Spotlight – Seduced by a Scot

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All I can say is Yes, Please!!

*****

From New York Times bestselling author Julia London, comes SEDUCED BY A SCOT—the next standalone novel in her Highland Grooms Series!

SEDUCED BY A SCOT releases on October 30, 2018. Check out the sneak peek below, and pre-order your copy today!

Seduced by a Scot

Highland Grooms series

by Julia London

Blurb:

There’s no matchmaking an unruly heart

When a prominent Scottish family faces a major scandal weeks before their daughter’s wedding, they turn in desperation to the enigmatic fixer for the aristocracy, Nichol Bain. Remarkably skilled at making high-profile problems go away, Nichol understands the issue immediately. The family’s raven-haired ward, Maura Darby, has caught the wandering eye—and rather untoward advances—of the groom.

Nichol assuredly escorts Maura toward his proposed solution: an aging bachelor for her to marry. But rebellious Maura has no interest in marrying a stranger, especially when her handsome traveling companion has captivated her so completely. Thankfully, Nichol loves a challenge, but traveling with the bold and brash Maura has him viewing her as far more than somebody’s problem. Which raises a much bigger issue—how can he possibly elude disaster when the heart of the problem is his own?

Add it to your Goodreads now!  http://bit.ly/2OOola9

Preorder SEDUCED BY A SCOT here!

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*****

Excerpt:

All right, then, she’d eaten like a sow, but she didn’t care. She pondered her savior. Or was he her captor? A wee bit of both, she supposed. Either way, he was quite handsome. His hair was the color of autumn leaves, a mix of brown, dark red and gold. His eyes were pale green and when he looked at her, there was a certain sparkle in them.

Aye, he was a handsome man.

Yet she had the sense that there was something curiously distant about this handsome man. Perhaps it was because he knew everything about her, and she knew nothing but his name and that he liked to read books about philosophy, apparently. “Who are you?” she asked curiously.

He arched a brow. “I’ve told you.”

“Aye, you’ve said your name, but who are you really, Mr. Bain?”

He gave her a slight, enigmatic smile. “Does it matter?”

Ooh, a secret then. Maura twisted about so that she was facing him. “Aye, it matters who, exactly, is spiriting me away to marry a man I’ve never laid eyes on. You could be a thief or a marauder for all I know.”

“A marauder?”

“A highwayman?”

“That is no’ an improvement.”

“Well? What is your secret?”

“I’ve no secret.”

“But you are a friend of Mr. Calum Garbett, and yet, I’ve never heard your name.”

“Because I’ve only recently made Mr. Garbett’s acquaintance.”

Really?” she asked skeptically.

He leaned forward, looked her directly in the eye and said, “Really.”

“Then how…?”

“I’m what one might call an agent, aye? Let’s agree that gentlemen often find themselves in uncomfortable situations, and I put them to rights.”

Maura had never heard of such a thing. What gentlemen? What uncomfortable situations? Were there so many of them that a man might make it his occupation? “I beg your pardon?”

Mr. Bain leaned back against the tree and stretched his legs before him, crossing them at the ankle. “It’s no’ as strange as it sounds.”

“Aye, it is,” she insisted.

He smiled, lazily, indulgently, and it made her feel…warm.

“You are a young woman, Miss Darby. You would have no call to know that there are times in a man’s life that he might need help disposing of a complication. I happen to be adept at that.”

He spoke with such confidence! She was rather envious of that sort of confidence, really, particularly as she never felt entirely confident of anything. Well, except that she was not marrying a stranger in Lumparty, Lunmarty, wherever it was he was taking her. She was entirely confident in that. “What do you mean?” She suddenly had the idea that he meant something quite nefarious. She leaned forward and whispered, “Are you an outlaw, Mr. Bain?”

He blinked. He glanced at the lad as if to assure himself he could not hear, then leaned forward, so that he was only a few inches from her, and whispered, “No.”

She swayed backward. “Then how is it you are adept at disposing of another man’s complications?”

He leaned against the tree again. “I just am. In this particular instance, I was once employed by the Duke of Montrose. He is an acquaintance of Mr. Garbett and put forth my name.”

Maura had seen the duke when she’d been called into Mr. Garbett’s study to account for her alleged crime. She knew of Montrose—everyone knew of him. But there was something more that tickled at her memory. What was it that was said of him? She suddenly recalled and blurted, “That’s the man who murdered his wife!”

“He didna murder his wife, Miss Darby. It is true that the lady is no longer his wife, but she is verra much alive. When I said complications, I didna mean unlawful ones. I meant, simply…uncomfortable situations.”

“Is that what I am, then? An uncomfortable situation?”

“Aye.” He shrugged, as if that were plainly obvious. “If it eases you, you are the sort of uncomfortable situation that is easily put to rights.”

“If it eases me!” she exclaimed. “It offends me that my uncomfortable situation is so easily put to rights! And never you mind, Mr. Bain—you may be adept with someone else, for I’ll put my own uncomfortable situation to rights, thank you.”

Will you,” he said skeptically, and gave her a hint of a smile that made his eyes shine even more. “And how exactly will you do that, Miss Darby?”

*****

Author Info:

Julia London is the New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author of more than thirty romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular Cabot Sisters historical romance series, including The Trouble with Honor, The Devil Takes a Bride, and The Scoundrel and the Debutante. She is also the author of several contemporary romances, including Homecoming Ranch, Return to Homecoming Ranch and The Perfect Homecoming. She has over 100,000+ Facebook followers, is the recipient of the RT Book Reviews for Best Historical Romance and a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. You can visit her website JuliaLondon.com. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Websitehttps://julialondon.com/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/JuliaFLondon

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/JuliaLondon

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/49377.Julia_London

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Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/julia_f_london/

*****

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Book Review – Chased

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Chased

Chase Brothers series

by Lauren Dane

Two days. One hotel room. Nothing but complete honesty between them.

Marc Chase is known in the small town of Petal, Georgia, for being the youngest—and some would say wildest—Chase brother. But when longtime family friend Liv Davis signs up for some personal training sessions, Marc realizes the only woman he wants has been right in front of him all along.

Mayor’s assistant Liv has been hurt too many times to let a Chase brother into her life—or into her bed. She’s ready for something more. Something she doesn’t think the six-years-younger Marc is ready to give. Until they share a wildly passionate kiss, that is. Then all bets are off.

Knowing he’ll need more than pretty words to break through Liv’s wall of heartbreak, Marc takes the gamble of his life to prove his love: two days away, full of hot sex and bared souls. But will this bet be enough to win her heart forever?

The Chase is on. One small town. Four hot brothers. And enough heat to burn up anyone who dares to get close. Don’t miss the other books in the series: Taking Chase, Giving Chase and Making Chase.

Of all of the Chase brothers I think Marc’s story was my least favorite.  Part of it is that the blurb really doesn’t do this book justice.  The whole two days away thing doesn’t happen until close to the end, which means that a good portion of the book isn’t covered.  I don’t know about y’all but I kinda rely on what is on the jacket when I make my reading decisions and when I get something else it kinda throws things off track.  And I think that really came into play here.

Marc spends a good portion of the story trying to woo Liv but she’s resistant.  There’s the age difference between them, the fact that she dated his brother, her more recent relationship disaster, and his *ahem* romantic reputation – all of which combine to having her not taking his advances seriously.  But Chases don’t give up easy and Marc is not going to let Liv go without a fight … and what a sexy, heartfelt fight it is 🙂

Spotlight – The Only Question That Matters

Who’s looking for a steamy but emotional little read to warm up your night?

*****

The Only Question That Matters

An AMS Celestial Dream story

by JL Peridot

Cover by Chase Horan

Genre: Erotica / Erotic romance

Length: Novella (21,000 words / 80 pages)

Blurb:

“Do I call this love already? I am almost disgusted with myself. How pathetic to fall so easily. Perhaps I was the cause of my past heartbreaks. Not stupid schoolboys or an arrogant rich man, but a gullible girl from a flower farm who opens her heart too readily and expects too much.”

Sofia is en route to Planet Paradiso, ready to start a new life after her divorce. But when she accepts Alexei’s dinner invitation on her final evening, she realises she’s getting more than she bargained for. As the AMS Celestial Dream arrives at its destination, and their one-night stand draws to a close, Sofia must choose between a newfound possibility with Alexei and the freedom she so desperately craves.

The Only Question That Matters is an emotional examination of healing and resilience through sex and love.

Amazon | KoboB&N | iTunesSmashwords

*****

Excerpt:

When we are naked, I stop to take him in. His shoulders, his chest, the contours of his stomach—they are sinewy and strong, sculpted, perfect. His arms and legs look forged by a life of adventure, not writing alone in his room. I wonder if he lives the stories he writes. I wonder, will he write about us one day?

Then I realise he is watching me too. I blush, I think. I’m not sure. The room is not yet warm, but I am hot all over from his touch, his gaze. My posture closes. I don’t want to be modest now, but I can’t help myself. He rolls us over.

“Don’t be shy,” he teases, looking down at me. “I like what I see as well.”

How arrogant! I laugh out loud. It’s a burst of ungraceful noise, but the music continues and I don’t feel shy anymore. The bedspread is cool under my back; he burns above me. His hubris gives me confidence—this is a game, the good kind, just for fun. I won’t be trapped between the bed and his body. Not yet.

I push him upward. He falls back to his knees. I rise to meet him and kiss his lips, his soft and bristly chin, his neck. When I reach his collarbone, he shudders. He is ticklish. Ah, to manipulate his body with just a touch. His hands are at my shoulders, but he barely touches me.

I read him:

Don’t stop, he means to say. But he doesn’t say.

But I don’t stop. His skin tastes like salt and chlorine, an intoxicating flavour mixed with the aroma of his cologne and his scent. I would remember it. I would touch myself to it now, but my hands are busy. They are memorising the Adonis grooves descending from his hips while my tongue discovers each ridge, each pore, each strand of hair running down his lithe stomach.

to touch me. I read him: he wants to touch me, but he’s afraid I’ll stop. This confident writer who says all the right things is now afraid of something as small as this.

*****

Author Info:

JL Peridot writes sexy, cosmopolitan love stories with retrofuture vibes. Her debut novel, Chasing Sisyphus, is a steamy action-adventure novella awarded Readers’ Choice 2017 by one of her two cats. She hopes to impress the other cat with her next novel, It Starts With A Kiss, a scifi office romance out in December 2018, published by Kyanite Publishing.

Website http://jlperidot.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/jlperidot

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jlperidot

Instagram https://instagram.com/jlperidot

Goodreads http://bit.ly/jlperidot-gr

Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/user/jlperidot

Spotlight – Sin & Ink

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Hot with angst and an oh-so-appealing hero – this one should probably be at the top of your TBR pile!

*****

Sin & Ink

Sweetest Taboo Book One

by Naima Simone

Genre Adult Contemporary Romance

Publisher Entangled Scorched

Publication Date October 15, 2018

Blurb:

THE FIRST STANDALONE ROMANCE IN THE SWEETEST TABOO SERIES BY USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR NAIMA SIMONE.

There’s sin, and then there’s literally going-straight-to-hell sin…

Being in lust with my dead brother’s wife pretty much guarantees that one day I’ll be the devil’s bitch. But Eden Gordon works with me, so it’s getting harder and harder to stay away. I promised my family—and him—I would, though.

My days as an MMA champion are behind me. But whenever I see her, with those wicked curves and soft mouth created for dirty deeds, it’s a knock-down fight to just maintain my distance. “Hard Knox” becomes more than just the name of my tattoo shop. However, surrendering to the forbidden might be worth losing everything…

Amazon https://amzn.to/2Pewjtw

Kobo https://goo.gl/QKp4Hq

Barnes & Noble https://goo.gl/S6HnX1

iBooks https://apple.co/2xXNLvN

Entangled Publishing https://goo.gl/BFLLFg

*****

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Knox

Several sins could send a man to hell.

Blasphemy.

Murder.

Idolatry.

Lusting after your dead brother’s wife, especially when you were responsible for his death, might not top blasphemy, but it must be on the list.

Which means I have a one-way ticket to hell with my dick riding shotgun.

“It’s pretty. You did good,” my own living, breathing mortal sin praises over my shoulder. Eden Gordon, my sister-in-law—or former sister-in-law. Shit, I don’t know how that works—straightens, and thank God. I can breathe again. With her leaning over me, I drag her scent into my lungs. Like peaches left out under a summer sun—warm, sweet, sultry, and fucking edible.

I bend closer to the young woman in my chair and finish up the last of the color and shading on her shoulder. Not because I’ve suddenly developed a Mr. Magoo case of nearsightedness, but to insert even a little more distance between Eden and me. When it comes to her, distance is good.

Sitting up, I shut off the tattoo machine and spray the tat with tincture of green soap and water, washing off the excess ink and blood from her shoulder. Eden’s right. The butterfly is beautiful—3D turquoise, purple, and black art that appears to lift from the woman’s skin.

And if I have to ink one more goddamn butterfly on another coed, I’m going to junk-punch myself. There are tens of thousands of students enrolled in Chicago’s “Loop U,” and I swear, it seems as if every female student who enters Hard Knox Ink looking to get her tattoo virginity popped, wants a butterfly.

At least from her squeals and twisting and turning in the mirror, it appears this Loyola student likes it. There’s a warm satisfaction in seeing her pleasure—or any client’s joy in one of my tattoos—that’s incomparable to anything.

“I. Love. It.” She whirls around, wearing a huge grin.

“I’ll go ring her up,” Eden says, laying a hand on my back. Fuck. I briefly close my eyes, that simple, small touch like a blowtorch to my insides. There should be branded flesh under her palm because, I swear, the heat burrows past skin and muscle. And I want it. I hunger for the burn.

Nodding, I bend my head on the pretense of removing my gloves and dumping the extra caps of ink. My jaw is clenched so tight, I’m surprised something doesn’t snap.

Eden’s a toucher; she hugs everyone, sweeps gentle strokes over cheeks, hair, and arms. Affection—and showing it—comes easy to her. Her caring, friendly caresses are every championship win, orgasm, and Christmas morning wrapped into one shiny package. They’re also every hell.

And I crave each one, hoarding it like I need an intervention on one of those A&E TV shows.

A greedy, goddamn masochist. That’s me.

“Thank you. It’s just what I wanted,” the brunette continues to gush as she turns back to the mirror for another peek at her new ink.

With her long, shiny hair, jeans with rips that were obviously done at the hands of a manufacturer, and the necklace with its single diamond resting against her collarbone, she looks like one of those girls from the Gold Coast. Or from a North Shore suburb with its mansions, golf courses, and country clubs.

Do her parents even know she’s slumming it in a Ukrainian Village neighborhood tattoo shop owned by a former MMA fighter? Highly doubtful. If so, they’d probably be shitting bricks—gold bricks.

“Let me bandage it up for you.” I stow the bottles of ink and pull open the second drawer of my work station, removing the roll of gauze and tape.

“A couple of my friends came in a few weeks ago,” she says, crossing the room and giving me her back. “They told me you were the best.” She glances over her shoulder. Smiles a smile that has my inner Oh-shit-o-meter pinging like a ten-alarm fire. From her driver’s license, I know she’s twenty, but that curve of her mouth and the DTF gleam in her eyes tells me this girl has been around a few suburban blocks. “Now I know they weren’t lying. You’re great,” she damn near purrs.

“Thanks. I’m glad you like it.” I cut off a piece of gauze and carefully place it over her skin, taping it down on either side. “Leave that on for at least an hour.”

“I will,” she promises, turning around to face me. “Is it true you were an MMA fighter?”

I toss the gauze and tape back in the drawer. “Yeah.”

Most people would’ve taken the short, “drop it” tone for what it was and gotten the hell up out of the room, but not her. She trails her fingers over the tats on my forearm that are exposed by the pushed-up sleeve of my black Henley, tracing the trunk of the family tree inked there. Stroking the faded, brown leaf falling from the branch…

Controlling the urge to flinch, I deliberately move my arm, but she just shifts her hand to my stomach, flattening her palm against the muscle there. That hand slowly slides down, bumping over my belt, and lowering until it’s right over my cock. Her fingers curl around me through my jeans. And squeeze.

It’s not the first time a customer has come on to me, offered me pussy or head. Hell, it’s not even the first time one has grabbed my junk like it was their own personal joystick. And yet, a bolt of surprise still wings through me. A little flirtation, yeah, I’d kind of expected that. But I’d underestimated this girl.

“Another thing my friends weren’t lying about. You’re hot as hell,” she murmurs, lust darkening her blue eyes.

I know what she sees when she looks at me. A big, tatted motherfucker who could be either a fighter or an ex-con. Maybe both. She sees a man who would shut the door, push her up against the wall, and fuck her six ways to Sunday right next to the framed black and white photograph of a woman with my art on her back.

She’s not wrong. On either of those. In my twenty-nine years, I’ve been in the ring and on both sides of the law. And after a match, with the adrenaline still raging through my veins, I had no problem finding a woman at the club, bar, or even around the ring willing to let me pound out the rest of my energy in her body. Even now, I’m far from a saint or a monk. Sex is still an outlet—maybe even more than it used to be since I don’t have fighting anymore.

But too bad for her, I don’t fuck clients. Or employees. I never shit where I eat. That’s just begging for trouble.

Not that I’d take her up on the invitation in her stroking hand anyway. She’s too goddamned young.

She’s only a couple years younger than Eden.

Yeah, and Eden is even more off-limits than this coed.

Gripping her wrist in a gentle but firm hold, I pry her hand off my junk.

“Thanks,” I reply to her earlier compliment. “You can pay up front.”

I half expect her to storm out of here, hissing asshole or something, along with a dramatic exit. Instead, her lips curl into a wicked smile that probably has those frat boys at Loyola coming in their khakis.

Damn, I almost feel a flicker of sympathy for her parents. No doubt, they’re hosting fancy dinner parties up in their big-ass, gated home, blissfully ignorant, thinking their precious, beautiful daughter is at her school studying and doing sorority girl shit. When, little do they know, she’s at a tattoo shop, attempting to give a hand job to an ex-fighter in a neighborhood that would send them into heart palpitations.

This is just one of the reasons I don’t plan on having kids.

They never fail to break your fucking hearts.

I should know since I’ve cracked my parents’ hearts into so many fragments, they resemble jigsaw puzzles. With a few missing pieces.

The familiar, corrosive burn of guilt scalds my chest like acid, even more painful because it is familiar.

“I’ll see you out there,” she says, sauntering out the room, the fragrance of her floral perfume trailing behind her. Hell, it smells like it cost a bill. But it still can’t compete with the summer and peaches scent that I could identify in a damn perfume factory full of open bottles.

Shaking my head, I grab the bottle of disinfectant. For the next few minutes, I spray and clean the black leather seat and arm cushions on the massage chair I use for shoulder and back tattoos. Collapsing the equipment, I stow it along the wall and head out.

Stepping into the main part of the shop, the loud, grinding mix of metal, electronic, and classical music that is Igorrr’s hit song ieuD blasts out of the state-of-the-art sound system, one of the first things I had installed after I bought the shop three years ago. The drone of tattoo machines and the hum of voices buzz beneath the pounding heavy metal.

This is home. A home I created for me with the family of my choosing, if not birth.

Pride swells inside me, pressing against my chest wall, as it does whenever I walk in and stop to think how lucky I am to do something I love. The big storefront window still looks out on busy N. Western Avenue and its bars and cafes. Exposed brick still covers one wall, and cubicles dot the wide, open floor plan. Art decorates the walls, along with the hanging portfolios containing stencils, drawings, and pictures of past tattoos.

In front of the long desk stands a couple of glass cabinets stocked with Hard Knox Ink merchandise—shirts, hats, chains, jewelry. That had been Eden’s idea. After retiring from the Bellum Fighter Championship, or the BFC, I’d wanted to completely separate myself from that part of my life. Hell, I’d named the shop after my fighting name only at my brothers’ insistence. That had been as much as I’d been willing to concede.

But when I hired Eden a year ago as my receptionist and, later, office manager, she’d informed me I would be stupid not to capitalize on my career and reputation. After a lot of nagging, I caved. Honestly, I didn’t give a damn what brought people through the door. Every artist here, including me, can hold our own once we have the client in our chairs. Yeah, some people might walk through those doors to rubberneck and find out what happened to Hard Knox Gordon, former two-time BFC heavyweight champion. But most come because our tattoos are the best in Chicago.

“Hey, Knox. What the fuck is this, man?” Hakim Alston yells from his cubicle. The wheels of his stool roll over the tiled floor, and then he appears in the doorway, his long dreads held back from his face by a black bandana. “I mean, some of the shit your brother listens to I can tune out, but this? It’s weird even for him.”

“I’m sitting right here, asshole,” Jude calls from the space that adjoins Hakim’s. “And I’m just trying to expose you to different kinds of music, elevate your taste.”

“I got one thing that elevates, and I don’t need your help with that,” Hakim shoots back.

“Yeah.” My other artist, Heaven Travers—who refuses to answer to anything but V—chimes in as she walks past us. “He handles that all by himself. Emphasis on ‘hand.’”

“Now, that’s just wrong,” Hakim grumbles. Then, as Taylor Swift replaces Igorrr, he shakes his head as V, the resident Swiftie, cackles from her cubicle. “And that’s worse. Really, Knox?” he continues. “Isn’t it some kind of cruel and unusual punishment to work under these circumstances?”

I snort. “File a complaint.” I happen to like Taylor’s latest CD and work out to it. Not that I’ll admit it to Hakim, or anyone else, for that matter. That kinda shit you take to the grave.

Pausing a moment before continuing to the counter, I peek into his space, checking out the piece he’s working on. Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons cover a wide back from shoulder to waist. Eden is a Game of Thronesfanatic, which is the only reason I recognize the characters. Hakim has been working on this guy’s back piece for weeks now, between the outline and adding color. And even though it’s only the fifth session and about halfway done, it’s stunning. Each of us specializes in a certain style, and Hakim’s is realism. The tattoo could’ve been ripped from the pages of any graphic art book and superimposed on this guy’s back. That’s how detailed it is, with color that pops off the skin.

“Damn. That’s coming along good,” I murmur.

“I know.” The tattoo machine buzzes to life in Hakim’s hand, and he grins at me. “It’s what I do.”

Shaking my head, I turn toward the counter. And I brace myself.

Back in my private room, I’d forced myself not to turn around and look at Eden. But now, I don’t have a choice. And with her profile to me—and those dark, chocolate eyes not fixed on me—I don’t hold back.

I drop my gaze, starting at her booted feet, moving up and over the dark denim encasing her toned, slender thighs. She’s petite, no more than five-feet-four, but the curves on this woman. I lock down the growl rumbling in my chest and rolling up the back of my throat. She owns a round, firm ass, perfect for filling a man’s hands. The dip of her waist only emphasizes the feminine flare of her hips and the fullness of her breasts, which are a shade too large for her small stature and delicate build. In other words, goddamn flawless.

Dragging my starving scrutiny from her tits and up her elegant neck, I linger on the graceful line of her jaw. The sexual invitation that’s her mouth. The straight nose and slightly wide nostrils. The spatter of cinnamon-colored freckles across her cheek, nose, the slash of her cheekbone, and her forehead. They were an inheritance from her Polynesian grandmother, along with her golden, hot-sand-on-a-beach skin.

Long, thick, black-brown hair flows over her shoulders and down her back. The color reminds me of the bark on the trees in San Jose’s Japanese Friendship Garden. Deep. Rich. When I trained at a mixed martial arts school and gym out there years ago, I would go to that garden to think, to rest. That’s what Eden does to me. Her presence calms me even as she turns my body into a marble statue—hard as fuck.

Even now, I struggle to fight back the lust that’s always right under the surface, simmering, just waiting to be let loose like an inferno…or wild beast. Because that’s how I feel around her. Like a caged, hungry animal just waiting for one slip, anticipating that one time when the lock on its prison is left open so it can break free and feast.

She brushes her hair over her shoulder, revealing more of her profile. And like the animal I am, I watch her lips curve into her signature sweet smile as she slides the receipt across the counter for the coed to sign. All the while, I’m imagining those lush, sensual lips offering me that same innocent smile just before they part, giving way for my cock. Her mouth has always been my obsession. I want to take it, bruise it, corrupt it with mine, and with my dick. I want to come in it, watch her swallow every fucking drop of me, and then drag her back to her feet and taste us on her tongue.

Yeah, I’m a dirty motherfucker.

And the absolute lowest piece of shit walking to fantasize about my dead brother’s wife that way. Especially when partial blame for his death weighs on me like the world on Atlas’s shoulders. Connor had been the genius in our family—entering college at seventeen, graduating at twenty. We’d all expected him to be the first of us to get a job using his head instead of his hands or fists. Instead, he’d followed me into MMA. And eventually to his death.

The crushing, smothering guilt wouldn’t strangle me so tightly if all I wanted was to fuck Eden. To bury myself balls deep inside her. If that’s all I lusted after, then maybe the taint on my soul wouldn’t be as black.

But it’s not all I hunger for. I want it all. Her body, her affection… I want her to gaze at me the way she used to look at Connor. With that soft, secret gleam in her eyes that said they shared something that was completely mysterious to everyone else but them.

I want her. I have from the first moment I saw her five years ago—even after she met, fell in love with, and then married my brother.

And that makes my sin unforgivable.

I can never have Eden; I can never touch Connor’s wife. Because yeah, he’s gone, but she will always be his wife. And I am not worthy to breathe the same air, much less touch her. I know it. God knows it… My own mother knows it.

Women who know what’s up, who are willing to fuck or blow me in bathroom stalls or in the back room of a bar or club, those chicks are my speed. All I deserve. Quick, emotionless, nameless screws.

Never her.

I made a promise to keep my hands off Eden. And after all the other things I’ve broken in my life and others’—hopes, dreams, hearts—this is a vow I refuse to break.

“Hey.” She glances at me, arching a dark eyebrow. “We’re just about done here.”

“Thanks.” Nodding, I grab the top sheet from a stack under the counter and hand it to my client. “Here’s your aftercare directions. Like I told you, remove the bandage in about an hour. Keep the tattoo moist. We have some ointment”—I dip my head in the direction of the merchandise cabinet—“but you can use any petroleum-based ointment or lotion. All the instructions are right there.” I tap the sheet. “You have any questions, you can call up here, but everything should be included on the list.”

The instructions roll easily off my tongue; I’ve said them hundreds of times over the years. Still, this is the other woman’s first tat. But she’s not listening. Instead, she snatches Eden’s pen off the counter, rips a corner off the paper, and scribbles on it. I don’t need a Magic 8-Ball or an all-seeing-third-eye to figure out what she’s writing.

“Thanks, Knox. Hope to see you soon.” She grins and pushes the scrap toward me. Both Eden and I watch her stride out of the shop.

“Let me guess,” Eden says, turning to me with a smirk. “She offered to give you more than a tip for your fantastic work.”

Shaking my head, I pick up the paper with the name and number scrawled on it and toss it in the garbage can. I’m not answering that one.

She snorts, opening the register and placing the credit card slip under the cash drawer. “Hey, can I talk to you?” she asks, dragging a hand over her hair, pulling the strands out of her face.

I narrow my eyes at her. Something’s up. Her tells are pathetically easy to catch. How she doesn’t quite meet your eyes, or pulls her shoulders back and thrusts her chest out as if daring you to call her on something. Or crosses one foot in front of the other and stands in an awkward ballet position. What is it? Third or fourth? My stepsister used to take ballet lessons, and Dan and Mom used to force all of us to go to her recitals. It was hell.

Right now, though, Eden’s giving me all three of those telltale gestures. Whatever she needs to speak with me about must be some serious shit.

“Yeah,” I agree. “Hey, Jude, watch the front for a few?”

My brother glances at me, his tattoo machine still buzzing as he hovers above his client. His eyes, the same green as mine—as our father’s—shift from me to Eden and back to me. Of my three brothers, Jude and I have always been the closest. Probably because we’re only two years apart. So, when I barely jerk my chin up, he gets it. Ask me later.

“Got it covered,” he says.

“Let’s go to the breakroom.” I head toward the back of the shop.

“Can we go to your space instead?” she asks from behind me, her fingers grazing my hip.

My gut clenches at the light touch, the muscles wrenching hard. What would she do if she guessed the extent of her effect on me? How would she react if she knew that every time I look at her, inhale her scent, hear her throaty, 1-800-Fuck-Me voice, I fight the urge to shove her against the nearest wall, bury myself inside her, and pound into her until her screams break around my ears and her nails leave dents in my skin?

Would she run from me? Glare at me with disgust? Make sure she was never alone with me?

Like she is now.

Yeah, if Eden had the faintest hint of how dirty I want to get with her, no way in hell would she be asking to see me behind a closed door, away from prying eyes.

But the truth is there’s no one she’s safer with than me. And not just because she’s Connor’s wife or I’m chained by a promise. It’s because Eden doesn’t want me. From the moment I laid eyes on her five years ago and craved her, she looked past me and only saw Connor.

Shaking my head against the memories and the old, acrid bitterness crawling into my chest, I enter my room and, crossing my arms, wait for her to close the door.

“What’s with all the secrecy?” I press, deliberately focusing on her face and each adorable freckle instead of the curves of her breasts beneath her form-fitting black sweater. Especially because she’s doing that shoulders-back, chest-out thing again. Sighing, I cock my head to the side. “What are you nervous about, Eden?”

She frowns as if I’ve offended her. I smother a snort. More like called her on her shit. “I’m not nervous,” she objects, moving farther into the room and closer to me. So close, I can easily catch her sunshine-and-fruit fragrance.

Would that scent be heavier, more saturated, like rain-soaked earth when she’s aroused? When she’s wet?

Fucking focus.

“What’s going on, then?” I demand, the warring need to get closer and need to escape roughening my voice. “Something has you wired.”

“Fine,” she grumbles and blows out a breath. “I checked your schedule, and you don’t have any appointments booked for the rest of the evening.”

“Okay.” Not surprising. It’s a Tuesday, and the beginning of the week is always slower. “So?”

“I—” She breaks off, drags her fingers through her hair, and looses a soft chuckle that slides over my skin like a silken caress. “I have no idea why this is so hard for me to say. I’m twenty-four, damn it, not four.” Her gaze locks with mine. “I want a tattoo.”

Surprise whips through me. Yeah, because I expected something more…I don’t know…cataclysmic, given her behavior. But also because Eden is a tattoo virgin. Even though she’s worked in my shop for the last year and has been surrounded by people who wear more ink than clothes, she hasn’t ever expressed a desire to change that status.

“And I want you to do it,” she adds. “Will you?”

Have my hands on her body? Skin to skin? Hell no. “Yeah.”

Relief crosses her face, and she nods. But there’s more; she’s not finished. I can tell by the ballet position. Unease curls inside me, squirming and coiling. I almost tell her “never mind.”

“I’m moving out of your parents’ house.”

Well, fuck.

I don’t know about cataclysmic, but shit’s definitely about to hit the fan.

*****

Author Info:

USA Today Bestselling author NAIMA SIMONE’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey, Sandra Brown and Linda Howard many years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Though her first attempt at a romance novel starring Ralph Tresvant from New Edition never saw the light of day, her love of romance, reading and writing has endured. Published since 2009, she spends her days—and nights— writing sizzling romances with a touch of humor and snark.

She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.

Newsletter  http://naimasimone.com/newsletterstreet-team/

Website  http://naimasimone.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/naimasimoneauthor

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/Naima_Simone

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Amazon https://amzn.to/2MhDtLM

*****

Giveaway:

To celebrate the release of SIN & INK by Naima Simone, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!

http://bit.ly/2zTZay2

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing.  Giveaway ends 10/19/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.

*****

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Spotlight – Crossing Hope

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Who else loves a good forbidden romance?!?!

*****

Crossing Hope

Cross Creek series

by Kimberly Kincaid

Blurb:

From USA Today bestselling author Kimberly Kincaid comes CROSSING HOPE, the next standalone title in the Cross Creek series, now available! A series filled with rugged, salt of the earth heroes who happen to be brothers, and strong family dynamics, CROSSING HOPE is filled with heart, humor, and heat.

Marley Rallston would rather be anywhere other than too-small-for-a-map-dot Millhaven, Virginia. But thanks to a heap of debt, what was supposed to be a quick trip to fulfill her mother’s dying wish has turned into an extended stay with the family she never knew she had and the father who never wanted her. To top it off, now she’s being forced to do community service with the town’s biggest bad boy, when all she wants to do is make enough cash to get out of Dodge? Life can’t get much worse.

The only thing Greyson Whittaker cares about is his family’s farm. He’ll do anything to keep Whittaker Hollow in the black, including live up to his rough, tough reputation by running the place by himself, no matter the cost. Mandatory community service with the daughter of their biggest rival is the last thing he wants or needs. But the more time Greyson and Marley spend together, the hotter their attraction burns, and the more the unlikely pair begins to realize that forbidden fruit just might taste the sweetest…

Grab your copy today!

Amazon  https://amzn.to/2LnxbcE

Barnes & Noble  http://bit.ly/2KmJeXb

Apple Books  https://apple.co/2IKuIcl

Kobo  http://bit.ly/2AwSTKS

*****

Excerpt:

Marley’s boots clapped to a halt on the linoleum at the same time her heartbeat cranked way, way up in her chest. She blamed the former on the way the deputy—who had nervously picked her up from The Corner Market—had stopped short beside her, as well as the sight of her oldest brother Owen’s best friend standing a few feet away, his face locked in disbelief. The latter was entirely the fault of the man planted next to Lane, though. Between his tanned skin, the tall, muscular frame that nearly gave Lane’s a run for its money, and the inky black tattoo curling from beneath the sleeve of his T-shirt all the way to his left elbow, Marley really couldn’t help the visceral reaction.

Even if the guy was leveling her with a dark and stormy gaze that said he didn’t like what he was looking at in return.

“What the hell is going on here?” Lane’s voice crash-landed in Marley’s thoughts just in time to chase the flush from her face. What did she care what this scowling stranger thought of her, anyway? She had bigger problems at the moment, thanks.

Case in point. “I, uh,” Deputy Collingsworth stammered, turning roughly the color of summer strawberries as he cleared his throat. “I made an arrest.”

“I can see that,” Lane replied tightly. “What I meant was, would you care to elaborate on exactly why it is that you’ve arrested my best friend’s little sister?”

Marley’s gut fluttered, but she refused to let the sensation get anywhere near her face. She’d known exactly what she was doing when she’d claimed those groceries as her own. Even if the steel bars and jail cell were a whole lot more real now that they were standing starkly in front of her.

Deputy Collingsworth straightened. “She was shoplifting at The Corner Market. Travis Paulson caught her red-handed, and she admitted it, to him and to me. What else was I supposed to do?”

Shock streaked over Lane’s face, but it didn’t last. “Radio me, for starters,” he hissed, and the guy next to him released an audible, oh-please scoff that sent Marley’s brows hooking up. She opened her mouth to tell Lane and the deputy and God and anyone else within earshot that she didn’t want any special treatment.

But Lane was already shaking his head, the thought forgotten. “You know what, never mind. We’ve got a more immediate issue to deal with here.”

“Okay,” Woody said, enough of a question hanging in his voice that Lane huffed out a breath.

“I’ve also made an arrest, as you can see.” He jerked his chin at Tall, Dark, and Scowling. “And we can’t put two people of the opposite sex in the same jail cell.”

The guy’s face changed then, sending another curl of heat through Marley’s blood. “By all means. Ladies first,” he said, gesturing grandly at the single cell. His smirk was its own entity, taking over his unnervingly rugged and (ugh) undeniably good-looking face as if it had a life of its own. He could fill Wrigley Field with his arrogant attitude and ultra-cocky bravado. Even then, he was brimming with so much of both that he’d probably have to use a crowbar to cram it all in. Too bad for him and his sexy little smile, Marley was packing boatloads of backbone, herself.

And she was in just the mood to let it fly like a fifty-foot flag.

“Oh, no. Really. Age before beauty,” she maintained, planting her hands on the hips of her cutoffs and smiling so sweetly at the wide-open door to the cell, she damn near needed a root canal. “After you.”

The guy’s black brows shot toward the tousled waves falling over his forehead. “It wouldn’t be gentlemanly of me to step on your cute little toes. Please. I insist.”

Oh, my God, was this guy even for real?

*****

And don’t miss the first three standalone titles in the Cross Creek series!

Crossing Hearts

Cross Creek Book 1

by Kimberly Kincaid

Blurb:

Hunter Cross has no regrets. Having left his football prospects behind the day he graduated high school, he’s happy to carry out his legacy on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Shenandoah. But when a shoulder injury puts him face-to-face with the high school sweetheart who abandoned town—and him—twelve years ago, Hunter’s simple life gets a lot more complicated.

Emerson Montgomery has secrets. Refusing to divulge why she left her job as a hotshot physical therapist for a pro football team, she struggles to readjust to life in the hometown she left behind. The more time she spends with Hunter, the more Emerson finds herself wanting to trust him with the diagnosis of MS that has turned her world upside down.

But revealing secrets comes with a price. Can Hunter and Emerson rekindle their past love? Or will the realities of the present—and the trust that goes with them—burn that bridge for good?

Amazon

Crossing the Line

Cross Creek Book 2

by Kimberly Kincaid

Blurb:

Cocky farmer Eli Cross plays twice as hard as he works. When his latest stunt drums up a heap of negative PR for the family farm, he grudgingly agrees to play host to an ambitious New York City photographer. Her feature on Cross Creek could be just the ticket to show the country what the Cross brothers do best…which is more problem than solution for Eli.

Scarlett Edwards-Stewart has photographed everything from end zones to war zones. She’s confident she can ace this one little story to help her best friend’s failing magazine. At least, she would be if her super-sexy host wasn’t so tight lipped. But the more Scarlett works with Eli, the more she discovers that he’s not who he seems. Can his secret bring them closer together? Or will it be the very thing that tears them apart?

Amazon

Crossing Promises

Cross Creek Book 3

by Kimberly Kincaid

Blurb:

For Owen Cross, the only thing that matters more than family is farming. As the oldest Cross brother, the land is his legacy, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make Cross Creek a success—including hiring local widow Cate McAllister to manage the bookkeeping tasks that are growing in his office like weeds. Cate’s as pragmatic as she is pretty, and she rattles his hard-fought composure at every turn.

Cate had known a lot of things about her husband before he died three years ago in a car accident, but how much debt he’d gotten them into wasn’t one of them. She needs her job at Cross Creek, even if her boss is both gruff and gorgeous. But Owen’s a family man, through and through, and the last thing Cate is interested in is anything—or anyone—with strings attached.

As Owen and Cate join forces to right the farm, they discover there’s more to the other than the surfaces shows, and that passion can be found in unexpected places. Can Cate heal from the loss of one family to gain the love of her life? Or will the past prove too much for the promise of the future?

Amazon

*****

Author Info:

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a USA Today best-selling author and a 2015 RWA RITA® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Instagram

*****

Book Review – All My Life

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Dedicated, single dad.  Unrequited love.  Friends to loves.  Yes, please!

*****

All My Life

by Prescott Lane

Blurb:

The beginning of any love story starts with the meet.

I’ve known Garrett Hollis since before I can remember, and I’ve loved him just as long.  I loved him while he loved someone else.  I loved him when he had a baby with her.  I loved him when she left him.

The greatest of love stories is that between a dad and his daughter.  I should know.  I’ve had a front row seat.  First steps, first words, all the big moments.

Garrett was just a teenager when Mia was born.  I’ve watched him braid his daughter’s hair, hold her hand crossing the street, seen her asleep on his chest.  I’m the best friend, the one they can count on for everything from dance lessons to motherly advice, anything they need.  I’m their go-to girl.

The best part of any love story is the happily ever after.

But what if the happily ever after doesn’t include you?

All my life, that’s how long I’ve loved him.

Of course, he’s clueless.

A stand-alone, contemporary romance.

“Hot single dad devoted to his daughter? Second chances? All the tension you could ask for? Look no further! Devoured this gem and you will too!”- Rachel Van Dyken, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Download your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2E9rnF9

AppleBooks: https://goo.gl/Y4UjLN

Amazon Worldwide: https://amzn.to/2C60Tlw

Nook: https://goo.gl/KBS5PG

Kobo:  https://goo.gl/ouv7qa

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2zZZdZd

Add to GoodReads: https://goo.gl/t1CH95

*****

Excerpt:

As far as dates go, this one has been good.  I like her.  She’s attractive, funny, smart, seems to have her head on straight.  All the boxes are checked.  This should be the point where I kiss her, ask her out again.  I should be devising ways to get in this woman’s panties, but instead I’m thinking more about yanking down the tutu of one very sexy Biscuit Girl.  I should be thinking about how to get this woman to fall for me, but it’s me that’s fallen.  I should have one thing on my mind, and I do — Devlyn.

There’s just one big ass problem.  She’s my friend.  I can’t go there.  There are so many reasons why I can’t go there.  The town would have a field day.  We’d have no privacy.  Everyone would have an opinion.  If we broke up, where would I get a decent cup of coffee?  How would Mia react to this?  Then there’s Scott, who’s actually the least of my concerns.  Devlyn seemed pretty sure it was over, and if it’s not, I plan on convincing her.

I don’t want to lose Devlyn.

Staying friends guarantees her in my life.  Dating her doesn’t.

Love doesn’t come with a guarantee.

Love is a risk.  I used to be a risk taker, but teenage fatherhood buried that part of me.  Stability became the name of the game.  It had to.  I look towards her diner, wondering if she’s back.

*****

Review:

I’ve seen a few complaints about how much time has gone by with Devlyn sitting on the sidelines of Garrett & Mia’s life buuuut I think because Lane gives us both of their points of view we really have an understanding of where they are coming from.  And come on, men (especially romance story heroes) can be so clueless about love, life, and feelings.  And once he caught on he didn’t really waste any time 🙂

You definitely have to admire Garrett’s dedication to his daughter.  At 17 he stepped up and made himself into a wonderful dad and has spent the past couple of decades giving everything to Mia.  He’s adorable and I loved their relationship together.  You can see why, even if it is a little sad, that Devlyn has spent so long pining for him.

And I think that is what readers most have an issue with.  They see her as a doormat, letting the Hollis family walk all over her for 20 years.  And while Garrett’s obliviousness can be a bit frustrating, it is very believable.  Lane does a good job of explaining why their friendship has basically been in a holding pattern for so long and making you feel it with them as they contemplate changing it now.  It’s scary, but with a little faith and love they can figure it out.

*****

Author Info:

Prescott Lane is the Amazon best-selling author of Stripped Raw. She’s got seven other books under her belt including: First Position, Perfectly Broken, Quiet Angel, Wrapped in Lace, Layers of Her, The Reason for Me, and The Sex Bucket List.  She is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and holds a degree in sociology and a MSW from Tulane University. She married her college sweetheart, and they currently live in New Orleans with their two children and two crazy dogs. Prescott started writing at the age of five, and sold her first story about a talking turtle to her father for a quarter. She later turned to writing romance novels because there aren’t enough happily ever afters in real life.

Connect with Prescott Lane:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PrescottLane1

Twitter: www.twitter.com/prescottlane1

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lfhlrh

Instagram: instagram.com/prescottlane1

Stay up to date with Prescott Lane by joining her mailing list:  https://goo.gl/ZXT3RQ

Website: http://www.authorprescottlane.com

*****

Spotlight – Five Years Gone

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I see a lot of tears in my future with this one …

*****

Five Years Gone

by Marie Force

Blurb:

The most brazen terrorist attack in history. A country bent on revenge. A love affair cut short. A heart that never truly heals.

I knew on the day of the attack that our lives were changed forever. What I didn’t know then was that I’d never see John again after he deployed. One day he was living with me, sleeping next to me, making plans with me. The next day he was gone.

That was five years ago. The world has moved on from that awful day, but I’m stuck in my own personal hell, waiting for a man who may be dead for all I know. At my sister’s wedding, I meet Eric, the brother of the groom, and my heart comes alive once again.

The world is riveted by the capture of the terrorist mastermind, brought down by U.S. Special Forces in a daring raid. Now I am trapped between hoping I’ll hear from John and fearing what’ll become of my new life with Eric if I do.

From a New York Times bestselling author, Five Years Gone, a standalone contemporary, is an epic story of love, honor, duty, unbearable choices and impossible dilemmas.

Kindle US: http://geni.us/fygamzus

iBooks: http://geni.us/fygibooks

Nook: http://geni.us/fygnook

Kobo: http://geni.us/fygkobo

Google: http://geni.us/fyggoogle

Kindle CA: http://geni.us/fygamzca

Kindle UK: http://geni.us/fygamzuk

Kindle AU: http://geni.us/fygamzau

Print

Purchase from Marie’s Store: http://geni.us/fygmfstore

Amazon: http://geni.us/fygprtamz

Barnes & Noble: http://geni.us/fygbnprt

Books-a-Million: http://geni.us/fygbam

IndieBound: http://geni.us/fygprtib

Chapters Indigo: http://geni.us/fygprtchp

Booktopia AU: http://geni.us/fygtopia

Audio 

Amazon: http://geni.us/fygaudamz

Audible: http://geni.us/fygaud

*****

Excerpt:

Prologue

Ava

We met in a bar, of all places, a dingy hole-in-the-wall favored by military members from the nearby Navy base in San Diego. I went with a friend from school who was interested in one of the military guys. Before that night, I’d never been there, and I’ve never been back. John was celebrating the promotion of one of his buddies. He crashed into me as I left the ladies’ room and kept me from falling by grabbing my arms to steady me.

Just like in the movies, our eyes met, and my spine tingled with the kind of instantaneous awareness I’d only read about but never experienced personally.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, gorgeous and fierce in his fatigues.

I noticed gold on his collar, a hint of late-day scruff on his jaw and the name WEST in bold black letters on his chest. Intense electric-blue eyes made it impossible for me to look away, even when I was safely back on my feet.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

Realizing I’d been staring at him, I blinked and reluctantly broke the connection. “I… Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for the save.”

And then he smiled, and the tingling began anew.

“I’m John.”

I shook his outstretched hand. “Ava.”

Keeping his hold on my hand, he tipped his head. “You come here often?”

“Never,” I said, laughing. “I’m a first-timer.”

“What do you think so far?”

“I wasn’t impressed until about thirty seconds ago.”

As if he had all the time in the world to give me, he leaned against the wall. “Is that right? What happened thirty seconds ago?”

I thought about taking back my hand but didn’t. “I was saved from certain disaster by a man in uniform.”

“The guy in the uniform is the reason you needed saving in the first place, because he wasn’t watching where he was going. Least he can do is buy you a drink.”

“I wouldn’t say no to that.” I was proud of my witty responses and got the feeling he could more than hold his own in the wittiness department. Across the crowded room, I noticed my friend talking to the guy she’d come to see, and her brows lifted in interest when she saw me with John. He guided me to the bar, placing a proprietary hand on my lower back, and told one of the guys to give me his stool.

“Yes, sir.” The younger man bowed gallantly to me as he took his beer and moved along.

“Do people always do what you say?”

“If they know what’s good for them.” His teasing grin kept the comment from being overly cocky. “What can I get you?”

Deciding to live dangerously for once, I asked for a cosmopolitan.

“Go big or go home,” he said with admiration.

“That’s my motto.” I was so full of shit. I wondered if he could tell I was all talk or what he’d think of me if he knew I usually err much closer to the side of caution than the wild side. I wondered if he could tell I was just barely old enough to drink. I’d turned twenty-one only six months earlier.

When my cosmo and his Budweiser had been delivered, he offered a toast. “To new friends.”

I touched my glass to his bottle. “To new friends.”

“So, where’re you from, Ava?”

“New York.”

“I thought I heard New Yawk in your voice.”

I batted my eyelashes at him. “So four years at the University of California San Diego didn’t scrub the New York out of me?”

Laughing, he said, “Hardly. I know some guys from New York. One of them is from Staten Island, which is about as New York as it gets. I know New York when I hear it.”

“I’m from Purchase, upstate from the city. What about you?”

“I’m from all over. My old man is a retired general. You name it, I’ve lived there.”

“Where’s home?”

“Right here.” He turned that intense gaze on me, and I went stupid in the head. I couldn’t see anything but him. We might as well have been alone in the crowded bar for all I knew. Unlike my friend, who loved men in uniform, I was never turned on by the uniform. Until then. Until John. “You want to get out of here?”

I swallowed hard. It wasn’t like me to leave a bar with a man I’d just met. “And go where?”

“Somewhere we can talk.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

He leaned in so his lips were close to my ear. “Everything. I want to know every single thing there is to know about you.”

That’s how we started. We were intense from the first second we met until the last time I saw him five years ago today. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I looked into those incredible blue eyes or woke to him on the pillow next to me or heard his voice in my ear, whispering words that’re permanently carved into my heart as he made love to me.

The worst part is I have no idea where he is. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, being held captive or if he’s living his life somewhere else with someone else. I don’t know, and the not knowing is the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with.

I love him as much today as I ever did. No amount of time could ever change that simple fact of my life. We had two beautiful, magnificent years together, caught up in our own little bubble. He never met my family. I never met his. We didn’t make couple friends. We didn’t talk about the future. We didn’t need to. Our future was decided that first night, and it would take care of itself in due time. I honestly and naïvely believed that.

Now, with hindsight, I realize the bubble was strategic on his part. He gave me everything he had to give, including no promise of tomorrow.

Five years ago today, we watched the horror unfold on live television. A US-based cruise ship blown up by suicide bombers. Four thousand lives extinguished in a heartbeat. Our world permanently changed once again, our country declaring yet another war on terrorists. After 9/11 we thought we’d seen everything. We were wrong.

“I have to go,” he said, grabbing the duffel that stood ready in the front hall closet. He called it his “go bag.” I’d thought nothing of it.

“Where’re you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“When will you be back?”

“I don’t know that either.” He held my face in his hands and gazed at me, seemingly trying to memorize my every feature. “I love you. I’ll always love you.” Then he kissed me as passionately as he ever had and was gone, out the door in a flash of camouflage.

I never saw him again.

I’m not his wife or even his fiancée, so no one notified me of his whereabouts. And three months after he left, when I found a way onto the base in a desperate quest for information, no one there could tell me anything either. I tried to locate his parents and other people he mentioned, but it was like they didn’t exist. I could find no record of a retired general named West in the Marine Corps, Army or Air Force.

Furthermore, an exhaustive search for information on the John West I had known led nowhere. No high school, no college, no military service, no nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed the two years we spent together, doing mundane things like grocery shopping, cooking, watching TV and sleeping together after long days at work. But then I’d remember the blissful passion, the scorching pleasure, the desire that ruled us from the beginning, and I’d know I didn’t dream him. I didn’t dream us. We were real, and he was everything to me.

Sitting on the floor in our apartment, surrounded by boxes, I take a few minutes before the movers arrive to memorize every detail of the place where we lived together. I’ve packed his things along with mine, and I’m moving home to New York. Today was my deadline. I gave it five years, and I simply can’t do it anymore. I can’t sit in our home among our things, waiting for something that’s never going to happen.

It’s over. It’s time for me to move on. It’s probably long past time, if I’m being honest with myself. And though I know it’s the right move at the right time, that doesn’t mean my heart isn’t shattering all over again as I dismantle the place where we were us.

My sister is getting married next month. I promised her I’d be home in time to hold her hand through the festivities. Other than occasional trips home for holidays and other occasions, I’ve been gone more than ten years. I bear no resemblance whatsoever to the girl who left home at eighteen seeking independence from her overbearing family at a faraway college out West.

I accomplished all my goals, finishing college, landing a decent job and falling in love with the man of my dreams. I found out what happens when dreams come true and how painful it is when they blow up in your face.

It’s time now to set new goals, to start over, to begin a life that doesn’t have John at the center of it the way it did here. It’ll be nice to be back with people who love me and care about me, even if they tend toward smothering at times. That’s looking rather good to me after years of loneliness and grief.

The intercom sounds to let me know the movers are here. I pick myself up off the floor and steel my heart for the day ahead. I can do this. I’ve been through worse, and I’ll survive this the same way I’ve survived everything else. Despite my resolve, my eyes fill with tears as I press the button that opens the door downstairs to the movers.

It doesn’t take them long to pack my belongings into their truck. I keep with me the things that can’t be replaced—precious photos, gifts he gave me, the clothing he left behind. After taking a final look around the apartment, I pack those boxes into my car, turn my apartment keys into the leasing office and head east, feeling as if I’m leaving behind everything that ever mattered to me.

It’s like I’m losing him all over again. I cry all the way through the desert of Southern California and well into Arizona. I relive every minute I can remember, every conversation, every special moment. I think about what it was like to make love with him and wonder how I’ll ever to do that with anyone but him. Maybe I won’t. Maybe that part of my life ended with him, and even though I’m only twenty-eight now, I’m okay with that possibility. Once you’ve experienced perfection, it’s hard to imagine settling for anything less.

The tears finally dry up somewhere in northern Arizona, but the ache inside… I take that with me all the way to New York, where I will try my very best to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and put them back together into some new version of myself.

After all, what choice do I have?

Chapter 1

Ava

My sister, Camille, doesn’t do anything halfway, including get married. She’s one of those girls I’d love to hate if she weren’t my beloved sister. Three years behind me in high school, she was class president, captain of the cheerleading squad, valedictorian and homecoming queen. I’m sure the teachers who had me first wondered how the same genes could’ve produced two such different sisters. Why do you think I moved so far from home to go to college and stayed there afterward? At least in San Diego, no one ever compared me to my rock star little sister.

A few weeks ago, she graduated from Yale Law School, at the top of her class, of course, and made Law Review, had offers from every big firm in the country and sported a three-carat diamond on her finger from the son of the New York governor.

Like I said, she doesn’t do anything halfway. So here I am at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, standing beside my sister as she marries Robert James Tilden III in a lavish ceremony. Did I mention she’s also freaking gorgeous? Well, she is, and never more so than today. She’s glowing with happiness and excitement and unfettered joy that serves as a bitter reminder of everything I’ve lost.

Pass the champagne.

If ever there was a time to get rip-roaring drunk, this is it. Rob arranged for hotel rooms for every member of the wedding party, so no one has to drive or even function after the reception. I plan to take full advantage of my new brother-in-law’s generosity up to and including room service breakfast.

Camille grasps my arm as we make our way from the rooftop where the happy couple exchanged vows to the ballroom where the reception will be held. “Help me pee,” she whispers.

I follow her to the restroom, where an attendant greets us and congratulates the bride.

“Thank you so much,” Camille says with a gracious smile for the woman.

“Use the handicapped stall,” the attendant says. “There’s more room.”

“Good call,” I say as we enter the roomy stall where Camille teaches me how to bustle her dress. I get it pinned up as best I can and then hold it out of harm’s way while she hovers over the toilet to take care of business.

“This wasn’t in my maid-of-honor job description.”

She laughs. “Sorry, but this is what sisters are for. And I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me, too.” And I mean that sincerely. “I love seeing you so happy.”

“I am happy, but I’ll be even happier tomorrow. I’m so ready for a vacation after planning a wedding during the last year of law school. If that doesn’t kill me, nothing will. Two weeks of sand, sun, sex and booze. Bring it on.”

My heart aches with envy, making me feel small and petty. What I wouldn’t give for two weeks in the tropics with John. What I wouldn’t give to simply know he’s alive. I shake off those thoughts. This isn’t the time to wallow in the past. Today is about Camille and Rob, and I’m determined to keep my focus on her.

She stands and hurls herself into my arms. “I love you so much, Ava. I’m so glad you’re back home where you belong.”

Blinking back tears, I return her embrace. “Love you, too.” It’s good to be home. Whether I’m back where I belong is questionable. I have no idea anymore where I belong, but I’m going to figure that out. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but with you today.” That much is certainly true.

After she washes her hands at the sink inside the stall, she hooks her arm through mine to lead me out of the restroom as the attendant looks on with amusement. “Let’s get this party started.”

We line up outside the ballroom, and I’m paired with the best man, Rob’s brother, Eric. My sister has married into a rather fantastic gene pool. Not only are the Tildens wealthy and successful, they’re incredibly good-looking, too. Rob is a triplet, having shared the womb with Eric and their sister Amelia, whom they call Amy. They make a striking trio—Rob and Amy resemble their father, with dark hair and eyes, while Eric favors their blonde, hazel-eyed mother. Despite their different coloring, there’s a definite resemblance among the three of them as well as their younger sister, Julianne, a blonde spitfire who’s kept us laughing all weekend.

I instantly love the Tildens and can see why my sister is gone over Rob, who dotes on her to the point of nausea for the rest of us. I’ll give them a pass since it’s their wedding weekend, but the words get a room have frequently come to mind during the festivities.

“For Christ’s sake,” Eric mutters while we wait to be introduced. “Save it for the honeymoon.”

I glance over my shoulder to see Rob and Camille engaged in yet another passionate lip-lock and laugh at the look of disgust on Eric’s handsome face. “They can’t help themselves.”

“I need a drink. The wedding party is allowed to drink, right?”

“God, I hope so.”

“You’re up,” the wedding coordinator, a peppy woman named Mimi, says after Julianne and Rob’s cousin Nate are introduced.

“Ready?” Eric asks, extending his arm to me.

I tuck my hand into the crook of his elbow. “Ready.”

“Please join me in welcoming our best man, the brother of the groom, Eric Tilden, and our maid of honor, the sister of the bride, Ava Lucas.” The DJ draws out every syllable of my name, making me Avaaaaaa Luuuuucasssss.

We walk in to thunderous applause from the nearly five hundred guests in the ballroom. I’ll admit to being intimidated by the crowd and the noise, both of which have me hanging on to Eric a little more tightly.

As if he can feel my tension, Eric covers my hand on his arm with his free hand, and the gesture comforts me.

We stand on the side of the huge dance floor with the rest of the wedding party.

“And now, please welcome our bride and groom, Rob and Camille Tilden!”

The applause is deafening as the happy couple makes their way into the room, stopping for hugs and kisses from friends and family. They’ve been deliriously happy for two years now, ever since they met at a fundraiser for Rob’s dad when Camille was finishing her first year of law school. Rob managed his father’s campaign and runs his New York City office.

“Can we drink yet?” Eric speaks close to my ear so only I will hear him.

“Counting the minutes.” I glance up at him and realize he’s focused on me, not the bride and groom. The subtle, rich scent of his cologne surrounds me, making me want to lean in closer to him. This is, I realize in a moment of despair, the closest I’ve been to any man since the day John kissed me goodbye and disappeared from my life.

I shiver even though the room isn’t cold. If anything, it’s overly warm.

“Are you okay?” Eric asks.

I nod, but my heart aches. What I wouldn’t give to have the man I love with me today, to celebrate my sister’s marriage, to meet my family, to dance the night away. Even in the midst of so much happiness and joy, grief overwhelms me.

“It’s kind of disgusting, isn’t it?” Eric asks as he twirls me around on the dance floor after the wedding party is invited to join the bride and groom as they dance to “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra.

“What is?”

“How perfect they are.” He points his chin toward Rob and Camille, who are so caught up in each other, the hundreds of other people in the room might not exist for all they care.

“It’s not disgusting. They’re perfect for each other.”

He pulls back ever so slightly to look down at me with an impish twinkle in his eyes. “You don’t think it’s the tiniest bit disgusting that any two people can be that gorgeous and that successful?”

I’ll never admit to having had a few of those thoughts myself. “No, of course not. She’s my sister. I’m very proud of her—and happy for her.”

“Uh-huh. Okay. If you say so.”

Why is he trying to bait me? “I say so.”

“You don’t think it’s the tiniest bit unfair that they got it all—looks, smarts, true love, great jobs and a fab apartment? How much you want to bet they’re going to have ugly kids?”

It’s such an outrageous statement that I can’t contain the gurgle of nervous laughter that erupts from my chest.

“Ah-ha! I knew it! You totally think their kids will be ugly.”

“I do not! Don’t say that. He’s your brother. You’re supposed to love him.”

“I do love him, but sometimes I want to punch his lights out. Everything comes so easily to him. He’s never had to really work for anything in his life.”

“And you have?”

“I’ve worked hard for everything I have. Still do.”

“What do you do?”

“I spend years researching a single company for the fund I work for, only to be shot down when I bring it to the acquisitions team. Then I have to find another company, spend years working on that proposal and hope it doesn’t get shot down, too. I’m one-for-four over three years.”

“That sounds rather…”

“Depressing?”

“Is it?”

“It can be. It’s a major bummer to invest all that time and effort only to be shot down at committee.” He leans in a little closer, again closer than any man has been to me since John left. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those companies I spend all that time researching?”

I nod, intrigued by his secret.

“I’ve invested personally in every one of them, and they’ve yielded spectacular results.”

“Then the time wasn’t wasted.”

“Not at all.” He gazes down at me, seeming to take a visual inventory of my features in a way that reminds me of John doing the same thing the night we met—and again on the day he walked out of my life. The memory hits me like a punch to the gut, stealing the breath from my lungs. “You’re very pretty, but of course you know that.”

The most beautiful girl I ever met. John’s husky, sexy voice pops into my head, and I’m transported right back to the bedroom we painted a light gray, the bed we chose together, the sheets tangled around our bodies as he made fierce love to me, whispering sweet words I’ve never forgotten.

“Ava? Are you okay?”

Eric’s voice startles me, sucking me out of memories I wish I could wallow in. They come less frequently than they used to, and I live in fear of losing them forever at some point.

“Ava?”

I glance up at him, embarrassed to realize he’s stopped moving and is looking at me with concern.

“I… I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You didn’t.”

The rest of the wedding party, including the bride and groom, are looking at us, wondering why we aren’t dancing the way we’re supposed to.

“Let’s get a drink,” Eric says.

“But the dance…”

“Screw the dance.” He takes me by the hand and leads me to one of five bars strategically positioned around the massive ballroom. “What’s your pleasure?”

“Just ice water, please.”

He orders my water along with bourbon for himself. “Let’s get some air.”

We take our drinks to a balcony where the warm June breeze is a welcome relief after the stifling ballroom.

“Did I screw up by saying you’re pretty?”

“No, of course not.” I’m mortified by the episode. Right when I think I’m regaining my footing, a memory of John appears to show me otherwise. Sometimes I think I’m no further along on this journey than I was the day he left.

“Well, just for the record, you are very pretty. More than that, really. Gorgeous is a far better word. That was my first thought when I met you at the rehearsal.”

“Thank you.” He’s flirting with me, and I’m so out of practice, I have no idea how to respond.

“You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’m better now. It was hot in there.”

“Yes, it was. Camille said you just moved back to New York from San Diego. What’d you do out there?”

Fell in love with the most extraordinary man who disappeared from my life five years ago. “I… I worked in PR.”

“Is that right? Julianne is in PR. She knows everyone. I bet she can help you find a new job. If you’re looking, that is.”

“I am, and that’d be great. I have feelers out all over the city, but I have a feeling it’s more about who you know than what you know here.” My goal is to live and work in the city so I can get out of my parents’ house in Purchase as soon as possible. After one month at home, I already know I’ve been gone too long to go back to living at home long-term. My parents are lovely, and they mean well, but they dote on me like I’m twelve rather than twenty-eight, and I’m wounded enough that it would be easy to let them take care of me indefinitely.

“We’ll set you up.”

He says that with the easy confidence of a man with connections. As the son of the governor, he’s probably fat with connections, and I’m not above taking advantage of who his family knows to jumpstart my life in New York City.

After a few minutes outside, we rejoin the party. We’re seated together at the head table, where we enjoy a delicious meal of tenderloin and shrimp. Eric entertains me with hilarious stories about growing up Tilden and how their parents had to ban practical jokes between the siblings out of fear of them burning the house down.

Despite the crowded room and the revelry all around us, in some ways I feel like we’re on a date by ourselves. He gives me his full attention, except when someone comes up to say hello to him. Then he introduces me as Camille’s sister, Ava, and includes me in the conversation. He’s charming and fun and funny and handsome, and I’m not sure if it’s him or the champagne that has me slightly dazzled, but whatever it is, I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years.

Mimi, the wedding planner, shows up after dinner with a cordless microphone that she hands to Eric. “You’re on.”

“Oh crap,” he says to me. “I forgot I have to make a speech. What should I say?”

“Seriously?”

“Nah,” he says, chuckling at my horrified expression. “I got this.”

He stands and loudly clears his throat into the microphone. “If I could have your attention, please.” When the room goes quiet, he says, “This is the part of the program where the best man is supposed to humiliate the groom with embarrassing stories that make the bride wonder what the hell she was thinking marrying such a jerk.”

Laughter ripples through the big room as Rob glares at him.

“Sadly for me and the rest of you, Rob doesn’t do embarrassing things. I know… It’s not fair and sort of wrong that someone could live to be thirty-two without a truly embarrassing story to his name. But that’s our Rob. Focused, brilliant and, despite a startling lack of flaws, fun to be around. And from all accounts, he’s found in Camille someone who’s just like him.” Sobering, he says, “Rob, we’ve been together a long time.”

More laughter follows that statement.

“And even though you’re only five minutes older than me, you’ve been an awesome big brother and best friend. I love you, and on behalf of everyone here, I wish you and Camille the best of everything. Congratulations.”

Rob stands to hug his brother while everyone else applauds.

Watching them together makes me feel emotional, which is odd because I’d never met either of them before two days ago. Still, their obvious affection for each other—and the multiple glasses of champagne I’ve consumed—made it a sweet moment to witness.

“Your turn,” Eric says, handing me the mic.

Taking the mic from him, I stand and wobble ever so slightly, cursing the champagne.

Eric’s hand on my back steadies me. I give him a grateful smile. “Unlike Rob,” I say into the mic, “Camille had an awkward stage.”

My sister groans, laughs and drops her face into her hands as her husband puts his arm around her.

“She got a big idea to cut her hair super short right before middle school started. That was an unfortunate decision. She was also the girl who’d come out of the restroom in a restaurant with a trail of toilet paper attached to her foot.”

“No!” Camille cried. “You did not just mention the toilet paper on my wedding day!”

“That’s all I’ve got,” I reply. “Like your husband, you’re too freaking perfect and obviously perfectly matched to each other. We can only hope that the six children you’re sure to have will be high achievers like their parents.”

“Ain’t nobody having six kids,” Camille says, cracking everyone up.

“I just want to say that you’re a wonderful little sister and friend. I love you, and I wish you and Rob a lifetime of the kind of joy and happiness you’re feeling today.”

“Hear, hear.” Eric raises his glass to the bride and groom, who’re indulging in yet another passionate kiss.

“And,” I say, before surrendering the mic, “on behalf of the entire wedding party, I’d like to add one more thing… Get a room. Please, get a room.”

The comment, fueled by champagne, is met with wild applause from the rest of the wedding party.

“Got one,” Rob says with a dirty grin when the ruckus dies down. “Gonna use the hell out of it later.”

“Shut up, Rob!” Camille cries, punching his chest.

That leads to more kissing.

“Booze,” Eric says, standing. “We need more booze.”

“Take me with you. Please, take me with you.”

“You got it.”

*****

Author Info:

Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance, including the indie-published Gansett Island Series and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series. In 2019, her new historical Gilded series from Kensington Books will debut with Duchess By Deception. 

All together, her books have sold 6.5 million copies worldwide, have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list many times. She is also a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller, a Speigel bestseller in Germany, a frequent speaker and publishing workshop presenter as well as a publisher through her Jack’s House Publishing romance imprint. She is a two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award for romance fiction. 

Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news. 

Join Marie’s mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on FacebookTwitter @marieforce and on Instagram. Join one of Marie’s many reader groups. Contact Marie at marie@marieforce.com.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website:  http://marieforce.com/

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1508588.Marie_Force

Reader Groups: https://marieforce.com/contact/

*****

Spotlight – Links

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A reader said she giggle-snorted her way through the story.  How can you not love a book that has that kind of review?!?!

*****

Links

by Lisa Becker

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

“Witty, heartfelt and emotionally satisfying. Everything I want in a second chance romance! Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down!” #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken

In high school, Charlotte Windham went through a typical ugly duckling phase – glasses and all, while harboring a crush on Garrett Stephens, the school’s athletic heartthrob. Fifteen years later, Charlotte and Garrett have a chance encounter at a Los Angeles restaurant. However, this time around, Charlotte has leveled the playing field. She’s a bestselling novelist and no longer “Glasses,” the humiliating nickname Garrett gave her. She’s a catch and, thanks to corrective eye surgery, it’s not just her eyes that see better…so does her heart! Garrett hasn’t fared poorly either, transforming from teen heartbreaker to adult lothario and is now a successful professional golfer suffering from a possible career-ending injury. Can Charlotte forgive Garrett for his past ways, and more recent Don Juan lifestyle? And, can Garrett change his ways for a second chance with Charlotte, who may just be perfect for him?

Goodreads * Amazon

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSwM4S3l9Pc

*****

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Garrett

Present Day

Damn! I’m late…again. You’d think with nothing to do, I’d get my act together enough to be on time for a family lunch. I fell asleep on the couch after my rigorous night’s activities with Dani, spelled with a heart over the “i.”

She’s a Laker girl. It took me three weeks, and a dinner reservation at Genevieve, to convince her to go out with me, but it was worth the effort. She was insatiable in bed and her flexibility was a total turn on. Without much sleep last night, it’s no wonder I passed out on the couch after my morning workout.

I rush past the valet and glance at the incoming call on my cell phone thinking it’s Mom checking on my arrival status. It’s not Mom. It’s only been a few hours since I slipped out of Dani’s bed before she woke up this morning and she’s already calling me for the second time today. I let it go to voicemail again and figure she’ll get the hint. Then again, she likely won’t. Dani with a heart over the “i” isn’t the brightest bulb in the marquee.

As I race to the restaurant, I scowl knowing Mom’s going to have my head. Actually, she’s probably used to it by now. I’m surprised they don’t give me fake arrival times knowing I’m always ten minutes behind.

I rush through the revolving door of the restaurant, through the bar, and smack into a woman. She brushes against my bum shoulder and the pain burns right through me. Minding the manners Mom hammered into me from a young age, I mutter, “Sorry,” when I’m honestly not. I look down and notice something familiar about her.

“Hi, Garrett,” she says, sharing a small smile. “It’s been a long time. How are you?”

“Um. I’m fine.” My brows furrow as I wrack my brain trying to figure out who the hell this woman is. She’s short, about five two and roughly my age. I glance down and notice full, round breasts, slightly wide hips and thick thighs. Not my usual type, so I’m pretty sure I haven’t slept with her. At least I don’t have to worry about that embarrassing scene. She’s got chocolate brown eyes, looking at me with warmth. “And…how are you?” Shaking my head I am still trying to place her.

“I’m doing well,” she replies, her smile growing.

“I’m glad to hear that,” I say, trying to be polite and end this awkward reunion that clearly has me clueless.

“Well…I guess I should go.” She turns back and waves to a woman sitting in a far booth of the restaurant. On further inspection, she’s waved to Lindsay, my sister, who of course made it to our family lunch on time. Seated with her are my parents, with Mom frowning at me and shaking her head. Like she didn’t expect I would be late. Marcus isn’t here yet either. Guess the twin thing really does run deep.

“You know Lindsay?” I ask her.

“Uh, yeah,” she says, with a small chuckle and a noticeable hint of sarcasm.

“My parents?”

“Of course.” She shakes her head slightly like it’s hitting her I have no damn clue who she is. Then she confirms my suspicions and just lays it on the line. “You don’t know who I am, do you?” Her eyes are alight with humor.

“Umm. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” I splutter, rubbing my hand behind my neck – my tell – before flashing her my most charming, dimpled smile. Before she can respond, a lady in her mid-sixties with salt and pepper hair wearing an outfit appropriate for someone twenty years younger – but this is LA after all – walks over.

“Pardon the interruption,” she begins. “I would just be kicking myself if I got home and didn’t take advantage of telling you what a big fan I am.”

“Oh, thank you,” I say, turning on the faux charm I reserve for situations such as this.

“My husband and I loved your book.” The lady turns fully toward this mystery woman. “I wish I had it with me for you to sign. Maybe I could get your autograph on something else?” I cock my head to the side and watch Mystery Woman. She turns back toward the elderly lady and smiles sincerely.

“Sure. I’d be happy to sign something.”

The lady reaches into her oversized zebra-print bag and produces a pen and small notepad. She hands them to Mystery Woman and turns to me, smiling.

“Who should I make this out to?” asks Mystery Woman.

“Donna and Frank. Your dear friends, Donna and Frank.”

“My… dear… friends… Donna… and… Frank,” Mystery Woman murmurs aloud as she writes. Watching her autograph the paper, I can’t help the grin spreading across my face. Once she finishes, Donna reads through the note, her eyes widening with delight.

“Thank you, Charley,” she says.

“My pleasure,” replies Charley – Charley? – who looks tickled.

“Charley?” I rack my brain to no avail.

“Yes,” replies Donna with pride. “You are standing with the brilliant novelist Charley Windham.” She turns back to Charley before walking away. “Thank you again, dear.”

“Charley Windham?”

“Uh-huh,” responds Charley, giving me a look like I should piece it together.

“Charley Windham. Why does that name sound so familiar?” I rub my hand on the back of my neck while Charley looks at me with amusement. “Wait, you’re Charley Windham? Who wrote The Crossing Guard?” Charley shakes her head and laughs.

“That’s me.” She’s unable to control the wide smile spreading across her face.

“Yes. Now I know. I read your book. In fact, everyone on the tour read it. You couldn’t walk around a locker room or airport terminal without seeing someone with it in their hands.”

“That’s nice to hear.” She grins at me with her head tilted, nodding it slightly up and down, giving me the impression she’s waiting for me to say more.

“That explains who you are, and I get you would know who I am, but how do you know my family?”

“That is the question of the moment, isn’t it?” She smiles smugly.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“Immensely.” She is grinning unabashedly.

I look back over at my parents and sister and see my brother Marcus walk in through the restaurant’s back entrance. After a quick exchange, Lindsay points to where Charley and I are standing. Marcus waves to Charley and she waves back.

“Oh, you know my ugly as shit brother too?”

“Ugly as shit? You’re identical twins,” she laughs.

“Nah.” I shake my head with a playful sneer. “I got the looks. He got the brains.”

“You got the looks?” She watches me with a raised brow.

“Yep. All of ‘em.”

“I suppose you got all of the humility too?” I can hear the humor in her voice.

“Seems more like humiliation these days.” I rub the back of my neck and look down at my shoes. I really messed things up and now I don’t know if my career is over.

“Hey, don’t knock yourself. Not your fault you have shoulder issues.” She places a hand on my arm and her slight touch causes all my blood to rush south.

“You follow my career?” I ask, my spirits surprisingly improving. There’s something about this woman that’s got me intrigued and I don’t just mean ‘cause I can’t place how I know her.

“I’ve been known to glance at the sports page now and then,” she says with smiling eyes.

“So, how did you say you know my brother again?” Marcus, his wife Abbey, and Lindsay start to walk over to us.

“I didn’t.”

“You’re not going to tell me.”

“I’m finding it quite entertaining you don’t know who I am,” she says again.

“Of course I know who you are,” I scoff.

“You do?”

“Yes. You’re the charming and talented writer having dinner with me on Saturday night.” Charley lets out a nervous giggle and glances down at the floor and damn, if that’s not the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

“You want to have dinner with me on Saturday?” she says on a breath and I wonder how she would breathe my name as she’s coming undone beneath me. Before I can respond, Marcus places his hand on her shoulder.

“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” Charley turns toward him and Marcus scoops her up into a big hug.

“Good to see you, Marcus. This must be your wife.” She turns to the short red head with wide green eyes and a full smile standing between Marcus and Lindsay.

“Yeah, this is Abbey,” says Marcus, turning to the side, allowing the small woman to shake Charley’s hand.

“Wow. I’m a huge fan,” she begins, grasping Charley’s hand and pumping it furiously. “The Crossing Guard was my favorite book of last year. My book club spent hours discussing it.”

“Oh, thank you,” says Charley, with the same genuine appreciation she showed to Donna a few minutes ago.

“I didn’t realize Marcus knew you. I probably would have begged him to ask you to come meet with us,” Abbey continues, still holding onto Charley’s hand.

“Oh, believe me, she doesn’t owe me any favors. It’s the other way around. If it weren’t for Charlotte here, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into a good college,” he says to Abbey.

“Charlotte?” I repeat.

“Of course. Charlotte Windham. You know, our high school English tutor,” he says, looking at me like I’m a dumbass.

Charlotte Windham. Charlotte Windham. Then it hits me. “Oh, Glasses. You’re Glasses.” I smile widely, proud of myself for finally putting it together.

“Yep. I’m Glasses,” Charlotte sighs loudly. “Well, I need to get going. Great catching up with you all again and nice to meet you Abbey.”

“I’m sorry, Charlotte,” says Lindsay, shooting daggers at me with her eyes. What is that death stare for, I wonder.

“It’s okay. Um…give me a call if you want to grab lunch. I’m waiting for a manuscript back from my editor, so I’ve got a ton of free time.” With that, she turns and walks away.

“You’re an idiot.” Lindsay shakes her head and scowls at me.

“What? What did I do?” I’m flummoxed.

*****

Author Info:

Lisa Becker is a romance writer who spends her time like she spends her money – on books and margaritas.  In addition to Clutch: a novel, she is the author of the Click trilogy, a contemporary romance series about online dating and Links, a standalone, second chance romance readers.  As Lisa’s grandmother used to say, “For every chair, there’s a tush.” Lisa is now happily married to a wonderful man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach, California with him and their two daughters. So, if it happened for her, there’s hope for anyone! You can share your love stories with her at www.lisawbecker.com.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

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Giveaway:

Wrap Bracelet

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*****

Click on the banner below for a second sneak peek and a look at the other stops on the tour!

Spotlight – Love Sincerely Yours

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Readers are DEVOURING this must read office romance.  Get your copy and find out why!

*****

Love Sincerely Yours

by Sara Ney & Meghan Quinn

Release Day: October 9th

Blurb:

Dear Mister…**strike out** no, too formal.

Hey there sweet cheeks *strike out* no, too forward.

To whom it may concern,

Full disclosure; before we move forward with this email, I would like it to be known that I have consumed an adequate amount of alcoholic beverages to intoxicate myself tonight. Three margaritas, two shots, and one beer—because it was free.

I think it’s important to be open and honest with your co-workers, don’t you?

So here I am, being honest. Drunk but honest. Or just drunk with lust? You decide.

I like you so much it’s clouding my judgment and making me do things I never would sober. Like write this letter.

I have a hopeless, foolish, schoolgirl crush on you when you are the last person on earth I should be falling for. Did you know people around the office call you a sadist? An egomaniac. An insensitive, arrogant prick. Your bark is worse then your bite, and you don’t scare me. The fact is, I’d love that bite of yours to nip at my bare skin while we’re both wearing nothing but sheets.

For once I want you to look at me as more than one of your employees.

And as long as we’re being honest, that navy blue suit you wear? With the crisp white shirt? It really makes me want to loosen your tie and show you who’s boss.

Love,

Sincerely,

Yours.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41054028-love-sincerely-yours

AMAZON: https://amzn.to/2KyHyd1

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2M087O9

AMAZON AU: https://amzn.to/2OIQUGq

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2vLLyBR

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-sincerely-yours/id1423164744?mt=11

*****

Excerpt:

Like a goddamn ray of sunshine, light streaming behind her from the window, a halo shining above her pretty head.

Her lying, beautiful head.

Dark hair, wavy and glossy, down around her shoulders, the rich color picking up red from the sun.

She’s holding a glass—it’s poised at her lips and she’s about to take a sip—when our eyes meet. She lowers it, her mouth parts, and her smile spreads.

Until I scowl. Then, her face morphs from happy to concerned in a second. Damn right she should be concerned.

I nod.

She nods.

My eyes trail down the front of her and I note her dress—it’s baby blue, wrapped and tied at the waist, and shows off her curves while highlighting her legs in those sexy-as-shit heels.

Stop thinking about her curves and legs. You’re not here to admire her.

The pile of gifts in the corner pisses me off, bringing me back into the present, back to my rage, and has me lifting my arm; crooking my finger.

Peyton’s brows go up at the same time her head cocks and she pokes a finger into her own chest. “Me?”

“Yeah. You.” I know she can’t hear me, but I say it anyway—and if she’s any good at reading lips, she’ll haul her ass over here right quick.

Her cup is passed. Skirt gets smoothed out. Chin tilts high.

She heads over.

Good girl.

“Follow me,” I order her when we’re on the outskirts of the room. When we’re clear across the office common area, I pivot to face her.

She’s shorter, even in heels, so I have to dip my head to glare at her.  “Want to tell me exactly what the fuck is going on in there?”

*****

Author Info:

Sara Ney is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the How to Date a Douchebag series, and is best known for her sexy, laugh-out-loud New Adult romances. Among her favorite vices, she includes: iced latte’s, historical architecture and well-placed sarcasm. She lives colorfully, collects vintage books, art, loves flea markets, and fancies herself British.

She lives with her husband, children, and her ridiculously large dog.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Website

Born in New York and raised in Southern California, Meghan has grown into a sassy, peanut butter eating, blonde haired swearing, animal hoarding lady. She is known to bust out and dance if “It’s Raining Men” starts beating through the air and heaven forbid you get a margarita in her, protect your legs because they may be humped.

Once she started commuting for an hour and twenty minutes every day to work for three years, she began to have conversations play in her head, real life, deep male voices and dainty lady coos kind of conversations. Perturbed and confused, she decided to either see a therapist about the hot and steamy voices running through her head or start writing them down. She decided to go with the cheaper option and started writing… enter her first novel, Caught Looking.

Now you can find the spicy, most definitely on the border of lunacy, kind of crazy lady residing in Colorado with the love of her life and her five, furry four legged children, hiking a trail or hiding behind shelves at grocery stores, wondering what kind of lube the nervous stranger will bring home to his wife. Oh and she loves a good boob squeeze!

Facebook | Follow on Goodreads | Website | Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Follow on BookBub

*****

Spotlight – A Love So Sweet

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If you like your romances a bit on the sweeter side, but still with a bit of sizzle, these reimagined books by Addison Cole are a must read!

*****

A Love So Sweet

Sweet with Heat: Weston Bradens #1

by Addison Cole

Releasing Oct 10, 2018

World Literary Press

Blurb:

Discover the magic of the Bradens, and fall in love with Addison Cole’s rich and romantic storytelling.

In A LOVE SO SWEET…

Treat Braden wasn’t looking for love when Max Armstrong walked into his Nassau resort, but he saw right through the efficient and capable facade she wore like a shield to the sweet, sensual woman beneath. One magnificent evening together sparked an intense connection, and for the first time in his life Treat wanted more than a casual affair. But something caused Max to turn away, and now, after weeks of unanswered phone calls and longing for the one woman he cannot have, Treat is going back to his family’s ranch to try to finally move on.

A chance encounter brings Treat and Max together again, and it turns into a night of intense passion and honesty. When Max reveals her secret, painful past, Treat vows to do everything within his power to win Max’s heart forever—including helping her finally face her demons head-on.

A Love So Sweet is a Sweet with Heat novel and conveys all of the passion you’d expect to find between two people in love without any graphic scenes or harsh language. If you’re looking for a spicier romance, pick up the steamy edition, Lovers at Heart, Reimagined, written by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. Addison Cole is Melissa’s sweet-romance pen name.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39320827-a-love-so-sweet

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/229458-sweet-with-heat-weston-bradens

KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_Kindle

iBOOKS: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_iBooks

KOBO: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_Kobo

NOOK: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_Nook

GPLAY: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_GPlay

PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/ALSS_Pb

OUR SWEET DESTINY – Weston Bradens Book 2 (Rel 11/14)

Loyalties are tested, and relationships are strained as Rex and Jade find out if true love really can conquer all.

KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/OSD_Kindle

iBOOKS: http://smarturl.it/OSD_iBooks

KOBO: http://smarturl.it/OSD_Kobo

NOOK: http://smarturl.it/OSD_Nook

PLAY: http://smarturl.it/OSD_GPlay

PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/OSD_Pb

*****

Author Info:

Addison Cole is the sweet-romance pen name of New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Melissa Foster. She writes humorous and emotional sweet contemporary romance. Her books do not include explicit sex scenes or harsh language.

Addison spends her summers on Cape Cod, where she dreams up wonderful love stories in her house overlooking Cape Cod Bay.

Visit Addison on her website or chat with her on social media. Addison enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups and welcomes an invitation to your event.

Author Links:   WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM

*****

Giveaway:

Two ebook copies of SWEET LOVE AT BAYSIDE

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*****

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