one hand and her plate in the other. “Do you use the dishwasher, or do you wash by hand?”
“There are people who still wash by hand?”
“I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen them in the wild,” she says, and smiles up at me when I join her. “So I guess that means we use the dishwasher?”
“Yes.” She rinses and I load, and a few short minutes later, we’re done.
“Well, I suppose I should go,” she says, and checks the time on her phone. “Oh, Cami texted. I guess I should reply so she doesn’t think you killed me after the entrée.”
She smirks and types on her phone, then turns it off and looks up at me.
“Thanks for dinner.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
Unfortunately, it won’t be in my bed.
“Okay.” She gathers her bag, notepad and pen, and walks to the door. “Sleep well tonight.”
I grin and congratulate myself for not dragging my fingertips down her cheek.
“You sleep well tonight, Riley.”
She leaves and I close the door, letting out a slow breath. Jesus, she’s sexy and funny and smart as fuck.
And I’m not going to touch her while I’m here.
How the fuck am I going to do that?
About Kristen Proby:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me In Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.
Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.
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“Veronica Larsen ripped my heart out! This is a love triangle that will stay with me for a long time. 5 Star read you won’t be able to put down.” ~Alta Hensley, USA Today Bestselling Author
Eight years ago, Cole Van Buren left me at the altar without a single explanation. My heart’s been at a standstill ever since, the anger keeping me from moving on. Keeping me from seeing the man who’s been right in front of me all this time…
Andrew’s been the friend I needed, the one constant through the hardest times of my life. But one night, the lines blur and we’re tipped into something more. Just when I’m ready to explore what we could be…
My ex comes back.
Cole says he didn’t come to get me back, but I should know better. The answers he dangles overhead are the ones I need to finally let go.
Except there’s no such thing as closure, only a past that wants to pull you backward.
Title: Crashed: Siren’s Call
Series: Crown and Anchor Series #2
Author: Kerri Ann
Genre: Dark Romance
Release: April 1, 2017
What do you do when your world crumbles? When life has given you too many turns and twists, how do you survive? Do you pick up the pieces and try further, or give in and crash with the remnants of our life?
After all of that — are you able to go on?
This isn’t your sweet, he said/she said, they found true love. This is dirty, dark, twisted and full of partial hope. Don’t expect a happy ending, but if you get it; you can thank me later.
This is the continuation of Crashed Casper’s Ghost. Finish the journey.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2uBKwu0
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2vatwrv
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2tkd1w1
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2u1WmKx
Google Play: goo.gl/eIqSnD
With an avaricious appetite for stories, Kerri Ann can be found quite often with her nose in a book or writing it. On many occasion it has been said that she’s in her own world, living in the stories of those she reads about, giving them a life they deserve.
She can easily be found under a tree in the shade, or reclining at Starbucks scribbling notes about new stories and new characters, all while keeping the coffee chain in business.
Whether late at night, at a music festival, or sitting on a ski lift, when the thoughts arise, Kerri Ann will add them to those in progress. So be wary, your antics could be in her next book.
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ABOUT DONNA GRANT
Donna Grant is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the sizzling Dark King series featuring dragons, immortal Highlanders, and the Fae.
She was born and raised in Texas but loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her throughout the United States as well as to Jamaica, Mexico, and Scotland. Growing up on the Texas/Louisiana border, Donna’s Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding.
Despite deadlines and voracious reading, Donna still manages to keep up with her two children, four cats, and one long haired Chihuahua.
Connect with Donna:
They thought their lives were settled.
They were wrong.
After rescuing Krystal from the Rattler Kings MC, Samuel promised to love and protect her forever. She trusted him to keep her safe.
Then, the Favoloras Cartel roared into town, declaring blood debt.
They had to run.
How can you keep someone safe when there’s danger at every turn?
I would like to believe that Samuel “Blue” Donahue and I are one of the great and forever loves that I read about when I was growing up: Anthony and Cleopatra, Jamie and Claire, Roark and Eve. Certainly our first encounter was fate. He was a police officer, I was a victim. He rescued me from the Rattler Kings Motorcycle Gang. I rescued him from a life without true love.
Now, we were together, planning our life, surrounded by family and friends. Our unborn child was going to be encircled by the unconditional love that we had found within ourselves.
Maeve, Blue’s sister, was downstairs in her own apartment scurrying about, trying to decide what to wear to impress the oh so dark, oh so handsome, Derick Black, ATF Agent Extraordinaire. She had been enamoured of him from the beginning. She had been a true friend, so I was reciprocating by doing some matchmaking. When she first met me, Maeve had refused to treat me as if I was damaged, using her nonstop talking and snarky comments to push me from my fear fogged brain that kept me trapped in silence when I first came to the house on Bardstown Road. Now that house was my home.
Tonight, we were having Derick over for dinner. Maeve had commented more than once that she would like to get to know him better, as she had waggled her eyebrows suggestively. Maeve had quickly insinuated herself as my friend, with her huge heart and concern about people. She was a nurse, finishing her graduate degree as a nurse practitioner in midwifery. All her patients loved her, and so did I,
Part of my fear that was so difficult to remove from my subconscious thoughts, was the memory of my best friend’s murder. I could remember as if it was yesterday, the glint of the blade against Donna’s neck, the spatters of bright red blood on the walls, then Jag’s voice whispering in my ear, “Don’t tell anyone what you seen or your momma’s dead.” I still had horrific nightmares where I would wake up, screaming, with Blue’s arms wrapped so tightly around me I couldn’t move.
I would always miss Donna. Our childhood friendship had kept us together for so long that we could finish each other’s sentences; we could practically read each other’s minds. As my life changed so drastically, I missed being able to talk to her. However, I knew she would have loved Maeve as much as I did and I was comforted by that knowledge.
I was excited about Derick coming over tonight. He had been a good friend and mentor to Blue and he was always gallant to Maeve and me in a dark brooding alpha man kind of way.
Maeve had been flitting about all day, helping me clean the apartment, and talking about how much she liked Derick. She kept hinting that he might be “quirky” in bed, but she refused to elaborate. Now she was downstairs trying to decide what to wear.
It was obvious to Blue and me that Maeve and Derick were interested in each other, so we had decided to push that along a bit by getting them together. Now she was downstairs again, changing her clothes again so she could impress him.
The doorbell rang so Blue went to get it while I finished getting ready. I still struggled at times talking to strangers or people I didn’t like, but with close friends I only had problems if I got overwhelmed by my feelings, so I was relaxed and comfortable that Maeve and Derick were joining us for dinner. They knew me very well and if I acted unusual or different than normal, they understood the reasons and didn’t question me.
Blue clattered downstairs just as Maeve opened her apartment door, so they both greeted Derick at the same time. I heard the three of them coming back up the stairs so I gave one last brush of my hair and walked into the living room.
Derick looked at Blue and me with a concerned expression. “Krystal, Sam,” he said, “I need to talk to you.”
His serious tone made me nervous, so I immediately went to Blue and curled against his side. He would always be my savior and protector in my eyes and, I think, in his. He immediately wrapped his arms around me and I felt safe once again.
Derick suggested we go into the living room to talk, but I insisted we go into the kitchen so I could finish getting the table set and dinner ready. I announced, “Blue’s made his famous Parmesan Lime Grilled Corn and his White Chili. He used his mom’s recipe for the chili so it’s gotta be good. Maeve and I made a salad.” A dinner party was something I had never done so I smiled nervously at Blue and started pulling silverware out of drawers and the chunky pottery bowls that we had bought a few days ago at the ByBee Pottery Outlet just for this party.
“Sam, Krystal,” He said, interrupting me, “There’s been some chatter from our informants that some men in the Favoloras Cartel from Mexico have come into town. Word has it they are gunning for the people that shut down their pipeline for drugs and guns into this area.”
I stilled, almost not breathing and looked at Blue. He took two steps and had me pressed hard against his body. He put his lips against my ear and whispered, “It doesn’t matter. You and the baby belong to me. I will always protect both of you. Every breath in your body is mine to take care of forever. You will always be safe with me.” My face was against his chest and I heard his steady slow heartbeat. I smelled his spicy cologne with a faint hint of his own musk underneath. My body knew these signals intimately and I relaxed almost unconsciously.
“Unfortunately,” Derick said, “I have some more news. Krystal, I got a call from Captain Frank about twenty minutes ago. I told him not to call you because I wanted to be with you when I told you. The police had a call to the Riverside Trailer Homes this afternoon. A cavalcade of cars went through the park today with guns. They shot up everyone’s trailers from the entrance to the road where your mom lived. A few people were injured, and one person was pronounced dead at the scene.”
The bowl in my hand crashed to the ground as I sagged, unable to support myself on nerveless legs. I remembered what Jag had said about coming after my mom. But he was in jail. How would this cartel know about my mom? We weren’t particularly close anymore, but I loved her. It could not be her that was dead. Maybe someone I knew. Maybe Mom’s new boyfriend . . . my mind kept going in useless circles.
Blue scooped me into his arms and held me tightly against him amid the broken pieces of blue speckled pottery. “Shhhh” he murmured in my ear, “It’s all going to be okay.”
Derick said, “I’m sorry, Krystal. I’m sorry to have to tell you that your mom died this afternoon. Also, from the description of the cars and people it looked like not only was it the Favoloras Cartel, but it was their leader, Aaron Favoloras, who actually shot your mom. That means he’s calling the kill as a blood debt to him personally.”
I knew I should say something, but I felt once more as if my throat had a huge blockage that words couldn’t pass. How was I going to be able to deal with my mom dying? How was I going to deal with more violence and death? I slid out of Blue’s arms, and sat heavily onto the floor. I looked at the broken bowls and whispered, “I need to pick this up, I guess we can just use our regular bowls.”
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Claire feels like she sprang into existence, a full blown personality, just like her books. She believes she is made from her imaginary dragons that lived in her closet when she was eight, her half feral imaginary friend, Jennifer, who lived in the Girl Scout Camp woods when she was ten and finally started growing up with her Water Brothers when she was sixteen.
Claire has had many living reincarnations in her life time before becoming an author. She has been a poet, a healer, midwife, nurse, artisan, mother, grandmother, wife and lover.
She and her dear husband (he claims she rescued him, she says it was the other way around) live with their four rescue birds, three rescue dogs and one rescue fish in the wilds of Tennessee in a house with at least two ghosts.