Tonight I‘m not “smart girl” Louise who weighs every decision over and over until her brain is ready to burst. Tonight, I’m not “responsible girl” Louise who everyone counts on to do the right thing.
Tonight, I am Lou: the girl who does whatever—or whoever—she wants.
James breaks from the kiss and runs the backs of his fingers down my cold cheek. “You’re really not gonna tell me your name?” His whisper sends delicious chills across my skin.
“No, I am not,” I whisper back.
“Alright.” His deep voice vibrates as he rains kisses down the column of my throat. “I guess I’ll keep calling you Cold Brew then.”
“I don’t like that.”
“Oh no?” He tears his lips away.
“Resume what you were doing, please!” I’m giving him mixed signals. “What I meant was I like that.” I point at his mouth, then jut my neck out in his direction. “The uh, that thing you were doing just now to my neck? That was good. But I’d prefer it if you didn’t call me… Cold Brew.”
He dives into my neck again, and I think we’re back on track until he murmurs this madness between kisses, “That’s too bad. A hot thing like you slowly pouring over me and effortlessly spiking the temps in my refrigerator? A strong, concentrated woman like you who won’t be diluted with water for other people’s comfort? A delectable drink of a girl like you who isn’t afraid of a coarse grind when everyone else is pummeling themselves into soft, palatable powders to please the masses? Cold Brew is the perfect nickname for you.”
What the hell is he talking about?
So he’s weird.
After tonight, I’ll never see him again.
Looks like I need to take matters into my own hands.
I cup the bulge in his jeans and feel him respond.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
“You said you don’t mind the cold,” he breathes. “Are you into winter sports then? Skiing, snowshoeing, mountain climbing?”
“Not into winter sports, no.” I desperately work to undo his pants.
“So what are you into?” he rumbles as he helps me with the button.
“You mean sex-wise? The regular stuff. The regular stuff will do.”
He laughs. “Good to know. But I meant what are you into in life? Like hobbies and stuff.”
Alright. Now buddy boy here is starting to test my patience.
“Not really a hobby person. My hobby is my work, and my work is my hobby.”
Score! Jeans are officially down. He kicks them, and they land on top of an icy growler, almost like he choreographed it. You would think a woman getting him pants-less would be enough to curb this guy’s relentless inquisition, but no.
“What’s your work then?”
“Marine biology,” I huff. “Can we—?”
“Oh wow, the ocean and I are like this.” He crosses his index and middle finger in that universal sign of closeness. “I’m a swimmer! A diver too!”
“Cool, cool,” I say and try to get his focus back to the physical. The fact that we have both been in a body of water at some point in our lives does not bind us together in any meaningful way.
“I’ve been told I have the lung capacity of a whale.” He pats his chest. “Yeah, these guys certainly served me well when I free dived in Sri Lanka. Wait. Is it ‘dived’ or ‘dove’? ‘Dived’ always sounds wrong to my ear, but I think that’s actually correct. Doesn’t matter. Point is, I love extreme sports! And speaking of marine biology, get this, once a week I volunteer at—”
“Hey, James!” I shout.
He stops speaking.
I soften my voice to a husky tone. “It is James, right?” “James, yeah,” he confirms with a dazzling smile.
I reach into his pants and find him more than ready for me, so I start to stroke.
“You’re fucking gorgeous, James,” I whisper in his ear and shiver when his stubbled cheek brushes against mine. His olive skin smells like ivory soap and shaving cream.
He tightens his strong arms around my back and pulls me closer. I continue my ministrations below.
“Thank you,” he says. “You’re also—”
“And you seem like a nice guy.” I interrupt.
He smiles. “I appreciate that. You seem like a—”
“But I’m not looking for a nice guy.”
“No. I’m not looking for any guy.”
He looks down and laughs good-naturedly. “So why are we—?”
“I’m using you.”
His laughter stops.
He removes my hand.
His dark eyes land on mine.
Whoa. When he looks at me like that, I feel completely naked. In fairness, I am practically naked right now, but I mean more in the emotional sense, in the oh-my-God-he-can-see-deep-into-my-soul sense.
He stays completely still and silent, giving no clue as to what he’s thinking or what he’s going to do next.
“I’m not interested in anything beyond what we do here tonight, okay, James?” I continue. “Listen up because this is very important.”
His non-response seems to say, “Go on.”
“After tonight? If you ever run into me again, we pretend this never happened.”
I repeat myself. “We pretend this never happened.”
Geez. For a guy who couldn’t shut up a few minutes ago, he’s now fully committed to his silence.
“Got it?” I say with more force than necessary, but suddenly, I can’t get myself to look directly at him.
He closes the distance between us, climbs his fingers into my hair, and gives it a tug, gently forcing me to look up at him.
Tingles cascade down my spine.
He tilts his head slightly.
His lips are barely an inch from mine.
His warm breath caresses my skin.
“Then I guess we’ll need to make tonight count, won’t we?”
Now I’m the silent one.
All I can do is nod.
“Let’s do this, Cold Brew.”
That first meeting between James and Louise really got me – I understood where she was coming from but my heart went out to him and did so over & over again. He’s an honestly good guy and deserves someone who can appreciate him. And while Louise is obviously struggling with a few things, fate keeps throwing them together and it doesn’t take long for James to wiggle his way in making her think that maybe she can be that person.
While I would have liked to have seen more about Louise’s past relationships to truly understand her reluctance to get involved with James, the predicaments they find themselves in along the way more than made up for it. I was amused and engaged and always looking forward to “just one more chapter” so that’s a definite win for me.
This is my first book by Mallon but it won’t be my last. Sharkbait was funny and entertaining, with enjoyable characters and a satisfying HEA.
(Part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.)
Erin Mallon’s debut romantic comedy novel, Flirtasaurus, releases in July 2020. She is an award-winning narrator of over 450 books and an accomplished playwright and producer in New York City. She has written over 40 plays, which have been produced Off-Broadway and all over the country, including These Walls Can Talk, a raucous theatrical love letter to the romance audiobook community. She lives in a little yellow house on the outskirts of NYC with her husband and Three J’s.
Coen Highsmith was a league star, but he lost more than his team the day the Pittsburgh Titans’ plane crashed. Can he be saved from his downward spiral of guilt and regret to become the man he once was?
I had it all—a successful hockey career, the respect and adoration of the fans, a rotation of beautiful women warming my bed, and a feeling of self-worth and contentment with the direction of my life. But that all changed the day the team plane went down, taking my only chance of redemption with it. Now I’m left with the daily reminder of all my failures and my inability to correct them.
My new teammates are tired of my attitude and following my suspension, I hole up in a mountain cabin to get away from all of it. The isolation is exactly what I need to get out of my own head, and I’m beginning to think I could be content in this quiet forever.
Tillie Marshall isn’t the type of woman who would usually catch my attention, yet she manages to do so for all the wrong reasons. I’m here for the peace and seclusion but the quirky artist is hell-bent on destroying that by cutting down the trees that separate our properties so she can open a pottery studio. If it’s a fight she wants, it’s a fight she’ll get. I have the money and the time and no issues bringing her down through the court system. While I see flashes of steely determination within her, I’ve found that being a jerk comes naturally these days and she won’t be hard to intimidate.
Unfortunately, that gorgeous and somewhat odd neighbor who has been causing me grief is creating another type of feeling within me. And once that spark is lit, Tillie displays a faith in me that for the first time since the crash I desperately want to believe. Now it’s time for me to step up and become the man—no, a better man than I once was.
As a returning reader I was looking forward to Coen’s story, to finding out what was behind his behavior. There’s a lot of survivor’s guilt, but more is going on than that and it’s affecting every aspect of his life. He needs some time on his own to figure out where he’s going from here, but it’s not long before he’s butting heads with his cheeky neighbor.
Tillie isn’t going to let Coen walk all over her or let his a$$hole tendencies get her down. Willing to go toe to toe with him and call him on his crap, it doesn’t take her long to get under his skin. And it leads to all sorts of fun.
I really enjoyed these two together. Coen is behaving like an a$$hole but he recognizes that it’s a reflection of his guilt and feeling of unworthiness. While he doesn’t see a way out of the place he’s found himself in, his innate good and caring (and cocky) nature finds moments to come out, especially around his new neighbor. And over time, with the help of friends, he’s reevaluating whether this is his new normal after all. It’s satisfying to see him find his way back and a way forward with Tillie by his side.
New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Sawyer Bennett uses real life experience to create relatable stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From contemporary romance, fantasy romance, and both women’s and general fiction, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.
A former trial lawyer from North Carolina, when she is not bringing fiction to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to her very adorable daughter, as well as full-time servant to her wonderfully naughty dogs.
If you’d like to receive a notification when Sawyer releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter (sawyerbennett.com/signup).
Return to Hope’s Crossing this Christmas in New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne’s latest heartwarming story of matchmaking at the holidays!
All Is Bright
Hope’s Crossing series
by RaeAnne Thayne
Publication Date: September 20, 2022
Sage McKnight is an ambitious young architect working at her father’s firm who takes on her most challenging client in Mason Tucker. The former pro baseball player is still healing from the physical and emotional scars after a plane crash left him a wheelchair-using single dad, and he’s determined not to let anyone breach his emotional defenses. Sage knows her work on Mason’s new home in Hope’s Crossing is her best work yet, and she won’t let her grumpy client prevent her from showcasing her work personally.
With Sage’s gift for taking broken things and making them better, the matchmaking talent of the quirky locals and a generous sprinkling of Christmas cheer, Mason doesn’t stand a chance against the power of this magical holiday season.
“We’re now walking into the home theater,” she spoke to her outstretched camera, “one of the more challenging rooms of the renovation. Prior to this update, the room had a series of steps leading to the different levels of recliners. Obviously, that would no longer work for the homeowner, so we chose to remove the steps completely, instead building a gradual slope with room to maneuver around each level of seating. Beyond featuring state-of-the-art electronics that will be easily upgradeable, everything in here—from the blackout window shades to the sound system to the recliners themselves—can be controlled through a single smart home phone app.”
She turned the camera to face her. “Doesn’t this look like a wonderfully cozy place to watch a movie or catch your favorite sporting event?”
She smiled into the phone camera, then moved back into the wide hallway leading to the library/office, her own favorite spot in the house.
“You can see here we have sliding pocket doors that open and close with the push of a button. We chose to replace the traditional doors in many of the spaces with these pocket doors, which gives more room for the homeowner to navigate, and we also…”
Her words trailed off as she heard a sound behind her and turned to see a large, dark-haired man using a wheelchair, framed in the doorway.
He frowned, an expression she had become all too used to seeing there, during their few in-person interactions and their more frequent video conferences.
“What are you doing?” he demanded. “You’re not filming this, are you?”
Sage dropped her phone with an inward wince and stopped recording. Technically, this was still her job site, which meant she had full permission to check on the progress of the work until they handed the finished home over to the owner, who happened to be this man, former professional baseball player Mason Tucker.
With effort, she forced herself not to show any of her dismay. Out of all the clients she had worked with during her career thus far, Mason Tucker was the only one who made her palms sweat and her stomach feel knotted with stress.
“Mr. Tucker. Um, hi.” She forced a smile, feeling awkward as hell and wishing she had waited until the contractor would be here to take a tour.
“I haven’t been here in weeks and wanted to document the progress that has been made since I visited last. I didn’t see any vehicles outside and assumed everybody was gone for the day.”
“I’m parked in the garage of the guesthouse.”
“I didn’t even know you were in town. Have you been here long?”
The last she knew, Mason had been living in Portland, where he had once played for the same baseball team as another town resident, Spencer Gregory, who was married to Sage’s friend Charlotte. Sage knew Spence and Mason had remained friends, despite life circumstances that had led to both of them retiring.
For a moment, she wasn’t sure Mason would reply, then he finally shrugged. “I wanted to be close as we started to wrap things up so I can keep an eye on things and be on hand if there are any questions or problems. My daughter and I moved into the guesthouse a month ago.”
Why hadn’t her dad or Sam Delgado told her Mason was already living in Hope’s Crossing?
Beyond that, she suddenly thought, how in the world was he making the guesthouse work? That place wasn’t at all wheelchair accessible, with three steps leading into the place, narrow hallways and no accessible bathroom like those she had designed for this main house.
Renovating the guesthouse was part of the master plan but not until all the work was finished on Wolf Ridge itself.
“That place is a mess. How are you getting around?”
“I’m managing,” he said, his voice curt. “I can still get around on crutches, as long as I don’t have to go far.”
“You shouldn’t have to go far, from one end of the guesthouse to the other. It’s tiny.” She imagined a man Mason’s size would make the space shrink to almost nothing.
“It works fine for me and Grace. It’s only a few more weeks anyway, right?”
Sam Delgado had assured her when they spoke earlier that the renovations to Wolf Ridge would be finished shortly before Christmas.
Sage had to admit, she wouldn’t be sorry to put the job behind her.
While she was thrilled with the way her designs had transformed the mountain estate, working with Mason Tucker himself was another story.
She tried to be compassionate. Whenever she grew frustrated with him, she would remind herself that Mason had endured the sort of tragedy that would have completely destroyed someone without his resilience. While she was only charged with renovating this house, Mason had to completely rebuild his life.
He had every right to be surly and uncooperative.
While she might know that intellectually, it was difficult to remember when she was dealing with yet another last-minute change order.
Still, he had superb taste and basically unlimited financial resources. In a few more weeks, when the job was finished, Wolf Ridge would meet his needs now and long into the future.
The home now featured a new indoor pool, spa and high-tech exercise room on the bottom level, two new elevators at either end of the house and heated floors throughout. Wolf Ridge also featured a kitchen that worked for people of any mobility level and wheelchair accessible bathrooms on each level, including the extensive owner’s suite on the second floor.
Sage loved everything about this house, from the skylights to the beams her dad had mentioned to the wider doorways and hallways. It was warm, luxurious, comfortable.
She wanted to show off her work to the world. The only trick would be convincing the intensely private Mason Tucker.
Faced with his glower now, Sage felt as if she faced a Herculean task.
She had to try, though, didn’t she?
Her fledgling internet show had exploded in popularity over the past year, allowing her foundation and personal pet project to help far more deserving people than she had ever envisioned.
Sage could only imagine the vast number of views—and thus ad revenue—a video featuring Wolf Ridge would bring in. People would love a glimpse inside the house redesigned for the reclusive and private Mason Tucker.
The public still clamored to know everything it could about the former professional athlete who had endured so much physical and emotional pain.
If she could showcase Wolf Ridge on the Homes for All internet channel, she would also bring awareness to some of the issues and obstacles noninclusive design presented to those with mobility challenges.
She drew in a breath, not sure where to start. Yes, he would likely slap her down but she wouldn’t know unless she asked, right?
“The progress while I’ve been overseas is amazing. I can’t believe how different everything looks, with the finish work and the new flooring.”
“Sam and his subs have put in some long hours.”
“It shows. And Jean-Paul tells me he’s going to have nearly all the furnishings ready to go in a few more weeks, except for a few custom pieces.”
“That’s what he tells me.”
“I can’t see any reason you and Grace can’t move in before Christmas. How exciting!”
A shrug was his only response, which she supposed was about as eloquent as Mason Tucker could be.
She stuck her hands into the pockets of her wool coat.
He was going to say no. She knew it and braced herself for it.
“There’s no easy way for me to ask you this so I’m going to come straight out with it.” She drew in a breath. “For the past year, I’ve hosted a YouTube channel, Homes for All, which features projects with the kind of innovative universal design elements we have tried to incorporate here at Wolf Ridge.”
He raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“While it’s called Homes for All, we feature commercial as well as residential projects. I hope to continue raising awareness of how limiting and even discriminatory some design practices can be for those who are, er, differently abled.”
He again said nothing, only continued to look at her out of those hard blue eyes that concealed his emotions completely.
“I have poured so much energy into Wolf Ridge, and I’m absolutely thrilled with the way the house has turned out. It’s everything I dreamed and more. I feel like more people should see it. Don’t you? I would absolutely love to feature your home on my channel.”
She held her breath, hands curled inside her pockets.
As she might have predicted, he didn’t leave her waiting long for his answer.
“Hell no,” he said with blunt finality, then turned away and started to roll back down the hall so abruptly she could only stare at him.
After a moment, she pursued him. This was too important to give up at the first obstacle. “Just like that? You don’t even want to hear the details?”
He paused and maneuvered to face her. “Why waste both our time? I don’t need to hear the details. Whatever you have to say doesn’t matter. My answer will remain a hard no.”
The man was impossible. Her grandfather Harry might have called him pigheaded, but Sage preferred the more diplomatic obstinate.
And yes, how could she blame him for that? Mason was trying to rebuild a life for himself and his daughter in Hope’s Crossing, away from the prying eyes of the tabloid press. She already knew he was an intensely private man. He had made her sign a nondisclosure agreement before even talking to her about what he wanted done at the house.
She might have been more surprised if he had agreed to let her feature his house on her channel.
Still, she had never been good at taking no for an answer. She could be every bit as pigheaded as Mason Tucker. She figured she had inherited that from Harry Lange himself.
“What I love most about your home is how seamlessly we have managed to integrate the new design into the existing structure without altering the basic style and grace of the home,” she said. “I’m sure you can agree that the changes will benefit everyone who lives here, not only you.”
“Sure,” he said after a moment. “You definitely know what you’re doing. The house is exactly what I wanted. That still doesn’t mean I want the whole world peering in at the transfer bars in the shower or the damn lift I need to use so I can get in and out of my spa.”
Sage was so caught up in the first part of what he said, the unexpected praise coming from her difficult client, that she almost missed the second part.
“That’s exactly what I try to showcase on my channel. When done right, universal design can blend with the overall style of a home or commercial property, small and sometimes barely noticeable changes but enough to make a huge difference to those who need them.”
“No,” he said again. “Judging by how seldom you’re here, you must have other projects. You can focus on those.”
“I have. You can watch the videos online. We have about thirty of them up now. But Wolf Ridge is the most ambitious residential renovation I’ve ever undertaken. Most people would never have poured the kind of resources you have into making such extensive changes to an existing structure. They would have sold the house as is and built a custom home somewhere else. Because of the location and the basic sound structure of the house, you chose to renovate instead. The results are beautiful, and I want the whole world to see it.”
“And I don’t,” he said bluntly. “I don’t need to give the whole damn world any more reasons to pity me.”
A muscle clenched along his jaw, and Sage felt immediately ashamed of herself for her selfishness at wanting to showcase her best work here.
Her motives weren’t completely selfish, she amended. Yes, she was proud of her work on Wolf Ridge. This project, more than any other she had been part of, might help her begin to emerge from her father’s huge and well-earned shadow.
It wasn’t easy being Jackson Lange’s daughter and trying to find her own way in the same field as one of the world’s most brilliant architectural minds.
That was the very reason she hadn’t taken Jack’s surname, even after they reconnected. She still went by Sage McKnight, the name she’d always had. She didn’t want to be known first as Jackson Lange’s daughter, with the weight of all those expectations on her. She wanted to succeed on her own.
Beyond that, she was doing good work with Homes for All. She knew she was making a difference in people’s lives, not only by changing minds about universal design but by changing lives.
Should she tell Jackson Lange that Homes for All was also the name of her foundation, funded by the ad revenue her videos generated online? The purpose was to help people who couldn’t otherwise afford to make necessary changes to their living spaces when age or health issues impacted mobility.
No. She didn’t want to guilt him into letting her invade his privacy by showcasing Wolf Ridge.
“Will you at least think about it?” she finally said. “You don’t have to decide anything right this moment.”
He shrugged. “I can think about it from now until Christmas. I won’t change my mind. My house, my decision. You can take all the pictures and video you want for your own personal use but if you post them online, I’ll sue your ass for breaking our nondisclosure agreement.”
He wheeled away without another word, leaving Sage to gaze after him with helpless frustration.
She hadn’t really expected any other answer, but she had hoped.
Her watch alarm dinged, and she glanced down at the reminder she had set. She was supposed to be at her mother’s bookstore and coffeehouse, Books & Brew, in ten minutes.
She quickly shot a few more images then walked back out into the December twilight.
Thayne’s newest is all you could want in a holiday read. Chock-full of small town charm, with likable characters and a heartwarming story, it’s tender, heartwarming, and brimming with emotion.
Mason is struggling with his new physical limitations, the loss of his wife and his career, being a single dad, and having his estranged mother come back into his life. It’s a lot and throwing in an attraction to his architect is making it even more complicated. But the more time they spend together the harder he finds it to resist her.
There’s also a secondary story of childhood friends who are struggling with letting the past control their present. Together with the main plotline, it helps to highlight Thayne’s feel-good story full of fortitude, grief, and forgiveness.
(Part of a series and can be read as a stand alone but returning readers will enjoy meeting old friends again.)
RaeAnne Thayne is the #1 Publisher’s Weekly, New York Times, and USA TODAY bestselling author of nearly seventy books. Her books have been described as “poirgnant and sweet,” with “beautiful, honest storytelling that goes straight to the heart.” She finds inspiration from the beautiful northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her family. She loves to hear from readers and can be reach through her webiste at raeannethayne.com.
If you love single-parent romances, you won’t want to miss Always Her Love, an emotionally gripping, funny, and sinfully-hot story of forbidden love, with a much deserved and epic happily ever after. Fall in love on the sandy shores of Silver Island, home to coffee shops, boat races, midnight rendezvous, and the sexy, sharp-witted Steeles. They have a penchant for pranks, a passion for loyalty, and a trunk full of secrets. All Steele novels may be enjoyed as standalone romances.
Always Her Love
The Steeles at Silver Island
Releasing Sept 21, 2022
World Literary Press
Some fates are too tempting to deny…
“I’m pregnant. It’s yours. I’m having it, and unless you want it, I’m putting it up for adoption.” Those were the words that changed Levi Steele’s life before he was even legally allowed to drink. There was never any question about whether he would keep his daughter, and eight years later, he doesn’t have a single regret. He owns a successful contracting company, he’s part of the Dark Knights motorcycle club, and Joey’s happiness is his top priority. None of that would be possible without the help of Joey’s beautiful and selfless aunt Tara, who’s going to be staying with them over spring break and who he’s been thinking about in ways he shouldn’t. But Tara’s older sister is Joey’s birth mother, and she’s the last woman the dirty-talking biker should want to get his hands on.
Tara Osten has been crushing on Levi for as long as she can remember. He’s a loving father, a loyal friend, someone with whom she can always be herself, and six-plus feet of deliciously hard, tattooed muscle. At twenty-four, she’s finally realized he will never see her as more than his baby mama’s younger sister. It’s time to let go of her lustful fantasies starring Levi Steele and move on with her life. Step one: Buy her own place and start dating. Step two: Survive spring break without falling harder for the one man she can never have.
I felt for Tara every step of the way. She’s struggled all her life with the way her own mother and sister treat her, but the care Levi has always shown her captured her little girl heart and her feelings for him have only gotten deeper over the years. Then he breaks that heart by having a baby with her sister. But his total devotion to his daughter just adds to his appeal, which means getting over him is going to be harder than she ever imagined.
Levi may be an amazing dad but he really needs to work on his communication skills. Early on there were so many times I wanted to yell at him – I kinda get where he was going but he definitely made a muddle of things. If I were Tara I definitely would have been so confused and hurt. Once he steps up and takes a chance, though, things definitely get moving. He throws himself totally into the relationship with Tara, being what she needs him to be and respecting her, while also giving her the occasional push she needs.
Tara may have needed a little extra love and support to reach her full potential but once she does she owns it. And Levi’s heart. He may take a bit to realize it but once he does he gives her his all and it’s sexy as can be. Steamy, emotional, and entertaining, Always Her Love shows once again that Foster knows how to bring her readers characters to root for and a HEA that is worth waiting for.
(Can be read as a stand alone but there are a lot of characters from other books.)
Melissa Foster is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today bestselling author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.
Gotta Be Bayou, an all-new grumpy-sunshine, small town romance from New York Times bestselling author Erin Nicholas is now available!
Gotta Be Bayou
Badges of the Bayou series
by Erin Nicholas
How do you get over a woman you never should have been, ahem, under in the first place?
Just when FBI special agent Spencer Landry had decided to forget about investigative journalist Maxine-Max-Keller and their one hot night together, there’s a threat made against her and Spencer’s protective instincts get all riled up. Again.
So now they’re shacking up on the Louisiana bayou and pretending to be in love so he can keep Max safe until the guy is apprehended.
Considering their chemistry and that he can not stop thinking about the gorgeous-and-doesn’t-know-it, smart-mouthed, bold-and-yet-vulnerable redhead, this could be a fun few days, right?
Nope. She’s all wrong for him.
And she hasn’t forgotten he can be kind of a jerk.
Sure, the naked-times are great, but he told her exactly what he wants— a bubbly, sweet school teacher who bakes him brownies and loves to cuddle—and Max ain’t it.
Max not only doesn’t bake, no one has ever called her sweet. And cuddling? Shudder.
Plus his bossiness is super annoying for someone who’s been taking care of herself all her life. But now they’re stuck together and dammit, besides being hot and very good with his mouth, Spencer is pretty irresistible with baby goats, little kids, and attempts at baking. And don’t forget alpha-protective. All of which makes her stomach feel very swoop-y. No wonder her clothes keep falling off.
But this is a temporary situation and they’re only faking it. So falling for the guy is a terrible idea.
Well, her feet were on him anyway. Actually, her legs from the knees down.
She’d started just propped against the opposite end of the couch, with her crossword puzzle book open on the arm. She’d mostly focused on the puzzle, but he’d noticed her smiling and even laughing a couple of times at the TV.
Eventually, she’d propped her head on her hand and just watched. Then her eyes started drifting shut. Then her head was on the arm of the couch.
But when she wanted to get comfortable, she got comfortable.
She’d scooted down to rest her head on the couch cushion and stretched out. Including putting her feet in Spencer’s lap.
He’d had to catch her heels in his hands to keep her from kicking him in the balls.
And then he’d just held her feet, rubbing his thumbs along the arches of her feet, and absorbing the sound of her contented sigh and loving the way she cuddled deeper into the couch.
He’d wanted her to feel safe and be comfortable and relaxed.
The woman was sound asleep.
At 8:30 p.m.
The episode ended and Spencer realized he didn’t remember a thing from what he’d watched. He’d been paying attention to Max.
Of course he’d started with the way her soft cotton shorts molded to the curve of her hips and ass. The way the matching tank hugged her waist and breasts. There was no way he could have ignored that. He was drawn to this woman and the part that didn’t confuse him was his attraction to her body.
Now, having those sweet curves within touching distance again and barely covered, absolutely drew his attention. But with her asleep, and him unable to really do anything, he also had the chance to simply study her up close.
Her eyelashes were pale and had a reddish hue. Of course they did. She was a redhead. But he’d never thought about the color of a woman’s eyelashes before. Now he was fascinated. Did she wear mascara? He was going to have to pay attention to see the next time she was awake.
She stirred, shifting, moving her feet against his hands and he stroked a hand up one calf. It wasn’t perfectly smooth. There was just a slight prickle, but he didn’t mind at all. In fact, he wanted to feel that against his thighs and hips as she wrapped her legs around him. It was real and he wanted to feel her legs in every stage from freshly shaved to haven’t-had-a-chance-for-days.
Wow, she was truly asleep. He should make her go to bed.
“Max?” he asked softly.
She didn’t even wiggle.
“Max?” he asked a little louder, squeezing her foot gently.
She just breathed in deeply, then out.
He should just carry her into bed. He could just scoop her up and take her into the bedroom.
Spencer shifted her legs so he could stand. Then he leaned over. She was on her side, so he pushed gently against her shoulder, rolling her to her back. She went with a sigh, one hand moving to rest on her chest. Perfect. Spencer slid an arm under her knees and one behind her back.
And everything was great until he started to lift.
She came awake suddenly. She kicked her legs, flailed her arms, and her head lifted instinctively to look around. Her forehead hit Spencer in the chin. Hard.
His head snapped back and his teeth clamped down on his tongue.
“Fuck!” he swore in surprised pain.
“Ahhh!” she yelled.
She was still kicking and waving her arms and he unceremoniously dropped her one foot back onto the couch cushions.
“Max! It’s me!”
She kicked out, her shin connecting with his thigh.
That fucking hurt too.
“Max!” He pinned her arms down against the couch. “Max! It’s Spencer!”
Her eyes were wide and not fully focused.
She just yelled again. “Ahhhhh!”
Dammit. The cottage next door was going to think they needed to call the cops.
Which was Zander.
Spencer did not want Zander showing up here, grinning and smirking and writing up a report about how Spencer had tried to sweetly carry Max to bed and she’d thought he was attacking her.
“Maxine!” he said sharply, putting a leg across hers to keep her from kicking and, against his better judgement, placing a hand over her mouth. “Stop it. It’s me.”
Her eyes flew to his as he put his face directly in front of hers.
She suddenly went still. Her gaze focused and she stopped moving and he felt her pull in a long breath.
He waited another few seconds, making sure that she realized who was holding her down.
Slowly he removed his hand. “Okay?” he asked.
She drew in another long breath and blew it out. She nodded. “Yeah.”
“Holy shit, Max.”
“You were sleeping like the dead, so I decided to carry you into the bedroom. And you turned into the Tasmanian devil.”
“Well, I’m not used to people picking me up in the middle of the night.”
That made him chuckle. “It’s not even 9 p.m.”
He liked that she was at a loss for words. That was unusual.
Slowly, he became aware of the fact that he was pinning her to the couch. With almost his entire body.
In spite of the fact that she’d been fighting off an intruder in her imagination and he’d been fearing for his manhood, his eyes, nose, and jaw, it didn’t take long for his body to register that this felt really nice.
The couch was big enough for the two of them to lie together. He wasn’t entirely on top of her, but almost half of him was pinning more than half of her to the cushions.
“I, um… didn’t mean to squash you. Self-preservation instinct.”
She smiled. “You’re not squashing me.” Her voice was soft and a little breathless.
Their gazes locked. “I did this, honestly, to keep you from hurting me or yourself. But mostly me.”
She wet her lips and nodded. “I believe you.”
“So, I could probably get up now. You seem a lot more calm.”
“Funny, I don’t exactly feel calm.”
His heart kicked against his rib cage. A moment ago she’d been ready to claw his eyes out. The moment before that she’d been so deeply asleep that she hadn’t realized he was even there. But now, her gaze was hot and she was breathing fast, and she was definitely not wearing a bra with this pajama set.
Spencer’s entire body responded. “You fell asleep really fast. And very deep,” he said, his voice husky.
“I often fall asleep on the couch. Never that deeply, though. I guess I felt really safe with you.”
Damn, he liked that. He felt the corner of his mouth curl. “Until I tried to pick you up.”
“Honestly the cop part of me is very glad that your instinct is to fight hard when someone does something unexpected.”
“Good.” She gave a little nod. “I guess that means you just need to be sure I’m expecting anything you do.”
He nodded slowly and his gaze dropped to her mouth. “Good idea. For instance, if I was going to kiss you, I should make sure that you knew that.”
She nodded. “Right.”
“I’m going to kiss you.”
Nicholas is the best at bringing zaniness, steam, and emotion to her stories. There were laugh-out-loud moments, more than a few of sweetness, and quite a bit heat, but also a few things that made my heart hurt.
Max pretty much has been on her own all her life. Left alone a lot as a kid, she had to learn to fend for herself. It’s turn her into a very capable adult, but it also means that she has trouble letting people in. Then she meets Spencer. Spencer who has a very definite idea of what his ideal partner will be like and she’s nothing like Max. Only he can’t stop thinking about her. Wanting her. And she’s feeling the same.
Both Spencer and Max have a few things to work through and I have to say one of my favorite things is how they resolve their issues. I love when an author avoids the idea that love can fix anything. Instead, Max and Spencer handle things in a mature & healthy fashion which made this reader very happy. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of the badges.
(First book in a spinoff series, can be read as a stand alone but there are a lot of people to meet for the first time and figure out how they are all related. Even after reading most of the books, it was difficult for me a time or two 🙂 )
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Erin Nicholas has been writing romances almost as long as she’s been reading them. To date, she’s written over thirty sexy, contemporary novels that have been described as “toe-curling,” “enchanting,” “steamy,” and “fun.” She adores reluctant heroes, imperfect heroines, and happily ever afters.
Erin lives in the Midwest, where she enjoys spending time with her husband (who only wants to read the sex scenes in her books), her kids (who will never read the sex scenes in her books), and her family and friends (who claim to be “shocked” by the sex scenes in her books).
My sisters are always the ones who catch a guy’s eye at first sight. I’m used to attracting guys because I’m funny, or kind, or have a beautiful face. Never has my curvy figure drawn the attention of a man as hot as Noah.
But the second he stepped foot into my small town Alaskan inn, his gaze swept over me with desire, igniting a flame I thought was dead. He flirted with me, and I might’ve left two chocolates on his pillow at turndown, but that’s where it stayed.
Over the years, he’s floated in and out of town while a friendship developed between us. Which is probably for the best because I’m not a one-night stand kind of woman.
Which is funny because when he propositions me to be his fake fiancé in order to end a family feud, it turns out I am the kind of woman willing to pretend to be the one he’s in love with.
Both Noah and Mandi are good people with good hearts, they just find themselves quickly over their heads with their fake but quickly turning real relationship. Their conflict and the struggle with their attraction to each other, only to fall into bed (and love) together even knowing that things are going to end poorly, is charming and heartwarming. You have to be ok with fake relationship stories to really get into this one because there is a lot of lying, hiding, and guilt associated with what they are doing. But it is worth it to see their connection blossom as they slowly work their way to a HEA.
Piper Rayne is a USA Today Bestselling Author duo who write “heartwarming humor with a side of sizzle” about families, whether that be blood or found. They both have e-readers full of one-clickable books, they’re married to husbands who drive them to drink, and they’re both chauffeurs to their kids. Most of all, they love hot heroes and quirky heroines who make them laugh, and they hope you do, too!
She drives him crazy and he’s falling crazy in love.
Matchmaking a Single Dad, a hilarious, hot single dad romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank and USA Today bestselling author Angela Casella writing as Angela Denise, is out now!
Matchmaking a Single Dad
Highland Hills #2
by Angela Denise
They’re all wrong for each other…but sometimes two wrongs do make a right.
The only woman I need in my life is my eight-year-old daughter, Jane. As a widowed brewery owner, I don’t have the time or inclination for anything more serious than a one night stand. Running the brewery is a big job, and being a parent is a bigger one, especially since my in-laws keep trying to prove I’m an unfit guardian.
But there’s no denying Holly Mayberry drives me crazy with her sassy mouth and attitude. I’ve known her most of my life, but I’ve always done a good job of evading her. Until now. She’s teaching Jane’s after-school computer program, and fate keeps throwing us together.
Holly and I are like oil and water, no good for each other. I need to stop thinking about her, so I agree to beta test a new dating app—one that Holly designed, although she’s the last person I’d tell.
My match and I can only DM each other for thirty days. No photos. No real names. No personal information until the end.
If I wanted more with a woman, Cherry Bomb checks all the boxes…so why can’t I stop thinking about Holly?
Cole Garrison is a jerk. Or so I’ve told myself for years. The truth is, he’s a DILF and a half, and bickering with him is better than kissing someone else.
Hopefully, the guy I’m chatting up on my dating app will help me forget him…and take his place in my dirty daydreams.
Download your copy today on Amazon or Free in Kindle Unlimited!
The door opens, and the teacher sponsoring Tech Time, Mrs. Applebaum, comes in, followed by a boy and three little girls. Four. That’s not so bad. That’s two each for Mikey and me. I give him a we can do this look, but his expression has soured like milk left out too long. Mrs. Applebaum takes care of getting the kids into the room, which is its own brand of chaos, and then she claps her hands, her expression changing from frazzled to upbeat, and says, “There. Now I’ll leave them in your capable hands.”
“Wait,” Mikey says with alarm, rocking on his feet, “you’re not staying?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’re quite capable of holding down the fort. I’ll check in with you toward the end.”
“Are you sure—” I start, but I’m cut off by the closing of the door.
“Hi, I’m Eloise,” one of the kids says. She’s a little girl in a button-up shirt with pearl buttons that go up so high I’m surprised it’s not choking her.
Oh, yeah. Introductions. “I’m Holly,” I say, gesturing broadly to Mikey, “and this is Mikey. Why don’t you all pick computer stations?”
“Aren’t we supposed to call you Miss Holly and Mr. Mikey? Or by your last names?” Eloise asks as the kids get seated.
They’ve barely had time to introduce themselves before the door bursts open, revealing a newly harried looking Mrs. Applebaum, followed by none other than Cole Garrison himself and his small, dark-haired daughter, Jane.
“No,” I say reflexively.
“No, what?” Jane asks. “Hey, Dad, that’s the woman you always argue with.”
It’s my turn for murder eyes, only I make them at Cole. Cole, who only got better with age, damn him. His wavy dark hair has been joined by a short, trimmed dark beard that perfectly frames his lips, as if saying, “please kiss here.” Those eyes are as puppy doggish as ever, and now he’s both tall and broad, the kind of man any woman would welcome in her bed. To her detriment. Because he’s still a jerk.
I’ve had a somewhat recent refresher course on his jerkitude, actually. Before I left for New York, I made the monumental mistake of trying to be nice to him, and it’s a tactic I’m not about to reprise.
“Will you be joining us, Jane?” I ask, my tone tight.
Cole mustn’t know the no-swearing-in-a-school rule either, because he curses under his breath. “I didn’t know you were teaching this class,” he says to me. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
“Excuse me,” I say. “I’m very qualified to teach a bunch of eight-year-olds Scratch.”
“It’s basic coding,” I say, glancing back at the other kids. “I’m going to teach y’all to make your own games. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
Please God, let them say yes.
There are a few enthusiastic nods, although Eloise instantly raises her hand again. Sighing, I nod at her. “Yes, Eloise?”
“Will there be a test?”
“No,” I say, “but we’ll be giving a presentation to the rest of the school before Christmas break.”
“Sounds like a test,” Jane mutters.
There’s probably no getting rid of her, and it’s not her fault that I have an issue with her father, so I say, “Why don’t you take a seat?”
She does, choosing the open seat near Mikey.
Cole scratches the back of his neck, looking at her. I guess Mrs. Applebaum is satisfied to have done her part, because she nods and says, “All right. That’s settled then. I’m going to my classroom. I’ll be back at the end of class.”
Does she have a flask in there or something? She seems suspiciously eager to get back to her desk.
“Can I talk to you for a second?” Cole asks. It takes me a second to realize he’s addressing me.
I gesture toward the children. Mikey is regarding them with escalating terror, probably because if I step out, he’ll be left in charge. “Not a great time, to state the obvious.” “Why are you doing that?” Jane asks Mikey, who’s tapping the side of her monitor agitatedly. “Do you have a nervous tic, or is there something wrong with the screen? If there’s something wrong with the screen, you probably shouldn’t have let me sit here.”
He mutters something about this being just like middle school.
“It’ll only take a second,” Cole says, his eyes burning into me. Despite myself, I feel a not unpleasant sense of awareness.
“Fine,” I say begrudgingly. “Mikey, get them to turn on their computers and draw up the program.” It’ll be easier for him to step up if there’s a concrete task to focus on.
I step out into the hall, and Cole takes several steps back, as if he feels the need to constantly keep a minimum distance between us. Fine by me. “What is it?” I ask tersely, shutting the door.
For a second, he just looks at me, and I’m about to lose patience when he finally says, “I know you don’t like me, Holly. But don’t take it out on my daughter.”
He might as well have punched me in the gut.
“Is that what you think of me? You think I’d be a creep to a little girl because she has the misfortune of being related to you? If anything, I’ll be nicer to her to make up for it.”
His expression suggests my shot has landed too, and I’m glad, but only temporarily.
The corner of his lips tip up in a self-deprecating smile that lacks any mirth. “You’re hardly the only person to think it’s her misfortune. I had to say it.”
“Did you?” I ask, tilting my head.
He takes a slight step toward me, as if preparing to tell me off, then says, “Goodbye, Holly.”
In my mind, I think of another day, of a young boy, still on his way toward becoming a man, saying, “I’ll be seeing you, Holly Mayberry.”
How the hell has it come to this?
I watch him go, partly because I want to make sure he really leaves and partly because he does, damn him, have a fine butt. No harm in looking, ladies.
I highly recommend anything written under the Angela Denise name. The characters are always interesting, things are never boring, and there’s a good mixture of humor and heat. Matchmaking the Single Dad holds true. The daughter is adorable, the heroine is sassy, and the hero is hunky – all combining to make a fun, and funny, read.
Holly and Cole have been picking at each other for years. Of course, we know it’s because they are perfect for each other but misunderstandings and missteps over the years have led them to this point. A place where spending time together because of Cole’s daughter means that they are going to have to address their feelings for each other. It’s definitely not smooth sailing – both of them are stubborn to say the least – but with the help of friends and family maybe they can finally find that HEA they’ve been waiting for.
Witty banter, tender moments, a spunky 7 year old, and a good amount steam kept me turning the pages and coming back for more. I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Mayberry siblings 🙂
(Part of a series but pretty easily stands on its own.)
About New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank and USA Today bestselling author Angela Casella writing as Angela Denise
ANGELA DENISE is the pen name for the writing duo Angela Casella and Denise Grover Swank.
ANGELA CASELLA loves writing romcoms, particularly with the lovely Denise Grover Swank. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, daughter, and two geriatric dogs. Her hobbies include herding her daughter toward less dangerous activities, stress baking, and marathon watching TV shows.
DENISE GROVER SWANK is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author and has sold over three million books. She indie published her first book, a romance mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, in 2011. She has since published over fifty novels, multiple novellas and short stories as an indie and with five publishers. She is published in seven languages. She is a single mother to six children and four dogs and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.
From New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster comes The Whiskeys: Dark Knights at Redemption Ranch, a new small-town, big-family series of standalone romance novels featuring fiercely loyal, insanely sexy bikers who give horses—and people—a second chance. Buckle up for a wild ride in Hope Ridge, Colorado, as these big-hearted badasses and their sassy sisters wrangle in their forever loves. No cliffhangers, no cheating, and always a happily ever after.
She’s the only woman he’s ever loved, and the one he could never have…
Years after losing one of their best friends to a dare gone wrong, Devlin “Dare” Whiskey continues to live up to his name, endlessly testing fate, while Billie Mancini buried the best parts of herself. Billie is beautiful and tough, and battling demons Dare has no idea exist. But Dare is done watching her pretend to be something she’s not and takes on his most important challenge yet—showing the woman he loves that some dares are worth the risk.
So I’m not sure biker stories are for me, but I keep coming back because Foster is just THAT engaging. Most of the time her heroines are sassy and strong, while the men are all alpha and protective. Every once in a while though they stray into territory that just turns me off. I’m gonna clutch my pearls here and say that the women move into bitchy instead of assertive and the men are ill-mannered (occasionally gross) a-holes. Buuuut usually if I push through it things get better, which is what happened here. In the beginning I didn’t like either Dare or Billie but within a chapter or so I found myself really rooting for them to figure things out.
Both are adrenaline junkies, always have been, but a tragic accident has caused Billie to draw into herself and try everything she can to bury that part of herself. And that includes cutting Dare out of her life. You totally feel for her as she finds herself drowning in her grief and guilt. The girl really needs to talk to a professional. Good thing her former bestie is a therapist and he’s done letting her push everyone away.
There’s a ton of big feels as Billie comes to terms with her past and embraces the person she used to be with the support of Dare and all her family & friends. There’s a few bumps along the way for them but with patience maybe they can find that HEA together.
Melissa Foster is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.
It all started with a song. Two neighbors singing duets in the shower finally meet at an open mic night. Sparks fly, but will it lead to true love?
The walls in my new apartment are so thin that I can clearly hear my neighbor singing in his shower. Sounds annoying, right? Well, believe it or not, he actually has a really great voice and doing duets with him is quickly becoming the best part of my day. We’ve never met, but the hopeless romantic in me is spinning high hopes for our first encounter.
Imagine my surprise while performing at my open mic one night, the cutie in the audience who captivates me introduces himself as my duet-singing neighbor. Not only does he have the voice of an angel, but he has the face to match. Then, be still my romantic heart, his wicked sense of humor makes him even more attractive. I’m ready for our happily ever after, but he needs some convincing.
Will I be able to come up with the right playlist to persuade him to give our perfect duet a chance?
How odd am I? I’m a “fall in love with my neighbor before I’ve ever met him” level of awkward aardvark. But in my defense, this mystery man has a golden voice that gives me chills even in the hottest of showers. My dreams center around meeting him someday, but I’m way too shy to knock on his door and introduce myself. Besides, he’d never be interested in somebody like me who lacks a filter and any social graces, right?
When I go to an open mic night, I hear an all too familiar voice. I look up and see a beautiful man that I am quickly realizing is my favorite duet partner, AKA my new neighbor. Holy frickenfrack, he’s a “make me forget the entirety of the English language” type of gorgeous. And for some inexplicable reason, he seems interested in me, despite the fact I’m embarrassingly lacking in experience with romance, dating, and late-night escapades. Adding that laundry list of cluelessness together means I don’t know the first thing about how to be someone’s boyfriend. Thankfully, Levi is an excellent teacher. So much so that he also introduces me to a whole new world of lace, love, and learning how to embrace my uniqueness.
Thank you, super-thin apartment walls. Can my life get any better than this?
Make Music Together is the second book in the Harmony of Hearts series and part of the Sunnyside universe. This novel features a neighbors to lovers, insta love, musician, first time, opposites attract, gay romance. If you love cute sweetness, sexy fun, and no angst stories that will make you laugh and swoon, you’ll enjoy this satisfying HEA without cliffhangers. Each book can be read as a standalone or as part of the series in order.
Like Play by Heart, Make Music Together is best enjoyed by those who are good with insta-love (and a lot and a lot of hot sex). Levi and Noctis have a connection through their mutual love of music but they haven’t met each other yet. Once they do, though, things quickly heat up.
In between the lots (and lots) of sex is a sweet story of finding your confidence and learning to see your value. Noctis is quirky, nerdy, and introverted. Unfortunately he’s not really found the support he’s needed to fully embrace himself. But luck is on his side when he gets a new neighbor. Levi is all kinds of supportive, understanding, and empowering. Exactly what Noctis needs to get out of his head and to build himself up.
There’s a whole lot of heat in Zoelle’s stories but she also brings readers fun and feels while leaving the angst at the door. If you are looking for an easy read to spice up your night, the Sunnyside universe may have just what you are looking for.
Nearly two years after her divorce, Felicity Hawthorne is ready to date again. At least, she thinks she would be, if the idea of dating wasn’t so freaking terrifying. But then she wins a date with sexy, swoony firefighter Noah Prescott at a charity bachelor auction, and everything changes.
FDNY captain Noah isn’t looking for a relationship. Since losing his father as a teenager, he’s spent the past twenty years shouldering heavy responsibilities, and he knows he doesn’t have the time or energy to be anyone’s boyfriend. But one date with sweet, charming Felicity has him wanting things he shouldn’t want.
Which is why Noah suggests Felicity practice her budding dating skills with him. He wants more of her, and practice dates are as close as he can come to having her in his life without hurting her. But then dating practice turns into practice of another kind—the kind that involves moans and sighs and orgasms—and Noah knows he’s going to fall. Hard.
Felicity’s struggles with her self-confidence are no match for Noah’s sexy (occasionally foul-mouthed) determination. Their attraction is instant but not one they expected to go anywhere. Until they are thrown together at a bachelor auction. It’s adorable the way they try to convince themselves that things aren’t going to go the way we all know they will 🙂
Burning Up is sweet, sizzling, and low angst, with an adorable meet-cute and a conflict that’s telegraphed pretty much for the start. Which isn’t necessarily bad, it definitely helped make for an easy-read with a satisfying HEA.