Bad boy Mick Donovan has dedicated his life to avenging his brother’s death, even aligning himself with an FBI Task Force to achieve his ends. Which leads him to the mess he's in now--undercover as the husband of the woman he's been fantasizing about, despite knowing how off-limits she is, to protect an innocent child.
After an ambush, Destiny Harper is on the run and out of places to hide from a ruthless drug lord hellbent on claiming his son. Charged with protecting the boy, Dez lands in the mountains on a collision course with Mick, a blizzard, and a past she’d rather forget. But even as the close quarters ignites the passion between her and the sexy biker, she knows there's no future with him. Mick will sacrifice everything for revenge—even her.
Unstoppable is a book three in the series that I just jumped right into. After some research, I found out that this book continues right from where the last one ended. Even though I felt a bit disconnected right at the beginning of the story, it didn't take me long to figure out who the players were, their goals, and their relationships. The author did a great job setting up the stage even for a newbie readers to the series, but if you have a chance, start from the beginning. I really liked the author's style and voice, and can only think that her other books are as enjoyable and entertaining as this one was.
The complex, yet very loyal, relationship Destiny Harper has to Mick Donovan was a rather beautiful thing to witness. I liked these two together. I liked the chemistry between them, they were obviously attracted to each other yet never had acted on it. They had a true friendship with the trust and devotion it entails. They were willing to die for each other, and that was before they opened up their minds to the love they had in their hearts for each other. The allure, the burning feelings, the desire, it all heightened because of the dangerous situation they were in. They had a solid friendship between them, understanding and knowledge of each other like no one else, and that was the perfect foundation to start to build something more, something lasting, something that scared them both to the bone. But first, they had to survive the predicament they were in.
Little Nate was a trooper. He was smart, fun little guy, yet so full of sorrow and pain, it just broke my heart. The bond he had with Mick and Dez was touching, bringing me to tears several times.
The suspense in the story was riveting. It was scary, dangerous, deadly, and vicious, and had me seriously questioning even the good guy's integrity. Very clever twists in the plot had me literally jumping on my seat with the scare it gave me (while reading in a public park!). Very well done build up with the tension, aggression, doubts, and questions when it came to the mystery of the murder, and the suspense and action with the drug cartel.
Rough, raw, and edgy does not only describe the action and suspense, but also the characters and the situations they are in. Not only was the dialog witty, but so were the unexpected twists in the plot. I love finding new authors who manage to blow my mind with they work, and Cindy Skaggs had me questioning everything and everyone while reading the Unstoppable. What a great, chilling yet entertaining ride it was!
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Stand-alone Wishing Well, Texas romance, complete with HEA — and plenty of heat and heart along the way!
Colton McCord was just a regular cowboy before the world made him famous after several stints on reality TV. And even though he turned on his charm for prime time, his real heart belonged to the one he let go because he loved her…
Bella Connor thought she’d never return to Wishing Well. Although it was her home, she could never forget how he broke her heart while at the same time changed her life forever…
The gorgeous blonde is back to settle her late grandfather’s affairs. The sexy all-American boy is ready to shoot his final reality dating show. Life kept them apart and now it was bringing them back together. Will Colton finally be able to tell her the truth and never let her go? Will Bella be able to let go of the past for a chance at a future they both deserve?
Claiming Colton finally did it that other book heroes haven't been able to do - I finally have a book boyfriend!
I absolutely adore Colton! He is kind and giving with the biggest heart ever. He is thoughtful, fair, sexy, and dependable. I loved the connection he has with his sister. That was so beautiful, it took my breath away. How he put his own needs to the side to take care of her just amazed me. His way to deal with the despicable parents of his made me want to stand up and applaud him.
Even with all the sacrifices he made, he had alpha in him, he went after what he wanted, he played fair, and his heart forever belonged to only one woman since he was a little boy, Bella.
Bella and Colton went separate ways twelve years ago, breaking both of their hearts. Now life has given them a new chance to repair the hurt and pain from the past, clear all misunderstandings and built something lasting on a solid ground. If only they take a minute and communicate with each other, instead of just talking about the need to have a talk.
The story is steamy and sensual, the chemistry between Bella and Colton is off the charts. There are long, detailed love scenes that show the fire and bond that is between these two lovers. Most of the focus of the developing relationship is on the physical aspects of the desire they had burning inside every moment they were together.
With the dual sided first person point of view, the angst and tension from the past hurt and years of separation are tangible and high. The writing is as smooth and flowing as I am used to from the excellent writing duo Melanie Shawn. I wish there would have a bit more of that small town feeling in the story, the support of the circle of the friends that often highlights the plots of this author.
An entertaining, emotional, sweet, yet sexy novel that made me smile, sigh, and swoon. It hits many emotional highs and lows through the journey but every bump on the road was worth the delightful second chance on forever kind of love, and the life together that was waiting for Bella and Colton - if they ever made it to the finish line...
~ Four Spoons
Millie is unlucky in love and when her long term relationship ends like a soap opera story line, she takes drastic action. She applies for an overseas job as home school teacher on an American family Ranch and finds herself instantly attracted to single dad, Jesse, her boss. As for Jesse, well he doesn’t need her getting in his business and constantly reminding him that he neglects his daughter.
In Jesse Connor’s eyes his life would be simple if it consisted of three things. His ranch, his cattle and his horses. But it doesn’t- for one, there’s his young daughter, Adeline, who is fighting for his love and attention because he’s the only parent she has. Then there is Millie Braithwaite-that damn beautiful English woman.
Millie & Jesse are two people who are both fighting against the inevitable, because they both know that this time their hearts could be shattered beyond repair.
Box of Hearts is the first book in the Connor Ranch series and tells the story of second chance love and the joy and sorrow it can bring.
Box of Hearts is a roll-a-coaster of emotions created by growing pains, loss, disappointments in life, passion and daring to love again after your heart is shattered in pieces.
It is about family, it is about finding your destiny, finding the place and the people you are supposed to share your life with. It is about betrayal, lies, and deceit. It parallels real life with its rawness and roughness, the deep feelings rolling inside, and the fears of failing and being rejected.
I adored Addy, the little four-year-old is a champion of life. Through so much loss and sadness as she had had to face, rejection from her parents, she still has the biggest heart, the warmest disposition, and kindness to all. She was the light and center of the story and my favorite part of it. She won my heart over and touched my emotions deeply.
The book is written in the first person point of view where Millie and Jesse take turns to tell their story. The constant change of the point of view made it a restless story to follow. I am not a fan of the 1st person POV, and the short jumps between the protagonist's thoughts made it hard for me to connect with them.
Jesse's behavior and hostile attitude, the constant hot and cold, push and pull he did with everyone around him including his daughter, was a tough pill for me to swallow. I was not fond of this character, and despite the hope, that I would grow to like him as the story progress, he pulled the rug under my feet once again.
The attraction, lust, and passion between Millie and Jesse were obvious, even comical at times. They had an undeniable connection of minds, pulling them together like a magnet.
There is some third person drama as well, another element that I usually avoid in the romance stories I read. That element had some predictability with it from the start of the story. Yet it brought a load of drama and trouble to the characters, bringing the angst and despair to high levels.
The beauty of the story was watching the two broken souls heal, find recovery of their minds, hearts, and souls with a help of a four-year-old Addy. The road to redemption is rough, raw, and tear-jerking honest, at times harsh, and at times filled with beauty. The story left me feeling exposed and sore, with an uncertain mind. A very emotional tale of life, love, and loss
~ Three Spoons
The Spoils of Allsveil
by S.N. McKibben
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Murder. Marriage. Forgiveness. The kingdom of Allsveil is the chessboard, and the royals are the pieces.
Two noble families meet in a whirlwind of battle, conquest, hate, and passion.
When a neighboring army conquers her home, Princess Alexia is forced to marry her father’s murderer, Darrin, the new king's young prince. While Alexia grapples with revenge and flirtation, finding her own strength in the process, the new king, Goththor, seeks forgiveness from his queen and from himself. Two generations learn that the game of chess is nothing compared to the game of love and forgiveness...
Play chess with a princess...get your copy today!
1 - Alexia
Months of fighting, and finally it had come to this—an evacuation. The City of Allsveil defending against The Empire of Dreshall. The Horse against The Hawk. My father, King Fieron Tyilasuir, fighting King Aiden Goththor at the gates of our regal castle. All because two men couldn’t see eye to eye about a small city being under one banner.
At that moment, I’d never wanted anything more than to be a son for my father. Especially while I stood in the high tower evacuating the servants, wet nurses, and maids. But I was not a boy or a man. I was my father’s doted-on princess. A girl allowed to swing a sword with my father’s permission because he was the monarch.
My mother had a sword of her own and used it in defense of my unladylike desire to hold more than a misericorde. Her blade was not tempered in metal, but its steel cut and the ring of her tongue drove deep. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I’m personally aware that my mother’s word is mightier than a frail quill from a duck’s arse.
Mother kept sneaking glances out the windows. I could tell that, like me, she wanted nothing more than to be down there, wielding a sword against invaders beside our king.
Horrors I’d been told about in stories lay on our courtyard battlefield. Arrows stuck out from the chests and sides of our men as thorns to a rose. Not one man died with feathers in his back. Brave warriors, all of them, who knew they would never see past this day and did not turn away from protecting us.
Mother’s dark eyes expressed more fire than a hearth flame when she said, “Get them all out.” Worry tainted her expression even through her unwrinkled skin and hair pulled back in a severely tight bun. My mother, the queen, never out of place, never out of sorts, remained that way even in dire situations.
“Come, Emvery.” I offered my maid a hand and stepped patiently while the woman, who tended me since birth, waddled down the stairs one step at a time. “We’re under attack. You have to move faster.”
My mother drilled that sword of flesh with tone and timing. “Alexia, respect those who’ve protected you from rain and wind down to their bosom.”
“It’s all right, milady.” Emvery’s plump hand patted my arm. She always defended me—even against a queen.
“I’m sorry.” I took my maid’s arm firmly. She had a tendency to fall and was careful going down stairs. “But the castle gate is failing. We must hurry.”
Near the bottom of the stairs, Mother spoke to the guards assisting our escape. “Are we the last?”
The two queen’s guards, Clay and Heinsley, looked at each other.
“I asked you a question, gentlemen.”
“No, my lady,” Heinsley answered. “Samalia refused to leave her quarters.”
Mother huffed and spun on her heel, stomping back inside the tower.
Emvery held me tight, or I would’ve followed.
“My lady!” Heinsley leapt and caught Mother’s arm. “We must leave.”
The queen of Allsveil ripped out of her guard’s grasp. “Do not touch me, Heinsley. I will not overlook your inappropriateness again.”
Clay grabbed both my mother’s arms from behind. “I’m sorry, my lady, king’s orders.”
“Emvery, go!” I left my maid’s side and rushed back up the stairs.
Mother elbowed her guards while I passed them to get my Nanna, Samalia. A stubborn old nanny wasn’t going to be my martyr.
“Heinsley! The girl!” Clay said.
“You will address her as princess, or Princess Alexia!” My mother even now concerned herself with propriety. My practice in skirmishing with castle guards quickened my feet but while I could take three steps at a time, Heinsley, with his long legs, could take five or six even in his heavy armor.
Hands scooped me up by my waist. “No, Heinsley! We can’t leave her here!”
“We can and we will.” The guard’s rough voice rushed in my ear.
Slave to a 100 lbs. GSD (German Shepard) and a computer she calls "Dave", you'll often see her riding a 19 hand Shire nicknamed "Gunny" to the local coffee shop near the Santa Monica mountains.
Stephanie reads for the love of words, and writes fiction about Dark Hearts and Heroes revolving around social taboos. When ever asked, she'll reply her whole life can be seen through a comic strip ~ sometimes twisted, sometimes funny but always beautiful and its title is adventure. Come play!
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In the heat of the Nevada desert, the most elite military pilots in the world are about to engage in some friendly competition. Only this year, someone is changing all the rules...
RAF pilot Dexter Stone has been through his fair share of sticky situations. After living through a crash in enemy territory where no one expected him to walk away, the Red Flag training exercises should be a piece of cake-assuming he can keep his mind on the mission and not on the smart mouth of his gorgeous American competition.
As one of the few women in a sky full of hotshot flyboys, Maj. Eleanor Daniels has worked day and night to earn a coveted spot at Red Flag. And she's not about to let some cocky British bad boy distract her from winning. But when the games take a deadly turn, he may be her only hope for survival.
Aces Wild was a wild, fast-paced adrenaline ride with an original plot that had lots of action, realistic military life, wit and banter, and romance that had me sighing and smiling with the lighting strike speed they jumped into the opportunity and possibility of something special.
It came clear through the story that the author truly knows the military life inside out. It was easy to enjoy that aspect of the story, as it was so real, fresh, and authentic, flowing of the pages so seamlessly. I loved the connection, the alliance, and the teamwork the pilots had in between them across the nationalaties.
Dexter Stone was charming, fun, sexy, and tough. He won me over immediately with his vulnerability and braveness, his kindness and protectiveness. He wasn't perfect, yet there was much to admire and swoon over.
Eleanor Daniels was prickly and defensive of her place in the military because of the constant shadow her father laid over her career and success. She had sass, attitude and even arrogance at times. She was looking for a release, fun time and end of the dry spell, and Dexter allured her mind and body. The attraction between them was palpable, the connection they had was real, and they seemed to understand each other in a unique way, the pressures and stress of their jobs at hand and careers in general. The fun word games and outrageous, humorous declarations of emotions and marriage proposals turn into a bit more meaningful conversation when the danger they are in turns deadly.
I loved these two together, the adoration and attraction between them was so natural, passionate, yet sweet and caring as well. They charmed me completely, and I love how the lighting strike attraction they had was given time to deepen through the story. It is a romance novel, so I don't think to say that the ending was just perfect for them is giving any spoilers out.
The suspense got really toe-curling intense towards the climax. I wish that side of the story would have been little more in-depth, what, who, why, and how where questions still in my mind after the end. It wasn't a cliffhanger ending, but very open ended with the criminal side of the tale. There are more books to come in the series, and I really hope more light will be shined into the events at the Red Flag training or the following investigation and why it was swept under the rug. What really happen behind the closed doors, and where were all the clues given leading into?! Yes, the story got me hooked and I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen in the books to come.
~ Four Spoons
Playing the Spanish Billionaire
International Temptation #2
By: M.K. Meredith
Releasing April 24, 2017
Mateu Espasa, CEO of Barcelona’s most luxurious hotel, knows how to deliver a five-star experience. When he learns the identity of hotel reviewer, London Montgomery, it seems harmless to play as her local tour guide to make sure she enjoys her stay and places his hotel back in the running for the Elite Life and Travel Magazine's hotel of fame. But every moment with London makes Mateu want her just as much as he needs that review.
Constantly working to cover her mother’s medical bills, London needs to have a little fun on this vacation. First on her list: Kiss a hot Spaniard, and her knight-in-shining-Armani at the train station seems to fit that bill—he’s local and definitely hot! But when she discovers the man charming her is really CEO of the hotel she’s reviewing—supposedly secretly—she decides to see how far he’ll go to make her dream vacation a once in a lifetime experience.
Mateu shows her the romance of his city and his soul, but when the truth comes out, the fun is over, and it turns out nobody wins in a game of hearts.
She picked up a tomato as Señor Bustillo suggested. “He is adorable.” Mateu chuckled softly. “He isn’t the only one.”
“Now, choose a bright, deep red tomato. No bruise, no blemish. Yes?” Bustillo spoke to the group. She turned hers over in her hand, carefully inspecting for marks, cracks, or soft spots.
“You want a heavy tomato. Ripe and juicy makes for tomato with weight.” As the group inspected their finds, Señor Bustillo checked in with each. “Good. Good.”
“Give gentle squeeze. You want a tomato that responds to your fingers, like the perfect woman, yes?” He directed the last part at Mateu, making London want to roll her eyes.
All men were the same. Mateu wiggled his brows, and she chuckled softly. It wasn’t his searing good looks she needed to guard herself against, it was his playful side. While Bustillo spoke, Mateu stayed close. She could feel the heat radiating from him, though he didn’t touch her.
Choosing a plump tomato from the crate, he wrapped his large hand around it in a light grip. He gave a slight squeeze, and the atmosphere seemed to go from comfortable to sweltering as her imagination took off on a path all its own. Holding it out to her, he asked, “What do you think?”
She blinked twice. “Perfect.” She snapped her eyes to him. “I mean…” Mateu’s smile was slow and deliberate. She couldn’t help but fall for his teasing. It reminded her of how fun living could be when stress wasn’t a persistent, heavy blanket.
“Finally, test the tomato for a sweet, earthy odor. You want strong scent, not light.” Bustillo’s animated voice boomed over the din of the crowd. Pulling herself together, London ignored the look in her sexy concierge’s eyes and dipped her nose toward his hand. She smelled the tomato close to the stem as directed. “Strong and sweet, just as Señor Bustillo suggests.”
“Strong and sweet. I’m glad you approve.” She raised a brow. “We’re talking about your tomato.”
“My favorite topic.”
MK Meredith writes single title contemporary romance promising an emotional ride on heated sheets. She believes the best route to success is to never stop learning. Her lifelong love affair with peanut butter continues. Only two things come close in the battle for her affections: gorgeous heels and maybe Gerard Butler…or was it David Gandy? Who is she kidding? Her true loves are her husband and two children who have survived her SEA's (spontaneous explosions of affection) and live to tell the tale. The Meredith's live in the D.C. area with their large fur baby...until the next adventure calls.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
A Charmed Little Lie
Charmed in Texas #1
By: Sharla Lovelace
Releasing April 18, 2017
Lanie Barrett didn’t mean to lie. Spinning a story of a joyous marriage to make a dying woman happy is forgivable, isn’t it? Lanie thinks so, especially since her beloved Aunt Ruby would have been heartbroken to know the truth of her niece’s sadly loveless, short-of-sparkling existence. Trouble is, according to the will, Ruby didn’t quite buy Lanie’s tale. And to inherit the only house Lanie ever really considered a home, she’ll have to bring her “husband” back to Charmed, Texas for three whole months—or watch Aunt Ruby’s cozy nest go to her weasel cousin, who will sell it to a condo developer.
Nick McKane is out of work, out of luck, and the spitting image of the man Lanie described. He needs money for his daughter’s art school tuition, and Lanie needs a convenient spouse. It’s a match made . . . well, not quite in heaven, but for a temporary arrangement, it couldn’t be better. Except the longer Lanie and Nick spend as husband and wife, the more the connection between them begins to seem real. Maybe this modern fairy tale really could come true . . .
There are things a girl hopes to hear in her lifetime, and a marriage proposal definitely tops that list. A proposal offered as a business deal, probably thrown out in desperation to stop my meltdown and pending dehydration, however, was not what most women have in mind.
“Don’t, Nick,” I said, hiccupping through my sobs, trying to make it stop. “Don’t play with that. Don’t make fun.”
“I’m not,” he said, still facing Ralph, the dog’s face in his hands as if it were all addressed to him. “I’m dead serious.”
I waited for more and it didn’t come. Um, I needed more explanation than that.
Wiping at my face in vain, I leaned against the post and looked down at possibly the hottest man I’d ever met. Sitting on my porch in a black-on-black suit, asking me to marry him by proxy of Ralph.
Finally, he let go of Ralph’s large head and stood, turning to face me as though it was with his last dying breath.
“You need this house,” he said, his words slow and precise. His dark eyes didn’t blink, didn’t look away uncomfortably, didn’t falter. “You may or may not need the money, I don’t know. I don’t see you getting all emotional about that, but you’re hugging the house, so I’m guessing the money’s not an important factor.”
“I didn’t even know about that money.”
“Which brings it to me,” he said, closing his eyes briefly. “I need a job.”
“Are you saying—”
“I’m saying I just got in a car with a stranger for five hundred dollars,” he said. “That’s how far I’ve fallen.
Three months of my life—what would that be worth?”
My tongue felt as swollen and stuck as my eyelids.
That sentence, along with the glazed over look his eyes got and the hard set of his jaw, was possibly the saddest thing I’d ever witnessed. To be followed closely by the strong possibility of my saying yes.
Describe yourself in five words or less.
Can you tell us a little about your book?
It’s about lying! LOL. Truly, it’s about when all your little white lies catch up to you, and what the hell do you do then? You make up a gargantuan sized one to cover them, and then hope it doesn’t swallow you whole. Unless it’s in the form of a hot sexy get-under-your-skin man….then by all means swallow! (I did not just say that.)
Lanie and Nick’s story was honestly one of my favorite books to write—EVER. It was so much fun, and such a runaway train ride with no hands! I loved literally watching them fall for each other, I loved Lanie’s spunk! I loved every second of it, and it birthed the town of Charmed, so I hope you will love it as much as I do.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
I Hope You Dance
Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
My phone and a hair tie on my wrist. (That’s 2. Damn I have trouble following rules.)
What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?
I adore writing intense scenes with either sexy-smexy chemistry burning up the page or fast snappy dialogue. Sex scenes before the sex…with the tease and the tension and the snarky back and forth talking…I love that. Also fights are a blast with all that emotion churning around. Dialogue is always the most fun. I groan to write description…
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Everyone says this, but seriously, never give up. I met Sandra Brown at a writer’s conference, and she was behind a table signing for a line of hundreds, and when I got up there I said “Everyone in this line wants to be you one day.” She looked at me and said, “You’re here. You’re already halfway there. Don’t ever stop learning and don’t ever stop writing. You’ll get here. One day, maybe I’ll be in your line.” I never forgot that. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing by any means, but my first book was published almost exactly 5 years ago, and now A CHARMED LITTLE LIE is my 10th published book, and I’ve just finished writing my 12th. Don’t give up on your dream. Also, remember that you write about life, and to do that you have to live. There are times (deadline evil times) that you have to stay in a cave and pound out words, but outside of that, find a balance and enjoy your life. It will show in your writing when you do…and when you don’t. If you write romance, kiss your husband every day. And if you are writing about hot sex and he is one of your readers, you’d better be prepared to give up the goods. Saying you aren’t in the mood after penning being banged against a wall—doesn’t cut it honey. ;)
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I wouldn’t be here without you, and I love and adore you so much for taking the time to buy my books and give my stories a try. And when you email or message me to tell me about it…oh my God you just don’t know the rainbows and unicorns that fill me up. Nothing is more important in this job than readers. When I make you happy…when I make you laugh or cry or feel something that you are moved enough to tell me about…my God, ice cream isn’t even as good as that. It’s close. But not quite. ;)
Sharla Lovelace is the bestselling, award-winning author of sexy small-town love stories. Being a Texas girl through and through, she’s proud to say she lives in Southeast Texas with her retired husband, a tricked-out golf cart, and two crazy dogs. She is the author of five stand-alone novels including the bestselling Don’t Let Go, the exciting Heart Of The Storm series, and the fun and sexy new Charmed in Texas series.
For more about Sharla's books, visit www.sharlalovelace.com, and keep up with all her new book releases easily by subscribing to her newsletter. She loves keeping up with her readers, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Author Links: WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
by Michele Hauf
Pub Date: 4/11/2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
The Elite Crimes Unit works behind the scenes of Interpol—and employs some of the world’s most talented criminal minds. Because as everyone knows, it takes a thief to catch a thief—or to seduce one . . .
The old farmhouse in the French countryside is a refuge for former jewel thief Josephine Deveraux. Admittedly, there aren’t many men in the vicinity, but she has her cat to cuddle up with. It’s a far cry from her former life, constantly running from the law, and she’s enjoying her peace . . . until the intruder in the three-piece suit tackles her. He wants her back in the game, helping with a heist—and he’s not above making threats to get his way.
Little does Josephine know that notorious—and notoriously charming—thief, Xavier Lambert, is after the very same 180-carat prize she’s being blackmailed to steal. To his chagrin, he’s doing it not as a free agent, but as a member of the Elite Crimes Unit—the team he was forced to join when his brilliant career came to a sudden end. And little does Xavier know that his comeback is about to include a stranger’s kiss, a stinging slap, and a hunt for missing treasure—along with the infuriatingly sexy woman who’s outfoxing him . . .
Josephine Devereaux strode through the open front screen door into the kitchen. Creamy golden evening light spread quiet warmth across the aged hardwood floors. The old farmhouse had stood on this plot in the southern French countryside for centuries. She’d had the pleasure of owning it for two years.
Setting a clutch of fresh carrots pulled from the rain-damp garden into the sink, she spun at a tiny meow. Behind her, the two-and-a-half-year-old Devon Rex cat with soft, downy fur the color of faded charcoal batted at the hem of her long pink skirt.
“Do you want fish or chicken tonight, Chloe?”
She opened the refrigerator to find the only option was diced chicken, left over from last night’s supper. Her neighbor, Jean-Hugues, had butchered a rooster yesterday morning and brought her half.
The cat went at the feast she’d placed on a saucer with big elf ears wiggling appreciatively. Chloe had come with the farmhouse. The couple moving out hadn’t wanted to bring along a kitten on their overseas move to the United States. It had been love at first purr for Josephine.
She smiled at the quiet patter of rain. And then she frowned. “Mud,” she muttered. And she hated housecleaning. She had never developed a domestic bone in her body and didn’t expect to grow one.
She’d spend the evening inside, maybe finish up the thriller she’d found on Jean-Hugues’s bookshelf. He always encouraged her to take what she wanted—she was a voracious reader of all topics—and she gave him vegetables from her garden in return.
Not that she was a master gardener. Jean-Hugues tended the garden, along with the few rows of vines that produced enough grapes for one big
barrel of wine. Jean-Hughes was sixty, but he flirted with her in a non- confrontational, just-for-fun manner, which she appreciated probably more than a twenty-six-year-old woman should.
Living so far from Paris made it difficult to find dateable men, let alone a hook-up for a night of just-give-it-to-me-now-and-leave-before-the-sun- rises sex. But that’s what grocery trips to the nearest village were for. If the mood struck, she’d leave in the evening for eggs, bread, and a booty call, and find her way out of bed and back home by morning.
Sighing, Josephine forgot about the dirty carrots in the sink and padded barefoot to the lumpy jacquard sofa that stretched before the massive paned window at the front of the cottage. The window overlooked a cobblestone patio, which stretched before the house and also served as a driveway, though no cars used it. She didn’t own a car. And she never had visitors, save Jean-Hugues, and on occasion the neighbors who lived on the other side of him. They were newlyweds, Jean-Louis and Hollie, and they spent most of their time by themselves. And that was exactly how Josephine preferred it.
She picked up the book, and the creased spine flopped open to the last page she’d read.
An hour later, she had to squint to read because the sun had set. Splaying the book across her chest, she closed her eyes and breathed in the fragrance of rain on fieldstones. Chloe nestled near her foot, keeping her ankle warm. The screen door, still open, squeaked lightly with the breeze. Everything was….
Peaceful? Was that a word she was supposed to embrace? To somehow understand?
“I am embracing it. Life is good.”
Or rather, more different than she could have ever imagined it would be. She set the book down, but the sound she heard was not of a paperback book hitting the wood floor. Josephine closed her eyes to listen intently. The floor creaked carefully above her, where the bathroom was located.
It did not indicate the aches and pains of an aging house. This house had settled long ago.
Curling her hand beneath the sofa, she gripped the cool bone handle of the bowie knife she’d tucked up into the torn fabric amongst the springs and pulled it out. Pointing the blade down, she took a deep breath and stood up. Moving sinuously, she crept around the end of the sofa. Her free hand skimmed over Chloe’s body, comforting and promising she’d return. The cat purred but thankfully didn’t follow.
Upstairs, it was silent. Josephine wasn’t easily spooked by natural noises, but that had not been a natural noise. And she wasn’t unnerved now. Just…. annoyed.
This was her sanctuary. No one knew where she had disappeared two years ago. Very few had known her location before that. But since then, she’d completely erased herself from the grid. Therefore, whoever was stupid enough to break in was looking to rob a random person. And they had to know she was home, which meant the intruder did not fear an altercation.
Tough luck for that idiot.
On the other hand, she had only herself to blame for leaving the ladder up against the north wall after knocking down a wasp nest this morning. Approaching the stairway, which was worn in the center of the stone risers from decades of use, Josephine tugged up her maxi skirt and tucked in one side at the waist to keep from tangling her legs in the long, floaty fabric. The stairs were fashioned from limestone; no creaks would give away her position. Barefoot, she padded up six steps to a landing. Ahead,
around a sharp right turn, rose another five steps to the second floor.
Hearing the creak of a leather sole, she realized the intruder had stepped onto the stairs. But where was he? Waiting for her to spin around the corner? He probably thought she was still downstairs relaxing on the couch.
Which gave her the advantage.
With her right arm thrust out, knife blade cutting the air, she rushed forward. As she turned the corner on the stairway, the intruder grabbed her wrist, forcing it upward to deflect the blade from stabbing his face.
Josephine yanked her arm back, causing the intruder to lose his balance. His weight crushed her against the plaster wall, and they struggled on the landing. Although it was dark in the stairway, she could see that he wasn’t an average intruder—most tended to not wear three-piece suits. He was about her height and lean. She did not doubt she could take him out.
He managed a weak knee to her gut, but she didn’t even wince. She rammed her head against his shoulder. He twisted his waist, knocking her off-balance. They spilled backward. Her hip landed his thigh as they slid down the stone stairs.
They landed on the kitchen floor, Josephine on her stomach, with the intruder on top of her. The knife flew out of her hand and skittered across the floor, landing before Chloe’s toes. The cat bent to sniff the weapon.
“Chloe, no!” she shouted. The cat scampered under the sofa.
The intruder grabbed Josephine by the hair at her neck and lifted her head. Just when he would have smashed her face against the floor, she kicked him right between the legs. His fingers instantly released the pinching hold on her neck. He swore and dropped beside her.
Scrambling across the floor, she grabbed the knife and stood, flicking on the light switch on the wall, and moving to stand over the attacker.
“What the hell?” she gasped. “You?”
A man she knew well, and had trusted enough to let down her guard and actually date, offered her an imperious smile. He swore and rubbed his crotch. “Your aim has always been spot on, Jo-Jo. Ah fuck.”
His head dropped. His eyes closed. Passed out from the pain? Josephine inched closer and leaned over him. With the tip of the knife,
she prodded him at the temple.
The man’s hand whipped up and grabbed her long hair, jerking her off balance and swinging her to the floor. He slammed her knife hand on the floor so hard, she let go. Grabbing the knife, he pressed it against her left breast, right over her heart.
“I have a proposition for you, Jo-Jo.”
No one had called her that in over two years. And hearing it now conjured up dread and regret. But along with those feelings, there was the sudden rush of adrenaline that always came with the game. She’d walked away from the game, and this man’s world of larceny and lies. And she didn’t intend to walk back into it—or be forced.
“Funny, your last proposition had me running for the hills.” Away from the engagement ring he had offered like a tempting sweet. She wasn’t that kind of girl. The domestic, let-a-man-own-you type. Her mother’s horrible choice in men had taught her a few lessons. “Never thought I’d see you again.”
He winced. “Your refusal wounded me, Jo-Jo. But I’m able to put past mistakes aside. I need you for a job.”
A mistake? More so on her part than his. But with his narcissism, he’d never care that she did have feelings, and she could be hurt. Hell, it had taken her two years living alone in the French countryside to realize that herself.
She splayed out her arms and closed her eyes in surrender. “Just kill me, Lincoln. That’s the only way this will ever happen.”
“I assumed as much. You like living the hard way? Out here in the sticks? I’ll give you that. But you owe me, Jo-Jo. For saying no.”
“Seriously?” Since when did a woman owe a man because she’d refused his marriage proposal?
She closed her eyes, inhaling the cool, ocean scent of his skin as the knife’s cool metal disappeared from her body. “What the hell could you possibly want from me?”
“There’s a pretty bit of sparkle I need you to pick up for me. This Saturday. In Paris.”
Lincoln was interested in the sparkly stuff? Since when? The man was into money laundering and securities fraud.
Did it matter? “Not interested.”
The knife blade glinted from the light over the kitchen table. “One job and I’ll never bother you again.”
“Since when are you into jewel theft?”
“It’s related to an offensive situation that could cast a black mark against my name. I’d like to remedy that. But since you know where my expertise is focused, you should also understand I have to bring in an expert for this particular heist.”
The asshole could skim a million from a major stock as easily as gliding a knife over butter. It was that talent that had initially attracted her. He was Robin Hood, taking from the rich—but he’d never given to the poor. And that had been a sticking point for her, a woman who had always tried to give away some of her spoils to those in need.
An offensive situation? She couldn’t imagine. And she didn’t want to know. “How’d you find me?” she asked.
“I’ve kept tabs on you since you went under. Did you actually think you could elude me, Jo-Jo?”
“Don’t call me that.”
“It’s your name, Josephine.” He straddled her hips, and his grip at her shoulder loosened. He let out a long, deep breath. It reminded too much of soft summer mornings spent lazing under the sheets against his warm skin. “You never did like this position,” he said. “Me on top.”
“You have a thing about being the one in control.” “And you don’t?”
She was in no mood to discuss her preference in sexual positions, or even to converse with this man. But she remained still beneath him. The knife blade pointed away from her; he’d let down his guard. She had only to bide her time.
“You know I’m not in the trade anymore, Lincoln. If you need some sparklers, there are other options.”
“Yes, but I require discretion and quality work. You’re the only thief I know who can do this job. I’ll even pay you.”
She scoffed. “I know better. You are not a generous man. Leave.”
He slapped her face. The smack rung in her ears, and Josephine’s gasp burned in her throat. But she used the distraction to her advantage, jabbing her knee into the femoral artery in his thigh. Always a painful spot. The knife clanked on the stone floor. She twisted her body, slamming him onto the floor, and landed both knees onto his torso. Grabbing the knife, she lifted it above her head with both hands, aiming for his chest.
Lincoln chuckled. His dark eyes twinkled in the cool evening shadows. Yeah, that was a devastating twinkle, and he knew how to wield it. As he spread his arms out, and she felt his chest relax beneath her knees, he said, “If I know one thing about you, Jo-Jo, it’s that you are not a killer.” She tilted her head and nodded. “Nope, I’m not so keen on taking life.
But I don’t mind causing a little pain now and then.”
She slammed her hands down. The knife pierced Lincoln’s Givenchy suit and nicked bone as it entered his shoulder. He growled as she stood up over him.
“Get the hell out of my home.” She stepped back and glanced around the room. Chloe was still under the sofa. “Now!”
Gripping his shoulder but leaving the blade in, Lincoln stood up, staggered, yet managed a cool recovery. He swept a hand over his coal-black hair, slicked with pomade. “You will do this job for me. I will be back.”
Michele Haufhas been writing romance, action-adventure and fantasy stories for over twenty years. Her first published novel wasDark Rapture(Zebra). France, musketeers, vampires and faeries populate her stories. And if she followed the adage “write what you know,” all her stories would have snow in them. Fortunately, she steps beyond her comfort zone and writes about countries she has never visited and of creatures she has never seen.
by Ines Saint
Pub. Date: 4/11/2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Spinning Hills, Ohio, home of the third most haunted street in the state, is the perfect place for three sisters to banish the unhappy specters of their pasts—and to let romance cast its spell . . .
Gracie Piper is good at being invisible, and she likes it that way. At just seventeen, she took a very public stand against the boy who passed a revealing video of her all over school. Ever since, she’s staked her life on staying out of the limelight. But when she moves back to Spinning Hills, she comes face to face with her painful past. In the same historic building Gracie’s boss has assigned her to supervise renovating works the man who helped her find justice nine years ago, and nearly lost his own career in the process. A man who suddenly arouses feelings that make Gracie weak in the knees . . .
Josh Goodwin is sure he’s seeing a ghost when he spots Gracie in the halls of his office building. Taking her case was a professional risk that became all too personal when a bitter ex accused him of getting involved with teenage Gracie. Seeing her again is opening old wounds, and threatening brand-new ones—his campaign for County Prosecutor won’t withstand a brand-new scandal. But there’s something about sweet, gorgeous Gracie that brings out the crusader in him—and the thing he’ll fight hardest for is her love . . .
Ines Saint was born in Zaragoza, Spain. She’s bilingual and bicultural and has spent the last ten years raising her fun, inspiring little boys and sharing her life with the man of her dreams, who also happens to be her best friend and biggest cheerleader. Her greatest joys are spending quality time with family and close friends.