Through Your Eyes
For Your Love #3
By: Shannyn Schroeder
Releasing May 30, 2017
ONE LAST CHANCE
Deirdre Murphy has had her life planned for her since she was born: Work in her parents’ noisy pub in rural Ireland. Live with her family until she marries. Marry her childhood sweetheart ASAP, since he’s decided sexy fun time should wait for marriage. None of it excites her. But before her fate closes in, Deirdre’s got one last visit to her Chicago cousins—where she can spend her mornings in a peaceful bakery, keep to herself, and savor the space she needs…. Until she meets Tommy O’Malley.
Tommy is as tough as his city and twice as ready to welcome her in. He’s covered in tattoos, stays up half the night inking them on other people, and has a reputation for being good with his hands. And he’s heart-pounding, forgot-her-words, can’t-stop-staring exciting.
Tommy knows he’s the opposite of everything Deirdre has prepared for. But to watch her set herself free, he’s willing to risk almost anything…
“Is your aunt home?”
“Not sure.” She peered over his shoulder to look for Aunt Eileen’s car. “Why?”
“She scares me a little.”
Deirdre laughed. “My mother has the same effect on boys. It’s like they attended a mothering school that required a course in instilling fear in young men.”
“How did your boyfriend move past it?”
Deirdre unlocked the door and pushed it open. As she took off her jacket, she said, “He didn’t have to. His parents and mine are close friends. He grew up at the pub same as me.”
“Damn. That doesn’t help me at all.”
With her jacket on the hook near the closet, she locked the door behind them. “What do you need help with?”
“Making your aunt like me. Don’t get me wrong, I can charm some parents, but Mrs. O’Leary seems to be able to withstand the O’Malley charm.”
Deirdre crossed her arms. “And when exactly did you try to charm Aunt Eileen?”
“Not me. Jimmy. He says that until he proposed, Mrs. O’Leary gave him the cold shoulder. And, according to Moira, she liked Jimmy more than the rest of us.”
Deirdre laughed. “She did warn me to stay away from the O’Malley boys, no matter how charming they are.”
“Looks like I have my work cut out for me.”
“Thank you for lunch. I had a lovely time.”
“What about the cupcakes?”
“What about them?”
“You’re supposed to teach me to decorate.”
She rolled her eyes. “You don’t want to decorate.”
“You’re persistent, I’ll give you that.” She turned toward the kitchen, not a bit sad to spend more time with him. “Let’s get started then.”
Once more, Deirdre went through the kitchen and gathered ingredients, this time setting them by the stand mixer that she doubted Aunt Eileen ever used. Tommy said nothing, just continued to watch her intently. She tried to ignore the staring and the niggling worry about whether he’d ask her out again.
She didn’t know how to tell him that, over the course of the afternoon, she’d changed her mind about a date. It made her seem quite fickle, which went against how she saw herself.
With the butter and shortening in the mixer, she flipped the switch to blend them as she grabbed a couple of lemons out of the fridge.
Tommy pointed to the bowl. “What is that?”
“That will be the buttercream frosting.”
“But it’ll taste delicious.”
“I thought buttercream was all butter.”
“I use the shortening to make crusting buttercream. It’s a firmer frosting for decorating.”
“In our house, unless it’s from the bakery, frosting comes from a can and half gets eaten by spoon before making it onto a cake and the other half gets slapped on. There’s no real decorating to it.”
“That’s the way of most people. Making it from scratch isn’t difficult, but if you have no desire to decorate, there’s no point.” She stopped the mixer and added some sugar and lemon juice. While that mixed, she readied a piping bag. “I only have one bag, so you’ll have to watch.”
He gave her that wicked smile again. “I like to watch.”
She didn’t even know what he meant by that, but the way he spoke caused a warm rush through her body.
“Is there something specific you’d like to learn about decorating?”
“What’s your favorite thing to do?”
She didn’t even have to think. “Roses.”
“They’re the first thing I learned to do well. Probably because my middle name is Rose, so I wanted to learn it as kind of a signature thing. In addition, creating the roses is soothing. My mind can go to its own place while my hands work.”
“What are you on about?”
“When you talk like that. About something that’s important to you, Deirdre Rose. It’s not the matter-of-fact way you usually talk. You change.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had a drink at lunch.”
“Fine. Don’t believe me. Let’s get to the lesson.”
“Oh, I believe Aunt Eileen was right after all. You O’Malley boys are quite the charmers.”
“If you’re good, you’re good.”
She filled the pastry bag and grabbed a cupcake. Then she started to pipe the rose. When it was done, she handed it to Tommy.
“It’s almost too pretty to eat.”
“Nonsense. It’s meant to be enjoyed, not looked at.” She leaned forward and licked the top of the frosting off.
Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends finding love.
Her new series (For Your Love) currently has 2 titles out - Under Your Skin and In Your Arms.
When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies. Find out more at her Website.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
Edge of Truth
by Brynn Kelly
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tensions sizzle in this electrifying novel guaranteed to capture your heart and take your breath away. Fans of Julie Garwood, Suzanne Brockmann and Jayne Ann Krentz will devour this action-packed, emotionally stunning tour de force, where every page reveals another damning secret and daring gamble.
Rotting in an African dungeon is the last place journalist Tess Newell expected to find herself. As she's held hostage by the terrorist group she's investigating, Tess's salvation--and temptation--arrives in the form of another prisoner. A French Foreign Legionnaire with a sinful smile and too many secrets to be anything but dangerous. Yet she knows he's her only hope of surviving.
The Legion is the only family Flynn has. His sanctuary and his purgatory, after years spent in hell. When a mission goes south and Flynn is captured, it's not the enemy that worries him, but the brazen, alluring reporter whose prying questions threaten to bring down his world--and the walls he's built around his heart.
Yet after a daring escape, Flynn must risk it all and go on the run with Tess to retrieve the evidence she needs. The chemistry between them threatens to detonate but, with the enemy fast closing in, time is running out to unravel the truth from the lies in this deadly conspiracy…
After an award-winning twenty-year career as a journalist, Brynn Kelly has abandoned fact in favor of her first love, fiction.
She’s delighted that she gets to spend her days in a bubble of delicious words and fiendish plots, turning all those stranger-than-fiction news reports into larger-than-life romantic thrillers for HQN Books, a Harlequin/HarperCollins imprint.
Brynn has a journalism and communications degree and has won several prestigious writing awards, including the Valerie Parv Award and Pacific Hearts Award. Her acclaimed debut novel, Deception Island, was nominated for a Golden Heart Award® by Romance Writers of America. She’s also the bestselling author of four nonfiction books in her native New Zealand, and a mother of two.
In her (guffaw) spare time, she murders Italian arias studies classical singing, indulges her theatre geek tendencies, and doesn’t do nearly as much yoga as she should.
She is working on a third novel and a novella in the Legionnaires series, to be published in 2018.
Represented by Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.
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Brewing Passions #2
By: Liz Crowe
Releasing May 30, 2017
Brewer Ross has given up on love…until he meets a woman who turns his life—and brewery—upside down.
Ross Hoffman held the potential for a perfect life in his hands—a life with Evelyn, the only woman he’d ever allowed himself to love, their baby and…her husband, Austin Fitzgerald, who also happened to be his best friend. But the challenge of trying to make a threesome into something acceptable—let alone the thought of actually sharing Evelyn with anyone—forces him to bolt. Determined to put all thoughts of their relationship behind him, Ross jumps headfirst into a new brewery job in Colorado, and back into the sort of sexual decadence that he hopes will distract him from his misery.
When he agrees to assist Austin through a spate of brewery mishaps, he lays eyes on his true fate—in the form of the petite, mysterious and exotic Elisa Nagel. Hired as assistant brewer, Elisa is absolutely everything he believes he doesn’t want in a woman. But he’s drawn to her in ways he can’t explain, and he can’t help but fall hard, fast and deep, which places him square in the middle of her horrific, until now secret backstory.
Ross is determined that his love will conquer and overcome the horrors of Elisa’s past, allowing her to trust him with the only thing he desires—her heart.
Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene with attempted rape and violence, as well as a brief scene alluding to person being drugged and raped.
She’d parked in front of the building where Ross, apparently, had a set of rooms at the top of a single flight of wooden steps. She stared up them, contemplating how drastically she wanted her life to change, and the fact that if she walked up those steps, it most definitely would.
She went up fast, not giving herself a chance to turn and run away. But when she raised her fist to knock, she hesitated. The voice was screaming at her now, blocking out the sound of the rain. She put the bags down and slammed her hands over her ears, crouching for a few seconds, willing it silent. Finally, her mind cleared, and she stood. Taking a deep breath, she raised her fist and banged hard on the door. “Hoffman! Open up!”
By the time he finally did open the door, she was soaked all the way to the skin but she felt energized—reborn. Slick and wet and eager in ways that confused her. Even the line of stubborn between Ross’ eyes didn’t deter her. She smiled, held out her arms and yelled, “Can I come in? It’s a tad damp out here.”
He stood inside the door, arms crossed over his bare chest. She stared at his pecs, at the thick black hop vine tattoo that matched hers, at his visible ab muscles. “Eyes up here, please, ma’am,” he said. “I’m not a piece of meat, you know.”
She held up the bags of food. “Do you have a microwave?”
He nodded, but didn’t move, continuing to block her way in. She dropped her arms, letting the rain pelt her, sensing his gaze taking her in from her dripping hair to her wet shoes. “You are a crazy bitch,” he said, conversationally, as if she weren’t standing right there, getting pelted in the rain while he remained dry less than a foot from her. “I’m not positive I want any part of you.”
She blinked, then forced herself forward and into his arms, dropping the bags as she wrapped herself around him. “That’s okay. I want us enough to make up for your lack of enthusiasm.”
He yelped. “Shit, you’re—”
“Yes, wet to the skin. I know. We seem to be like this a lot, don’t we? Now, shut up and kiss me before I—oh”
He did just that, transporting her to what she’d come to think of as her only happy place—in his arms, with his mouth on hers, his tongue breeching her lips, forcing her to give in to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and let him drag her inside. He picked her up, soaking clothes and all, continuing to kiss her all the way to the bedroom at the back of the mini-apartment.
He was gentle and tender as he undressed her, kissing every inch of skin he revealed, teasing her at the back of her neck and along her bare shoulders with his lips and teeth. He turned her this way and that, taking her all in, running his long fingers down her torso, cupping her breasts, licking each of her nipples, giving extra care to the still deformed one all the while muttering to himself in German.
He seemed especially fascinated with her piercings. He kissed her nose, her eyebrow, sucked the tiny ball in her lip into his mouth for a few seconds, rolled his tongue against the metal she’d placed there.
The line of balls in her ear cartilage got special attention. Each one of them touched with his fingertip, and his tongue.
Elle stood, eyes closed, letting him do what he wanted and loving it, loving him, if she were honest with herself. He ran his hands down her hips, around to her ass, across the evil puckered skin where she’d been burned. He was on knees now, his lips pressed to her stomach, then lower as his hands slid down the outside of both legs. His touch tickled, taunted, made her breathe fast as she tried to relax.
With shaking hands, she untied the leather string holding his hair back and slid her fingers into its silky depths, grazing his scalp with her short fingernails. He looked up at her. His eyes were bright with emotion. “You all right?” he whispered. “This is okay?”
“It’s very much okay. Please…more?”
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
by Kat Martin
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin raises chills as danger stalks a woman determined to make it in a man’s world . . .
Five weeks ago Carly Drake stood at her grandfather’s grave. Now she’s burying Drake Trucking’s top driver, and the cops have no leads on the hijacking or murder. Faced with bankruptcy, phone threats and the fear of failure, Carly has to team up with the last man she wants to owe—Lincoln Cain.
Cain is magnetic, powerful, controlling—and hiding more than one secret. He promised Carly’s granddad he’d protect her. The old man took a chance on him when he was nothing but a kid with a record, and now he’s the multi-millionaire owner of a rival firm.
But Linc’s money can’t protect Carly from the men who’ll do anything to shut her down, or the secrets behind Drake Trucking. If she won’t sell out, the only way to keep her safe is to keep her close . . . and fight like hell.
Drama, trouble, murder, and burning romance are the key elements of Beyond Reason.
Kat Martin has always been a one-click author to me, I enjoy her style to tell a story. Beyond Reason didn't end up being one of my favorites from her, but that doesn't stop me from continuing to follow the series.
Lincoln Cain was a charismatic hero. He is protective, stubborn, and controlling, but his intentions are good, and he is only trying to keep Carly safe and alive. Lincoln has several layers in his personality, the wilder side with an MC club and his time in prison made me expected more from him, a bit more darkness, a bit more edge and danger around him, not just another billionaire with luxurious habits.
Carly Drake was in a tough spot in her life. Trying to keep her grandfather's firm going and alive while renovating a home and grieving for her grandfather. Adding to that the problems with the cartel, and inside the company, and she barely holds her head above the water. But her stubborn and independent nature doesn't make it easy to accept the help that Lincoln so eagerly wants to offer to her.
From her experience, Carly doesn't belive that love will last, that there can be a happily ever after. She is afraid to be hurt again and lets the fear control her behavior.
The characters are charming, the basic plot was intriguing and held my interest through the tale, even though the ending with the suspense was a bit overboard. I felt that the story could have moved on with a faster tempo. There were often details of products in the scene - guns, cars, clocks, clothing, you name it - that to me was unnecessary.
The other thing that surprised me was the dialog, it often felt like it was added to the story after completion, and felt like it was missing the flow and wit I am used to and look forward to in Ms. Martin's stories. Same was with the sexual thoughts and moments that were plentiful, yet felt like add-ons, awkward and even inappropriate at times with the timing in the story.
Despite all that, I was fascinated by the tale and will be looking forward to the next book in the series.
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
The clerk walked up to the counter, gray-haired and slightly bent. Daisy Johnson had worked at the sheriff’s office since Linc was a kid.
“Well, if it ain’t Lincoln Cain,” she said. “I saw in the paper a few years back you’d bought the old Blackland Ranch, but last I heard, you were stayin’ out of trouble.”
Linc grinned. The old woman was a pistol. “I do my best, Miss Daisy.” He turned. “This is Carly Drake, Joe Drake’s granddaughter.”
“Hello, Daisy,” Carly said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You, too. Your granddaddy was a real good man.”
“Thank you. Yes, he was.”
“We need to talk to the sheriff about the Hernandez murder,” Linc said.
Daisy’s face wrinkled into a frown. “Bad business, that. I’ll tell Sheriff Howler you’re here.”
The shuffle of boots drew their attention. “No need, Daisy--I got eyes.” Howler ambled out of his office, tipped up his chin as a signal to Linc. “You want to talk, you and the little lady come on back.”
Linc caught the stiffness that crept into Carly’s shoulders. Looked like Joe’s granddaughter was going to get along with the sheriff about as well as Linc and her grandpa had. If they weren’t there to find a killer, he might have smiled.
They followed Howler into his office and he sat down in the chair behind his desk. “What can I do for you?”
Carly spoke up. “I want to know what you’re doing to find the men who murdered Miguel Hernandez.”
Howler leaned forward across his desk. “Don’t get yourself in a fret. We’re gonna find ‘em. Just takes time. This ain’t San Francisco, little lady.” He flashed Cain a sneer. “It ain’t Dallas, neither. Our deputies have been out there asking questions, following up leads. But nobody saw nothin’ and there ain’t no sign of the truck.”
“What about the crime scene?” Linc asked. “Surely some kind of forensic evidence turned up where the body was found.”
Howler shook his head. “Just because you spent time behind bars, don’t make you an expert on the law.”
Linc ignored a shot of irritation. He and Howler had a history and it wasn’t a good one. His gaze went to Carly. No surprise in those big blue eyes. Clearly, she had done her homework before he’d shown up for yesterday’s meeting. She knew he’d been in prison but instead of disapproval, she was glaring at the sheriff.
“There’s no need for you to be rude, Sheriff Howler. Mr. Cain asked you a question that deserves an answer. I’d like to hear it myself.”
Howler grunted. “Truth is, we didn’t find much of anything. The morning Hernandez’s body was discovered, it had rained off and on during the night. Any DNA evidence was washed away.”
Linc thought of the detective he had hired. He wanted answers. He didn’t figure he’d get them from Howler and so far he was right.
“Who found him?” Carly asked.
“Man and his wife driving back to Dallas from a visit to their folks in Texarkana. They’d pulled off to the side of the road to let their dog out to take a leak. Dog must have scented the body on the other side of the road. Hernandez had been dead a while by then.”
Carly glanced away.
“What’s the coroner give for time of death?” Linc asked.
“Between eleven and one a.m. You can talk to Doc Bradshaw yourself if you’d like.”
“Consuelo said she got a phone call from Miguel about eleven,” Carly said. “He was fueling up at a truck stop a few miles south of Dallas. He told her he’d be home a little after midnight.”
“Seventy miles to Iron Springs from Dallas,” Linc said. “No traffic that time of night. Looks like the coroner got it right.”
The sheriff picked up a pen on his desk and began to click it open and closed. “I know you want those bastards caught and so do I. But standing here jawing about it ain’t gonna help. I need to get back to work.”
Carly ignored him. “From the start, you’ve assumed there was more than one hijacker. Why is that?”
“Found traces of where a vehicle had been parked in front of the body. We think Hernandez pulled over to the side of the road behind the car, someone pretending to have engine trouble. He got out and walked up to the vehicle. Whoever it was, shot him, stole the truck and drove away. Since the car was gone, too, someone else had to have been driving it.”
“I’d like to take a look at the reports,” Linc said. “Coroner’s, deputies’, any statements that were taken, everything you’ve got.”
The sheriff came out of his chair. “That ain’t gonna happen. You got no business in this and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.”
Linc clenched his teeth to keep from saying something he’d regret.
Carly walked up to the desk, leaned over and got right in Howler’s face. “Miguel Hernandez worked for me, Sheriff. That makes his death my business. I want to see those reports.”
The sheriff’s jaw went tight. “Now listen here, little lady--“
“My name is Carly or you can call me Ms. Drake.” Those big blue eyes were spitting fire. Linc could almost see Joe’s blood pumping through her veins.
“If you don’t want more trouble than you’ve already got,” she said, “you’ll let me see those files.”
Howler’s face went beet red. “All right, fine. As a courtesy--and so you’re satisfied there ain’t nothing there--I’ll let you see what’s in the files.”
“I can pick the information up or you can drop it off at my office whenever it’s ready. Just call and let me know.” Carly turned and started walking. “Have a good day, Sheriff.”
They crossed the office together. Linc opened the door, then followed her out of the building, over to her truck.
“I know you want answers,” he said. “So do I. But murder can be a dangerous business. Be better if you didn’t get involved.”
“I don’t trust Howler to do the job.”
“Neither do I. Which is why I’ve hired a private investigator to look into the case. His name’s Ross Townsend. He’s worked for me before so I know he’s good.”
“Has he found anything yet?”
“Not yet, but he’s just getting started. Call me when you get those files. Look them over, then I’ll take a look. Maybe one of us will see something the sheriff missed.”
“All right. But in exchange I expect you to tell me what your investigator finds out.”
Linc shook his head. “Like I said, Carly, you need to stay out of this.”
She cocked a hand on her hip and looked up at him. “By now you must realize that isn’t going to happen.”
Irritation warred with amusement. Amusement won out. “Yeah, I guess I do.” Another of Joe’s traits--she was just as bullheaded. Joe wouldn’t want her involved, but the determined set of her jaw said even Joe wouldn’t have been able to stop her.
Linc jerked open her pickup door and Carly climbed in behind the wheel.
The engine started. He watched the pickup pull onto the road, heading back to Drake Trucking. He checked his watch. Forty-five minutes till his conference call on the tire re-building plant he was trying to open just east of Pleasant Hill. He didn’t have time to think of Carly Drake and he didn’t want to.
He couldn’t deny he was attracted to her, all that sexy blond hair and a body that made a man want to strip her down and take her a dozen different ways.
He knew why Joe had never mentioned him to her over the years. He’d been a hell-raiser even after prison. Nothing illegal by then, but he’d liked to party and he’d liked beautiful women. And he’d had plenty of them. Still did.
Joe had wanted someone special for Carly. He hadn’t wanted an ex-con taking advantage of his granddaughter.
But things were different now. Joe had trusted Linc with Carly’s welfare and that meant keeping her safe.
Even from him.
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Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of sixty-five books across multiple genres. Sixteen million copies are in print and she has been published in twenty-one foreign countries, including Japan, France, Argentina, Greece, China, and Spain. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA award and won both the Lifetime Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews.
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.
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Black Tie Optional
Wild Wedding #1
By: Ann Marie Walker
Releasing May 30, 2017
St. Martin’s Press
The Proposal meets Two Weeks Notice in Ann Marie Walker's new standalone romantic comedy, Black Tie Optional, which New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst calls, "a fun, sexy romp that will keep every reader entertained!"
Everything about Coleman Grant III oozes power and sex. And not the perfunctory kind either, but the sheet clawing, heart stopping, gasping for air after you’ve screamed so loud you can’t breathe kind. From his dark wavy hair that stands in an artfully rumpled mess, to the blue eyes that sear your skin, to his full, sensual lips - on the surface he’s pure perfection.
Too bad he's an asshole. An arrogant, uptight corporate raider hell bent on destroying the environment one species at a time.
Everything about Olivia Ramsey screams hippie humanitarian. From her blond hair tied in a sloppy bun, to her faded jeans with the Bonnaroo patch sewn on the thigh, to her combat boots still splattered with mud from the previous day’s site visit.
So it makes perfect sense that they would get married. In Vegas. Stone-cold sober.Cole needs a wife. Olivia needs to save an endangered species. But what starts as a marriage of convenience soon turns into a battle of wills and sexual tension. Love is a game, and Olivia and Cole are ready to win.
Just like clockwork, Olivia thought. She watched the gas-guzzling SUV roll to a stop alongside the curb, its hazard lights blinking as if some sort of justification for bringing a full lane of Chicago’s morning rush hour to a grinding halt. Every day the sleek black car stopped in exactly the same location so the almighty Coleman Grant III could get the same extra hot, double shot Americano from the same big-chain coffee shop, bypassing the smaller, neighborhood establishments trying to stay afloat as corporate America runs them into the ground.
A mountain of a man in mirrored aviator shades jumped out of the front seat to open the rear door, giving Olivia a clear view of the luxury vehicle’s interior. Two leather captain’s chairs with fold down keyboards and armrest tablet holders sat facing several television monitors mounted above what appeared to be a full-service bar. Forget running a business, it looked as though Coleman Grant ran NASA from his back seat. Honestly, what could possibly be so important that it couldn’t keep until he got to the office? The commute from his Gold Coast penthouse to his Loop headquarters was less than two miles. Hadn’t the guy ever heard of just chilling out with some tunes?
Olivia approached the car just as Grant climbed out of the back seat. He paused to button the jacket of his navy blue Tom Ford and for a moment she forgot he was an arrogant, self-righteous prick hell bent on destroying the environment one species at a time. For a moment, she allowed herself to take in the physical perfection standing in front of her. From his dark wavy hair that stood in an artfully rumpled mess, to the blue eyes that seared her skin, to his full, sensual lips - everything about Coleman Grant oozed power and sex. And not the perfunctory kind either, but the sheet clawing, heart-stopping, gasping-for-air-after-you’ve-screamed-so-loud-you-can’t-breathe kind. But then his eyes narrowed and his lips curved into a knowing smirk and Olivia remembered exactly who she was dealing with.
“Mr. Grant,” she began.
The bodyguard moved to step between them but Grant waved him off. “Ms. Ramsey, what a surprise,” he said, not at all surprised since this was the eighty-third day in a row she had approached him. Not that it mattered. She had no plans to stop these sidewalk sessions until he either agreed to her demands or filed for a restraining order.
He made his way toward the coffee shop with Olivia tight on his heels. “You know, most people simply make an appointment with my assistant.”
“I’ve tried that, Mr. Grant. But for some reason your schedule is always full.”
“Pity,” he said, his voice void of all emotion. When he reached the glass doors, he yanked one open. “Please, after you.”
Bastard. Normally he charged in like he owned the place, never mind if she or anyone else got a face full of door. How dare he try to throw her off her game by acting chivalrous. As if the man had a courteous bone in his body. Olivia stood frozen in place, debating how best to handle this latest twist in their balance of power. As she did, Cole’s gaze raked her from head to toe, from her blond hair tied in a sloppy bun, to her faded jeans with the Bonaroo patch sewn on the thigh, to her combat boots splattered with mud from the previous day’s site visit.
She hated to admit it, but the scrutiny of his gaze was unnerving. And it wasn’t just the laser like focus. There was something about his expression, as if he wasn’t looking at her fully clothed in a shop brimming with customers, but rather undressing her with his eyes. She shifted in place, debating if she should call him out for his piggish behavior or simply stick to the topic at hand.
“Suit yourself,” he finally said, stepping through the doors and leaving her alone on the sidewalk.
Not so fast. She took a deep breath and joined him at the service counter. “Mr. Grant, as I’m sure you’re aware, the northern long-eared bat was recently granted protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.”
“Rather difficult to forget given your daily reminders. Although I must say, Ms. Ramsey, you disappoint me. No visual aids today?” He turned away from the counter with his extra hot, double shot Americano to find Olivia standing behind him with an 8 x 10 glossy in her hand. “Ah, it seems I spoke too soon.”
“This particular species of bat has been the most impacted by white-nose syndrome and the resulting decline in their numbers is what—”
“Those really are the most vile creatures,” Grant interrupted. “Have you ever considered taking up the cause of a more appealing animal, say a manatee?”
“There aren’t any manatees in Lake Michigan.”
“Precisely.” He smirked. “Perhaps you could move? I’m sure you could find some poor, unsuspecting Floridians worthy of your attention.” He raised his left hand and for the first time Olivia realized he was holding a second cup. He thrust it in her direction and without thinking she took it, dropping the photograph as she did. “You seem like the type who would order your latte with a hundred and one specifications, but hopefully skinny vanilla will do.”
Olivia blinked. He bought her a coffee? What the actual fuck? Did he really think he could charm his way out of the hot seat? She had spent her entire adult life and most of her teens speaking on behalf of those who couldn’t. It was going to take a lot more than a few random acts of fabricated kindness to get her off his back.
She was about to tell him not only where he could stick his latte but how in her twenty-eight years on earth she’d never ordered a “skinny” anything, when he turned toward the door. She bent to scoop up the photo then hurried after him, fast talking her case all the way to the curb where his bodyguard stood waiting with the door already open. As usual, Grant didn’t say a word, much less defend his stance. Instead he simply flashed a grin that would have made her drop her latte, not to mention her panties, if she didn’t find him to be lacking in not only morals and ethics but quite possibly a soul.
He gave her a quick nod before ducking into the car. “Until tomorrow, Ms. Ramsey.”
With that, the door slammed shut and the SUV pulled into traffic to the sound of protesting horns.
“Asshole,” Olivia muttered under her breath. “Gorgeous asshole, but still.” She turned on her heel and started down the street with her head held high. Coleman Grant III might have been trying to make a mockery of her attempts to persuade him, but their standoff was far from over. A slow grin curved her lips as an idea began to take shape. She’d just pulled her smartphone out to send herself a reminder when it began to vibrate in her hand.
“Are you bringing your swimsuit?” her best friend asked before Olivia had even managed a hello.
“To the desert? You’re joking, right?”
“I wasn’t sure.”
“Cassie, I know you’ve had your head buried in cookbooks for the past few years but surely you can remember how a vacation works…lounge chairs, suntan oil, blended drinks with tiny umbrellas that make you say ridiculously inappropriate things to cabana boys.”
“I have never said anything inappropriate to a cabana boy. And that’s sexist by the way.”
“Cabana person?” Olivia laughed at her own joke. “I’m playing. But you’ve got to lighten up a bit. We’re headed to Vegas, Sin City, what happens there stays there and all that.”
“You sound like a tourism ad.”
“All I’m saying is you better be ready to party Hangover style.”
Cassie snorted. “Yeah, cause that worked out so well for them.”
“I promise I won’t leave you stranded on a hotel roof.”
“This is a bad idea. I should be staying here and looking for a job.”
“You’re the sister of the groom. You can’t very well ditch out on the bachelor/bachelorette festivities. Besides, if I can break my ‘Harass Coleman Grant’ streak for a few days, then you can certainly give the stand mixer a rest.”
“How’s that going by the way?”
Olivia groaned. “New day, same story. ”
“Maybe it’s time to—”
“Move on? No way.” While it was true that working freelance allowed Olivia a certain amount of latitude, she prided herself on never giving up. There was no way Coleman Grant was going to blemish her perfect record. “I’ll just have to double my efforts.”
Cassie laughed. “I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the guy.”
“Don’t be fooled by the looks. He might be hotter than Ryan Reynolds and Ian Somerhalder combined, but underneath that perfect exterior beats the heart of an ogre.”
“Sounds like someone has wet panties.”
“Why Cassandra Miller, is that smutty talk I hear coming out of your mouth? There may be hope for you yet.”
“Don’t change the subject. You’ve got the hots for this guy.”
“Hardly. He’s eye candy all right, but he’s also a spoiled, self-centered asshole who think it’s his way or the highway. Not this time though.” Olivia nodded to herself. One way or another he was going to give in to her demands. Coleman Grant III had finally met his match. He just didn’t know it yet.
Favorite writing place.
Honestly it varies from book to book, but Black Tie Optional was written almost exclusively at the corner table of my local Starbucks and I have the gold star rewards to prove it haha.
If they could sit and write in a different country where would it be?
I've had the chance to visit the UK recently and as a result am thinking of basing my next series there. Maybe it's my love of Hugh Grant rom-coms, but after a few days in Notting Hill, the ideas were flying!
Co-writing have you done it with another author, if not, would you?
The first series I wrote, Chasing Fire, was co-authored with Amy K. Rogers. It was a wonderfully collaborative process but we always knew I would write solo as well (hence publishing under both our names versus one pen name) due to Amy's demanding "day job".
Name three things on your desk right now.
Coffee mug (a necessity), cell phone (a distraction), and a frame with a print of the first fan art someone ever made based on one of my books (a reminder).
What are you favorite types of stories to read?
Romances, especially ones with humor. I remember reading Beautiful Player at the hair salon and I literally laughed out loud. It was such an amazing feeling, which is why I couldn't have been happier when Library Journal used that exact phrase to describe Black Tie Optional.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
The second book of the Wild Wedding Series will feature Olivia's best friend Cassie as the female lead. All the characters from BTO will make appearances along with a few new ones as well. The first chapter is actually included at the end of book one, but here's a little teaser:
ICING ON THE CAKE
Cassandra Miller doesn’t have time for men. She’s far too busy preparing to open a cupcake shop with her silent partner and best friend, not to mention catering her brother’s wedding. And let’s face it, it’s not like Prince Charming is going to stroll into the bakery and sweep her off her feet.
Henry has been a Prince his entire life but for one wild wedding he wants to be nothing more than an “Average Joe”, or in this instance, “Average Hank”. But when a case of mistaken identity and a batch of burned cupcakes ends in a night of passion, Cassie and Hank must decide if theirs is a recipe for disaster or the makings of true romance.
Ann Marie Walker writes steamy books about sexy boys. She's a fan of fancy cocktails, anything chocolate, and 80s rom-coms. Her super power is connecting any situation to an episode of Friends and she thinks all coffee cups should be the size of a bowl. If it's December she can be found watching Love Actually but the rest of the year you can find her at AnnMarieWalker.com where she would be happy to talk to you about alpha males, lemon drop martinis or supermodel David Gandy. Ann Marie attended the University of Notre Dame and currently lives in Chicago.
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A new standalone romance from New York Times Bestselling Author Lynn Raye Harris. Sexy, action-packed, and thrilling!
Colonel John "Viper" Mendez searches for a ghost from his past... and when he finds her, nothing will be the same!
by Lynn Raye Harris
Published: July 18, 2017
Military Romantic Suspense
There were days that changed your life forever, though at first they felt perfectly ordinary. You got up, you got dressed, you prepared to go to work and Charlie Mike the hell out of the day. Continuing the mission was what Colonel John “Viper” Mendez lived for. Every day he sent teams around the world to save pieces of it, and every night he went to bed knowing that tomorrow would be more of the same.
He lived for the mission. He played sometimes, but not often, and when it was over he went back to work. He’d been doing it for so long that it was normal and expected. If he got up tomorrow and didn’t have a mission, he’d probably go out of his mind.
But today… Today there was still a mission.
Mendez—he’d long ago stopped thinking of himself by any name but that one—watched the news while he got dressed and fielded the usual calls about operations and statuses. His aide pulled up to the curb at precisely five-thirty a.m., and Mendez prepared to walk out the door.
His phone rang again and he lifted it to his ear with a clipped “Mendez.”
“Good morning, colonel,” a cheerful voice said.
Mendez stopped. “Black? What’s up?” Because Ian Black never called unless there was something important going on. Something that Mendez would want to hear.
“I’m saving your ass today, colonel.”
Lieutenant Connor waited patiently in the car as Mendez stared out the window. “What does that mean?”
“It means I’ve got news you need to hear. Today, around nine a.m., the military police will arrive at HOT HQ. They’ll be accompanied by a general officer who’s there to relieve you of command. They’ll probably arrest you, by the way.”
A boulder formed in his gut. It wasn’t fear. It was fury. “Why? And where did you hear this?”
“Why? Because Vice President DeWitt has finally convinced the president that you’re dangerous and need to be stopped.”
That little motherfucker. He’d been after HOT for the last couple of years. Being President Campbell’s running mate in a successful election had elevated him to a position he’d only dreamed about—and given him the power to do things he hadn’t had as a junior congressman.
“I’m not worried. The president’s daughter is married to one of my operators. Campbell won’t let HOT be defanged, and I can handle an inquiry.”
“This isn’t an inquiry, John. It’s a witch hunt. And I can’t tell you where I heard it, but trust me, it’s real. The president is caving in to pressure, whether he wants to or not.”
Ian had never called him by his first name in all the time they’d known each other. Black was a mystery, a disavowed CIA agent who wasn’t disavowed at all in Mendez’s opinion. He was deep undercover, so deep that Mendez couldn’t figure out who his handler was in the CIA. He’d questioned Samantha Spencer, the on again off again agent he had sex with, but she claimed not to know anything. Still, Mendez hadn’t forgotten how her fingers trembled that first time he’d asked.
“I still gotta go to work. Not showing up is an admission of wrongdoing, don’t you think?”
“No. I think it’s smart. Run while you can. Far better to work on exposing the truth than to be locked up and at their mercy.”
Jesus H. Christ. What a clusterfuck. Maybe he should run, but it wasn’t the way he was wired. Besides, he wasn’t helpless. A general and a few MPs weren’t enough to stop him if he really wanted to get away. He’d been in black ops far too many years to be helpless.
“You do things your way and I’ll do them mine.”
Ian Black sighed. “Your funeral,” he said. “But I think you should know something else.”
Mendez’s patience hung on by a thread. “What?”
“Katya wants you to run.”
“Who the fuck is Katya?”
“Ekaterina. She says you knew her sister. She said you’ll recognize her name.”
Everything inside him went still. It couldn’t be the name that sprang immediately to mind. He’d searched in the year since Dmitri Leonov had told him she wasn’t dead, but he’d found nothing. A sister? He didn’t remember Valentina talking about a sister. Must be someone else, yet still he hoped. “What name?”
Ice coated his veins, stilled his blood. Someone was fucking with him. Baiting him. Hoping he’d do something rash. Hell, it could even be Leonov. Who, true to his word, had gotten sprung from an American prison within months of being captured. It could also be Sergei Turov, who against all odds had survived the bullet Dex “Double Dee” Davidson put in him last year. He’d even learned to walk again. Now that man had an axe to grind for sure.
But rash was not how Mendez operated. Ever. He wasn’t called Viper because he reacted too quickly. No, he was Viper because his strike was silent and deadly.
“That name means nothing to me,” he said.
“Doesn’t it? Valentina Alexandrovna Rostov. Katya says you have a locket that belonged to her sister. Bring it to the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans. Tomorrow morning, ten-thirty sharp. Ball’s in your court.”
The line went dead.
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Case File Phantom
C. McCauley Case Files Book 1
by Dana Ford
Genre: Mystery Fiction
Georgia Richards lost hope of ever seeing her husband again since he disappeared over a year ago. On a Saturday afternoon, she thought she saw him at a play; on stage at the Oaksdale Playhouse. But, Georgia didn’t have the courage to find out if it was really him. Constance McCauley was empathetic to Georgia’s faint of heart and decided to offer her investigation services to find the true identity of this mysterious man. Would Constance be able to track down Georgia’s estranged husband? If he was found, why had he been missing for over a year? As Constance pursued this case with a combination of faith and persistence, she witnessed the power of forgiveness unfold before her eyes.
Why weren’t there more lights backstage? I felt like a mouse in a maze. It was difficult to tell if the hanging costumes were people or if the shadows were hanging costumes. There he was! “Excuse me sir! Sir!” He turned around and caught my eye. I managed to hold his gaze for a moment. He was nervous, almost frightened. His eyes a deep brown, he seemed to want to say something, but instead he fell into the low lighting and disappeared. I picked up my pace to try and catch him. “Wait!” I briskly walked and then ran past racks and racks of costumes and odd set design items like furniture, tall plants, and a fake standing bear.
“Wait! Please, I want to talk to you!” The backstage door swung open and blinding light flooded me where I stood, and hindered my view. He was gone. I quickly looked to the left and then to the right and no one was there. I looked to the left again and then began to run along the backside of the theatre. I slowed down, because I realized that he was in fact gone. Why would anyone run from a perfect stranger unless they had something to hide or something to lose? Turning around, I walked back towards the backstage door. I again waded through the racks of hanging costumes and walking shadows of actors and busy people. Why would he run? I found myself back in my seat.
Dana Ford has enjoyed writing stories since she can remember. She has penned several books and has found a new love in writing mystery fiction. Her favorite hobbies besides writing is watching old movies, volunteering in her community, and spending precious moments with her family.
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SHE LEFT HIM ONCE.
LOST Agent Ana Young was only fourteen when she was abducted by a madman, but unlike many kidnapping victims, she did go home. Now, her mission is to find the missing. But her new case has her on the hunt for the escaped convict who’s obsessed with her. And Ana has an unlikely partner—the sexy, supposedly-by-the-book FBI agent she had one amazing night with and had to forget.
NOW HE HAS TO PROTECT HER 24/7…
FBI Special Agent Cash Knox knows that Ana, the petite, tough-ass former bounty hunter, can get the job done again. But this time, someone else leads them to “Bernie-the-Butcher,” someone who’s been watching Ana. Waiting for her.
FROM A CRAZED KILLER.
Now, catching a deranged murderer means Ana must trust her guarded heart to the gorgeous, complicated G-man she wasn’t supposed to fall for.
Wrecked is a dark, sensual, sinister, and edgy story.
It is brilliantly written, with such a threatening sense in every scene, with constant twists in the plot and unexpected turns of events that I was hooked on every word, every moment, each chapter pulling me deeper into the tale that fascinated and horrified me at the same time.
LOST series is absolutely been one of my favorite series to follow. The characters are strong, capable, the best of the best at finding the missing, yet there is vulnerability to them, such brokenness in their souls, that gives them a completely new, deeper lever of charm and charisma that is impossible to ignore.
Wrecked is the sixth and last book in LOST series, yet it is written so that it could be read as a standalone. I do recommend the whole series, there is one book that I have missed in-between, but it is waiting for me in my e-reader right now. Each of the stories is complete with a new couple and a case to be solved.
Ana Young and FBI Special Agent Cash Knox has a magnetic, unavoidable connection, both physically and mentally. The pull they have for each other is palpable, and the physical attraction is profound. Ana and Cash - I loved them together, I adored the growing feelings between them, it was obvious how much they meant to each other, and how deeply they cared. Yet there were secrets that could tear them apart if they have a chance to survive the maddening case they are working on.
Rarely have I had a feeling, that a story so immensely dark and dangerous has touched my mind so deeply that I needed to take a break to catch my breath. Wrecked is an amazing story with the troubling characters, the constant threat, and danger surrounding them, and the sweet and beautiful love story developing that is balancing all the evil, death, and bloody mayhem around the agents.
A savage and bloody tale of the most dangerous criminals around and the final payback that is coming on their way. It takes the agents from FBI and LOST to work together to stop the insanity, the fatal and cruel disaster in their hands, a disaster that can turn to be mortal to themselves as well. Monsters are all around, they are on the hunt, and only few will survive...
~ Five Spoons!
When the hunter becomes the hunted…
Serial-killer hunter Nick Shade built his legendary career chasing monsters—sadistic criminals with a gruesome thirst for death. When he rescued Montgomery detective Bobbie Gentry from horrific captivity and helped her reclaim her life, he didn't intend to be a hero. Or a target. But now a copycat murderer haunts him, and reuniting with Bobbie is his best chance at neutralizing the threat.
Bobbie can't forget the nightmares of her trauma—or the man who saved her. Working with Nick to outmaneuver the person behind a deadly vendetta feeds her hope that there's more to her world than ghosts and destruction. Maybe joining Nick's search for a killer is about gratitude. Maybe it's nothing more than cold revenge. But the only way they can protect themselves is to trust each other.
A frightfully grim and horrendously ghastly story that made me want to double check the locks, and sleep with the lights on, because the terror, the fear, the morbid images, they seep into your mind with each scene passing while you read, and the presence of evil is palpable and true.
The Shades of Death is getting darker and more twisted and sinister with each installment to the series. This story with its grisly plot twists and unmerciful manipulations by the criminal masterminds is fascinating in the oddest way. Like I was spellbound I kept turning the pages because I needed to know that there is good left in the world, that there is salvation from the savage serial killers who enjoy their work, that they will be captured, that there is justice left and it will win.
Obviously, this story is not for the faint at heart. it had my stomach turning several times. It is just as gory as it sounds. But for the thriller lovers, this masterpiece is a must read. The author captures the goodness, the light of a human nature in the same breath as she shows the rotting murkiness of the vile a person is capable of. The balance and the boundaries between the good and the evil are not as apparent or as clear as one might think. The trust for the honesty and integrity is put to the test.
Nick Shade and Bobbie Gentry are brought together again and are the target for the manipulations. The connection between them is tangible and obvious, yet due to the circumstances fragile and frail. There is no denial that they are important to each other, that they deeply care for each other, but as that seems to be the weapon that is used against them, and used as a reason to kill innocents, it is obvious the delicate ties that bind them needs to be severed.
"They were two damaged people frantically tempting survive without suffering further injury"
A brilliantly told intense story that captured my mind, took my breath away, and my mind into a darkness I didn't want to knowledge existed. It is as ferocious and cruel as it is brutal and savage. The author boldly makes the law as vulnerable to be victims as the civilians, no one safe, not one person involved is left intact and secure. As the story ends we are left to wait for a next installment to see if there is redemption, if there is salvation, if the good will win. My hope is, this wait is not too long...
~ Five Spoons
From the Start
American Valor #3
By: Cheryl Etchison
Releasing May 23, 2017
For many women, Ranger Battalion Surgeon Michael MacGregor is the ideal man. He’s far better than average looking, a generous tipper, not to mention an officer and a doctor. So when he encounters a woman resistant to his charms, he finds himself… intrigued.
Kacie Morgan has had her fill of arrogant military men since the last one left her with a shattered heart and one heck of a career rut. Now, with her prestigious fellowship starting in the fall, all she has to do is survive the summer—and her little sister’s wedding.
When an ill-fitting bridesmaid dress has Kacie wanting to temporarily shake things up in her carefully planned life, she knows just the man to call. They agree to a no-strings, summer fling, although it isn’t long before Michael wants Kacie for forever.
But to win her heart, he’ll have to confront the nightmares from his past if they’re to have any chance at a future.
A fun, well-written story that had me smiling and swooning. I pretty much inhaled the story, it put a hook on me that held until the end.
The characters and the events are very much lifelike, the awkwardness of dating, the doubts about reciprocated feelings, the family drama and the sibling rivalry, it all felt real and the whole story unravels like a friend telling you a story about falling in love and finding their destiny.
Michael MacGregor is a hero that was easy to like. He has a great, warped sense of humor, he carries his responsibilities, he is straightforward, honest, kind, a bit arrogant at times, and sexy as can be. I really liked him and his family-oriented mindset, and the respect he had to his parents made me admire him even more.
Kacie Morgan has had enough hurt and being looked over by men. She has closed off her feelings, she keeps people at arm's length, and can come off as rather prickly at times. She keeps telling Michael that he is arrogant, but she had him beat with that on several occasions.
The chemistry between Michael and Kacie was hot, within the limits Kacie would allow it. In my mind they were perfect together, it just took them longer to see that and figure it all out. But once they start to open up to each other and see themselves what an amazing ally they have on each other, the damage that they had done to their relationship might be too much to overcome.
I enjoyed the family connections they both have, and the big role both of their families play in the story. The tale has an authentic feeling to it throughout, lifelike and genuine, from the relationship with their parents and siblings to their friends and co-workers as fell as the relationship they have with each other. There are many things in the story that made me smile, the fact that Michael's brother calls Kacie a Malibu Barby, and Kacie and her sister call Michael a G.I. Joe gave a great mental image of them, of their beauty, and of their humor.
From the Start is a sweet, lively, and enjoyable story about family, siblings, friends, and lovers. It is about a summer fling that turns into a thing, it is about the awkwardness of a new relationship, and about the joyful, fearful, bliss of falling in love and finding your true mate. A lovely and entertaining story that easily swept me off my feet and held my interest from the start to finish.
~ Four Spoons
Kacie Morgan raised the cloudy glass tumbler to her lips and licked the course salt from its rim, all the while surveying the bar, knowing she was officially in hell. Despite it being a fairly new establishment—and a nice place as far as bars went—it just wasn’t her scene. The cowboy hats and cowboy boots. The painted-on jeans that both the men and women wore. The line dancing and mechanical bull.
Then there was the fact she couldn’t stand country music. She might have been born and raised in the South, but the appreciation for songs about racing pickups down red dirt roads, getting drunk on Jack, and skinny-dipping in farm ponds must have skipped a generation.
She sighed and turned back around, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror behind the bar.
Dear God in the heavens. She shouldn’t have looked.
She squeezed her eyes shut and tossed back the remnants of her margarita on the rocks. A tang and tart shiver raced the length of her spine, her body squirming involuntarily to shake it off.
Her empty glass met the cow-print bar top a little heavier than intended, the upside being it garnered the bartender’s attention. “Another?” He shouted to be heard over the music.
“Sure,” she said. “Why the hell not?”
He came over to clear away the empty glass and his eyes roamed her chest as he took his damn sweet time to read the front of her shirt. She didn’t have to glance at the mirror again to know the club lights ignited the rhinestones across her shirt, the word bridesmaid glimmering in the relative dark like a ’70s disco ball.
“Eight weeks,” she chanted to herself. “Eight. More. Weeks.”
Just eight weeks until the bachelorette weekend, the holiday weekend, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, all of it would be over. Her baby sister would be happily married and, more importantly, her maid of honor duties would be complete. No longer would she have to be overly friendly to women who were not her friends. No longer would she be guilted into wearing questionable attire or spending money she didn’t have on all of the cutesy little things they wanted her to “chip in” on.
Kacie handed the bartender a few bills as he returned with her drink, then resumed leaning against the bar, watching as the country music gave way to hip-hop and the puritans bolted for the bars and seated areas. In the span of a few minutes, the dance floor became an instant bump and grind session for anyone under the age of twenty-five or with more than a few drinks in them.
In a sea of cowboy hats and baseball caps, her baby sister was easy to spot. The rhinestone tiara with attached veil on her head glittered in the pulsing lights as she bopped around the dance floor. And all the other bridesmaids were right there with her.
If she were a better maid of honor, a better big sister, she’d suck it up and join them. But she just couldn’t find it in herself to move. Ever since her well-planned future with a man she loved—or at the very least thought she loved—had taken a deep dive into the toilet nine months earlier, she found having fun an almost impossible feat. How sad. How pathetic.
With a pang, Kacie realized at the age of thirty-one she’d become what she always feared most—a total buzzkill.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really enjoyed the early interactions between Michael and Kacie for this book but especially the scene where they have sex the first time. The conversation is so shallow and matter-of-fact since they’ve agreed to just use each other for sex.
I also loved the argument between Michael and his sister-in-law. Bree has been more like a sibling to him for so many years that it’s only fair they’d argue in the same way he and his brother argue. Politeness be damned!
What gave you the most trouble with this story?
When I started this book, I hadn’t planned on Michael suffering from PTSD. But when I began the editing process and reading it from the beginning, I realized all the clues were there. He doesn’t really talk about his issues although it’s clear those who know him best realize something is a bit off. And whenever the suggestion is made that he speak to a therapist, he blows it off because he doesn’t believe his problems are bad enough to warrant treatment. Which I think, sadly, is an accurate representation for so many of those who serve in special operations units.
Name three things on your desk right now.
A small crystal pig with pink wings named Penelope. I have always loved the expression “When pigs fly!” and have always taken great pleasure in proving people wrong.
A two-year-old fortune that says “You’ll never know what you can do until you try.” I found it in my fortune cookie at a time when I was debating whether or not I was read to query literary agents.
A small Galah figurine given to me by the Australian family I lived with while on foreign exchange in high school. They had rescued an injured Galah, which is a type of cockatoo, and taught this bird to say my name. That damn bird made me crazy because he would sometimes escape when I came home from school and then proceed to hide high up in a tree while calling my name over and over, taunting me.
If you could have dinner with any three authors (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?
My first instinct was to say Jane Austen, but I fear she’d end up being a disappointment and ruining my perception of her. Ernest Hemingway would have to be my number one since his personal life was as exciting as his stories. Second would be Dorothy Parker since she had zero problem saying exactly what she thought. Throw in the fact she was blacklisted in Hollywood, I can only imagine the dirt she knew. Number three would have to be Stephen King. I’d love to know what his childhood was like and whether or not his own writing gives him nightmares.
What are you favorite types of stories to read?
I absolutely adore historical romances. They are always my go-to read when I’m in a bad mood or a writing rut. I love all that despite a ton of societal rules, there were women who willingly ignored them and threw caution to the wind. Personally, I like to think had I lived during the Regency era that I’d have been one of those women who wore pants and rode astride and basically thumbed her nose to everyone who dared say “You shouldn’t do that!”
How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?
There was a built in desk in my bedroom growing up and it being the only desk in the house, that’s where the Selectric typewriter lived. When I was in elementary school, my mother would write youth soccer recaps for the local paper and when she was done I would sit down and mimic her. I don’t recall ever writing fiction. Instead, I wrote recaps of the Olympics and Super Bowls. In school I always excelled at creative writing but it wasn’t until I was in college, at the encouragement of a professor, I switched from Accounting to Journalism. After graduating, I always wrote for work, but never for myself. Then when my oldest was born, I quit writing altogether for about six years until I found an online community and began writing fanfiction. Through that I made a friend who was a member of RWA and encouraged me to attend the national conference with her in 2011. The rest is history.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
When I began working on this story five years ago, it was the story of a doctor who’d just left the army and was trying to find his way in the civilian world. Sadly, my hero was, in a word, boring. He was too nice. Too polite. He was just… ugh. But I kept at him and gave him a brother and father and he began taking shape. By the time I actually started to like Michael MacGregor, I realized his story would be better if his younger brother’s story came first. So I went back to square one and began working on ONCE AND FOR ALL. When I returned to Michael’s original story last year, I had to scrap most of it because some scenes were more like Danny and other scenes were more like Lucky (the hero in HERE AND NOW). So I had to practically start completely over, but this time I knew exactly who Michael MacGregor was and what he’d been through.
What do you do when you are not writing?
As a mom of three, I’m usually pretty busy when I’m not writing. There’s always a kitchen to be cleaned or laundry to be folded or a kid to be driven somewhere. And now my oldest has her learner’s permit and I’m the one she drives with the most. So that’s always fun. Not really.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I love that I was given the opportunity to bring Michael and Danny’s mother to life in this book thanks to my editor suggesting I include a flashback. If there is one couple I would love to write, it would be their parents. I would love to see Mac MacGregor fall head over heels in love with Lily.
Cheryl Etchison graduated from the University of Oklahoma’s School of Journalism and began her career as an oil and gas reporter. Bored to tears and broke as hell, it wasn’t long before she headed for the promise land of public relations. But that was nearly a lifetime ago and she’s since traded in reporting the facts for making it all up. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three daughters.
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