The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Series A Bridgertons Prequel
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Books
Publication Date November 20, 2018
She was in the wrong place…
Fiercely independent and adventurous, Poppy Bridgerton will only wed a suitor whose keen intellect and interests match her own. Sadly, none of the fools from her London season qualify. While visiting a friend on the Dorset coast, Poppy is pleasantly surprised to discover a smugglers’ hideaway tucked inside a cave. But her delight turns to dismay when two pirates kidnap her and take her aboard a ship, leaving her bound and gagged on the captain’s bed…
He found her at the wrong time...
Known to society as a rascal and reckless privateer, Captain Andrew James Rokesby actually transports essential goods and documents for the British government. Setting sail on a time-sensitive voyage to Portugal, he’s stunned to find a woman waiting for him in his cabin. Surely, his imagination is getting the better of him. But no, she is very real—and his duty to the Crown means he's stuck with her.
Can two wrongs make the most perfect right?
When Andrew learns that she is a Bridgerton, he knows he will likely have to wed her to avert a scandal—though Poppy has no idea that he is the son of an earl and neighbor to her aristocratic cousins in Kent. On the high seas, their war of words soon gives way to an intoxicating passion. But when Andrew’s secret is revealed, will his declaration of love be enough to capture her heart…?
He motioned with his arm, urging her a few more steps forward. “Careful,” he murmured.
Poppy looked to her toes. The deck came to an abrupt halt in front of her, its elevation dropping by several feet.
The captain hopped down. “The beakhead, my lady,” he said with a gallant wave to the triangular deck that formed the pointy front of the Infinity. He reached up and placed his hands on her hips to help her down.
But when she was steady, he didn’t let go.
“This is as far forward as one can stand on deck,” he told her.
She pointed to a spot a few feet ahead. “What about—”
“As one can stand safely on deck,” he amended. He adjusted their position so that he was standing behind her. “Now close your eyes.”
“But then I can’t see the stars.”
“You can open them later.”
She tilted her head to the left, right, and back again, as if to say, Oh, very well, but she closed her eyes.
“Now tilt your head up. Not all the way, just a bit.”
She did, and maybe it was that motion, or maybe it was just because she’d closed her eyes, but she felt instantly off-balance, as if something far greater than the ocean had stolen her equilibrium.
The captain’s hands tightened on her hips. “What do you feel?” he asked, his lips coming close to her ear.
“What else?” She swallowed. Licked her lips.
“The salt in the air.”
“The motion, the speed.”
He moved his mouth closer. “What else?”
And then she said the one thing that had been true from the beginning.
About Julia Quinn
JULIA QUINN started writing her first book one month after finishing college and has been tapping away at her keyboard ever since. The New York Times bestselling author of more than two dozen novels for Avon Books, she is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and is one of only sixteen authors ever to be inducted in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard
Series n/a; standalone
Genre Adult Mystery / Thriller
Publisher Avon Books
Publication Date November 27, 2018
Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.
But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun...or else be out of a job.
Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina--who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice--making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.
Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.
But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.
She wanted to reach out and touch him, but despite what had just happened between them, she felt constrained. Their make-out session hadn’t changed anything. He was still the leader of that team, and he’d do whatever was necessary for their operational stability because their very lives depended on it. Her job was to safeguard them as much as possible, to provide an extra set of eyes looking for trouble or gathering information without exposing them to unnecessary danger.
If she were in an arguing frame of mind, she’d yell at him that the guys wouldn’t mind at all if she and Levi began a relationship, but she’d be lying. It would make a difference. The others would subconsciously begin looking for signs of favoritism, which would foster resentment and a lack of trust. Any argument between her and Levi would necessarily cause tension among the others. That was just how team dynamics worked; a disagreement between any two members was one thing, but throw sex into the mixture and it became combustible.
She turned her head and stared at the sky as grimly as he was, and for the same reason. As things stood, she had two choices: she could quit training and have Levi—for how long was up for debate—or she could stay on the team and deal with the bitter truth that they couldn’t be together.
She. Couldn’t. Quit. Doing so would betray everything she was, every sense of self. Maybe she drove herself past what a sane person would do, but didn’t the guys also do that? Being who they were, doing what they did, required more of them than, say, a regular nine-to-five job.
She had been happy with that nine-to-five job, but now this was her reality, and she wouldn’t, couldn’t, turn her back on it.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of THE WOMAN LEFT BEHIND by Linda Howard, we’re giving away one paperback copy of the book!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 12/3/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Linda Howard
LINDA HOWARD is the award-winning author of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including Up Close and Dangerous, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Cover of Night, Killing Time, To Die For, Kiss Me While I Sleep, Cry No More, and Dying to Please. She lives in Gadsden, Alabama with her husband and a golden retriever.
The Harder They Fall
Romancing the Seas Book 2
by Roxanne D. Howard
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When Piper returns from an overseas assignment, Jack is determined to win her back at all costs, including saving her life.
FROM NOW ON...
Piper Goldhirsch has returned home for the holidays after being on assignment for two months in war-torn Syria. Still heartbroken over the way things ended with ship captain, Jack Spencer, she's wary when he offers to take her away to Catalina Island for a romantic weekend. She's begun to carve out a promising career, and doesn't want to sacrifice the strides she's made with Channel 4 news, but she longs for Jack and agrees to the get-away.
Jack is determined to win back Piper at all costs. When he receives a cash settlement from the tabloid that defamed him, he buys a new yacht and whisks her away hoping to reignite the fire between them. Their passion rekindles, but a dangerous stowaway hijacks the yacht and holds Piper and Jack captive. Working to keep each other alive, they realize there's no tomorrow unless they are together. Forever.
She kept her head high, as her mom always told her.
Chin up, my girl. Always chin up.
She’d put on a pair of black pants and a white wraparound blouse with a nice empire waist for the occasion. They presented her with a beautifully crafted glass award from RTNA, the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California, for her coverage on Syria. There’d been an awards ceremony put on by the RTNA, but she missed it when she was overseas. Her hands didn’t shake when she took the award, but despite her confidence, tears welled up. A year ago, she would have considered this a pipe dream. Richard stood aside and indicated she should say a few words.
Piper took a deep breath and moved toward the microphone. She cleared her throat and looked up. “Thank you. I—”
The first person she saw was Jack Spencer. He leaned against the wall on the other side of the room wearing dark jeans, a dark-blue T-shirt, and a black sports jacket. Time froze, and she stared. Her emotions battled it out, elation, anger, resentment, and a burning desire all fighting to the surface. Beneath it all, the magnetic zing which they’d had between them from the beginning resurfaced at full force. His face beamed with pride, and it hit her right in the heart. Piper blinked, and a few tears escaped. Maybe he’d come to make amends?
She looked around at the audience of her peers, who appeared to notice the exchange. “My time in Syria taught me about what it means to be grateful for what we have here. Thank you so much for this award. I’m grateful to my team of amazing cameramen and behind-the-scenes staff, and also to my fellow anchors, Hakeem Patel and Melinda Schaffer, who were my home front throughout the whole experience. This award means a lot to me, more than any of you could ever know. I hope our segments we did in Syria have stoked enough awareness about the crisis with the refugees. Not everyone will always agree about a decision, but when it involves children, I feel like we have an obligation to do our utmost to help. Thank you.”
She stepped away to applause. But instead of going back to her table, she kept right on walking. Straight toward Jack.
The Hotter They Come
Romancing the Seas #1
When Piper’s job sends her undercover to spy on Jack - the beyond sexy hook-up she can’t stop thinking about - she is forced to decide if her job is more important than her happiness.
HAPPINESS HAS A PRICE
Captain Jack Spencer owns and runs a whale watching company, Ahoy, Matey. When his business takes off, a jealous rival wants him and his company gone. Jack has no idea the delectable Piper Goldhirsch is tasked with scuttling everything he's worked for - he's too caught up in their magnetic attraction and her web of lies.
Piper Goldhirsch, head reporter for the tabloid TV show Business Buster, is all work and no play. When she and the all too tempting Jack Spencer have a one-night stand that turns out to be the greatest sex of her life, she is haunted by the powerful magic between them. Sent undercover to expose his whale watching business, she is torn between her assignment and the first man she has ever wanted. With her happiness on the line, Piper has only one choice.
She lifted her bare foot. He held her ankle with more delicacy than she’d expected from such a big man. As he slid the flat back onto her foot, his thumb grazed the indent near her anklebone. She shivered at the sensation. This close, the ocean blue of his eyes shone with intensity as he watched her. What did he look like beneath the costume and makeup? She’d noticed his sexy, crooked smile and the roguish way the corner of his mouth lifted up, as if he knew something she didn’t. His fingers wrapped around the back of her ankle, then stopped. She met his hungry eyes and nudged her leg forward into his hand. His fingers slid up an inch further, moving in a slow, barely there caress.
“I realize it’s none of my business,” he said. “But earlier, out in the ballroom…I don’t know what your friends said or did to make you upset, but if I can help at all, I’d like to.”
“I’m okay. Just shaking something off.” She took a sip from the wine bottle as she watched him. She moved her foot closer to his chest urging his hand closer to her calf. His long fingers stroked her flesh.
She closed her eyes. “Mmm, that feels nice. Don’t worry about what they said. You got a name, pirate?”
His tone was serious. She looked back down at him and smirked. Two could play that game.
“Oh, of course. You’re Captain Jack, and I’m Little Red Riding Hood. C’mere.” He stood and met her eye to eye. At five feet nine, she often had a vantage point in height in the workplace, which served her well when she wanted to be intimidating, but he had well over four inches on her, easy. His big, muscular frame towered over her. She took another sip of wine and walked her fingers up the buttons of his waistcoat. “Can I level with you, Captain Jack?”
She pushed aside the question of why she felt so at ease with him when all she’d wanted was to be alone and smoothed her palm over his white pirate shirt, his strong pectoral muscles firm beneath her fingers. When she next spoke, her voice broke as she remembered why she’d sought solace in the first place; she’d gotten a man and his whole family deported.
“See, I’ve had a hell of a hard year. I’ve pushed myself and made magic happen in ways I didn’t think I’d ever be able to, but that magic comes at a price, and I’m not okay with it. Every single day, people want a piece of me. And on normal days, I can handle it. But right now, all I want to do, since you’re here,” she moved closer, her lips inches from his, “and I’m here, is to forget it all and make some magic of our own I can hold onto, even if it’s just this little moment.”
His chest rose and fell as he scanned her. Clarity and kindness were evident in his eyes beneath the desire, and she knew she could have a little fun with him. She noticed that his palms clenched the more she rubbed against him. She smirked, grabbed the lapels of his waistcoat, and crashed her lips onto his.
THE WOMAN WAS unreal. Her thick, pouty lips moved against his, and no sooner had she kissed him full on the mouth than he seized her around her wasp-sized waist and laid claim. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, and her curves were soft and perfect in his hands. His tongue sought entrance to her mouth, and she met him eagerly. She tasted like strawberries and wine, and he groaned as his fingers slipped into her curls. It had been forever since he’d kissed a woman. She scored full check marks in every category, and then some.
Chances were she merely wanted a nice make-out session, but his body already demanded more. He wrapped his arms around her, spanned his hand against her back, and traveled down to the curve of her delectable ass. She shivered against him; the movement went straight to his hardened cock. He nipped her lower lip as he squeezed her bottom.
“Oh, you are one big firecracker, aren’t you? Tell me your name.”
She wrapped her ankle around the back of his calf as she hauled him in close. “No names,” she breathed.
He kissed her and moaned when she rubbed her core against him through their clothes. All right, he’d play along. For now. But he would take the lead.
Roxanne D. Howard is a romance novelist who resides in the mid-western United States. She is a RWA PAN member. She loves to read poetry, classical literature, and Stephen King. She is also an avid Star Wars fan, musical theater nut, and loves everything related to marine biology. She is the proud mother of two beautiful girls, several pets, and loves to spend time with her husband and children when she's not writing.
Dangerous Distractions Book 2
by Samantha Keith
Genre: Romantic Suspense
There are good guys, and then there are highly trained good guys—the kind who make the world a safer, sexier place . . .
Former military and ex-FBI agent Ethan Worth is searching for a new way to serve and protect. On a break in Beaufort, North Carolina, he just may have found it. It starts with saving a tipsy damsel in distress from a shady troublemaker. But it ends with the surprisingly sober beauty outraged by his rescue. That’s all Ethan needs for his expert instincts to kick into high gear . . .
Riley Jones is back in Beaufort for one reason only: to find her missing best friend, Hanna. If that means using herself as bait for the kind of guy who’d prey on a vulnerable young woman, so be it. She doesn’t need a rugged knight in shining armor like Ethan distracting her, and she doesn’t want his help. But it turns out she needs it. And together, as the heat between them rises, so does the danger. Until both their lives are on the line . . .
Lord Jesus, it was her. She hadn’t seen him yet, thank god.
Ethan pulled his baseball cap low over his eyes and rounded his shoulders over his glass of rum and Coke.
He kept his head low, but his eyes trained on her. Riley wore denim cutoff shorts and a white lace crop top that revealed her flat, lightly tanned stomach. The man beside her passed her another shot. She tossed it back expertly. Ethan slid his thumb over the cool glass in his hand. That’s two now, and before the shots she’d been sipping on a brightly colored cocktail. That was a lot of alcohol for someone her size.
She passed the man her empty shot glass. He slid an arm around her back, inching closer to her. For a flicker of an instant, her face changed. Her eyes grew small and her jaw tensed. A shaky smile returned when
he touched her chin and turned her face toward him. Her fingers toyed with a long tendril of her hair that fell in soft waves around her breasts.
The man tucked her hair over her shoulder and whispered something in her ear. She bit her lip.
Ethan tightened his hand on the sweating glass. She didn’t know the dude. All he had to go by was instinct and his experience on reading people. One thing was for sure, the asshole was all over her. If he was her boyfriend, he wouldn’t be trying so damn hard.
Dammit, he shouldn’t care. She wasn’t his problem. Since he’d moved in next door to her a couple weeks ago, she’d been friendly but completely disinterested in his attempts at small talk. Not that he’d done anything but be polite to her.
Riley had a wall of ice behind her green eyes and tight smile. No one was getting beyond that guard…except the douchebag that kept touching her. The man trailed a finger over Riley’s collarbone, his face tucked closely to her ear. Her cheeks turned a ripe shade of pink. She ducked her chin away from his face, but the man brought his hand to her jaw and turned it sharply toward him. The planes of the dude’s face turned hard and his fingertips held her face inches from his. Even at this distance, Ethan could see that he dug his grip too deep, making her soft skin pucker around his fingertips. His hold demanded her obedience.
Who the hell did this guy think he was handling a woman like that? And more importantly, why was she standing for it?
He lowered his hand to her bicep and rotated her body into him. With Riley’s back to Ethan, he watched as the predator smoothed his hands over her ass. She grabbed his wrists, shifting his hands to rest on her hips.
The guy put them right back on the rump of her shorts.
An iron fist of disgust gripped Ethan’s lungs. The prick was insistent and downright rough. His instincts went to war. Getting involved wouldn’t do him any good, but something wasn’t right.
“Mind if I have a seat?” A tall woman in a tight red dress blocked his view. He lifted his eyes to her face and then dragged them away. On any other night, he’d be game. Hell, he’d be more than game. But tonight, he couldn’t take his eyes off the blonde across the room.
“I’m waiting for someone, but you’re welcome to have a seat.” Manners forced the words from his mouth. He shifted his gaze around her full, sexy hips to locate the woman across the bar. His disinterest didn’t sway the woman in red. She pulled out a chair and sat. Her legs crossed and uncrossed.
“You’ve been waiting an awful long time.” She rested her chin on her palm. Warm, olive eyes met his. God, she was beautiful. Her lips were full and painted in a warm neutral tone, her dark hair curled around her exposed cleavage.
Every male hormone in his body screamed at him for not taking an interest. But he couldn’t. Not when his sixth sense was on high alert. He couldn’t pretend that he didn’t have any clue as to what the slimy bastard
was planning on doing with Riley. He forced his attention to the woman in front of him. “I’m sorry, I’m distracted tonight and not in the mood for conversation.”
A slow smile crept over her face. “I’m not in the mood for conversation either.”
Jesus, she was direct. He liked direct, he liked women who knew what they wanted and took it. Sex in particular. He was here on vacation to clear his head and figure out his next steps and he wanted to enjoy it. And that meant sex. Lots of it. Of course, this would happen tonight, when he wouldn’t be able to act. Because of Riley. Just his luck.
The waitress stepped up to his visitor, and propped a tray on her hip. “What can I get you?”
“I’ll have a mojito, please.”
Now he was buying her a drink? How in the hell had that happened? He craned his neck around the two women. A new couple stood in the same spot where Riley and the asshole had stood only seconds before.
“And for you?”
He waved his glass at her. “Rum and Coke.”
His eyes scanned the crowd. The waitress took the empty glass and sidled around the table. He leaned in his seat, not caring if he was being inconspicuous or not. Women gyrated on the dance floor, the thumping
of the bass vibrated through the soles of his shoes, racking up his pulse.
The top of Riley’s blond head passed through a gap in the throng of bodies. The man she’d been with had his fingers circled around her elbow, leading her to the exit.
Ethan leapt to his feet, opened his wallet, and slapped some bills on the table. “Have a good night.” He moved his way through the crowd, keeping his eyes on his target. The woman he’d left behind scoffed and made a rude remark.
He didn’t care.
The Dangerous Distractions #1
In a high-stakes world of privilege, betrayal, and the sexy thrill of the unknown, you never know where a dangerous distraction will lead . . .
Cal Hart walks a blurred line of honor. The rock-hard former Marine has his lethal skills at the service of the highest bidder. Until a contract comes in to kill Lana Vanderpoel, the sultry, charismatic heiress and billionaire’s daughter. She’s way too sexy to end up at the wrong end of a silencer. So Cal takes the job—and starts planning how to get Lana to safety while he unearths who’s behind the threat . . .
Lana only knows she’s been kidnapped—and she’ll fight tooth and nail against whoever has snatched her from her life. Her stern-faced captor sends a tremor of ice through her veins, yet a thrill lies beneath her unease. He’s dark and dangerous, his body ripped, honed, and capable. But lust isn’t the same as trust—and whether or not she can believe what Cal’s telling her, there’s at least one person close to Lana who wants her dead . . .
A bead of sweat broke out on his brow, and he wiped it away with his sleeve. Despite the cool air, he was roasting in his black camouflage gear.
She should be home and in bed by now. Last Saturday night she’d been home by midnight, and even earlier on other nights of the week that he’d conducted surveillance. His pulse beat steadily against his eardrums with impatience. It didn’t matter. He’d be waiting for her when she decided to come home. There was no chance in hell he was backing out of this job now.
Headlights cut through the night as a car pulled up to the front gate.
Determination tensed his muscles, and his lips curved.
It’s about damn time.
The passenger door opened. He sunk lower in the shadows, pressing his back against the outside of the garage. He was out of sight, but still had a direct view of his target. Satisfaction brought his breath to a steady pace. Once she got inside, he’d give her some time to fall asleep, and then he’d make his move. Her delicious bare leg stepped out of the car, revealing a barely-there miniscule dress. She laughed hysterically and pitched forward, nearly doing a face-plant on the pavement. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Just great. She was wasted.
Samantha Keith is a wife and mother to her very energetic and brilliant daughter, who shares her love of literature. Teddy, the family multi poo, completes her family. Samantha writes steamy, fast-paced, romantic suspense novels in the rare moments she has uninterrupted—even interrupted, she manages to apply words to paper. Aside from her love of writing, her other interests include cooking vegan meals and creating recipes. Abducted came in first place in the romantic suspense category for the Heartland Romance Authors’ Show Me the Spark Contest. Co
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Every mission has a price.
He never meant for her to pay it.
Aiden has never left anyone behind. Not a comrade and certainly not an innocent. But when an undercover mission goes wrong, he's forced to abandon a woman trapped in a human trafficking ring.
Violet learned brutally that no one is promised a happy ending. She knows Aiden blames himself for his part, but she refuses to let her abduction define the rest of her life.
She won’t be a victim again. And she’s going after what she wants: Aiden.
Watching Violet transform herself into a fierce warrior is the sexiest thing Aiden has ever seen. The honorable plan would be to stay away from her—let her heal and grow without the shadow of his mistakes clouding her progress—even though every instinct tells him to claim her for his own.
But when they discover the danger they thought they’d left behind is closer than ever, they’ll have to confront their fears and fight side-by-side in order to survive.
Linear Tactical series is proving to be all I was hoping it to be, and so much more. The stories are emotional, suspenseful, intense, and riveting. And Aiden and Violet's story, Shamrock, while I was getting the idea from Eagle that it is going to be tense and fierce with all the feels, I was not prepared it to just shatter my heart and soul, in the best possible way that a great book can make that happen.
The images Crouch draws to the minds of the readers are so vivid, so real and raw, and the horrors and terror Violet goes through at the beginning of the story, it left me gasping for air. Yes, this can be a trigger to some, so consider yourself to be warned. But the beautiful thing is, the author doesn't leave the heroine there to suffer and wither away when the readers get to witness this amazing, strong, beautiful soul emerge from the ashes, and grow to be a true heroine, a true champion, a person I admired with my whole heart and being. She struggles through the nightmares, through the attacks, through the memories, and through the bubble wrap, her brother wants to put her in, and the through the distance Aidan wants to give her after everything that she has experienced. Her perseverance, her strength, her endurance, it just multiplies as she develops into the strong, beautiful person she was meant to be. Yes, another fabulous strong female lead from Crouch, I swear, she does them better than the most.
Aiden - he is the perfect match to the warrior Violet is. Their minds, souls, and hearts are lined up on the same frequency, and it is a beautiful thing to witness. The age difference between them is brought up several times, but it was hard to see in practice, as they go on with their lives, and develop on the personal front, and grow together as soul mates, and built upon their relationship. And though they are sizzling hot together, burning up the pages, there is more to their relationship than just the hot, physical attraction, as the author proves to the readers.
The team is well presented in the story, as are the mates from Violet's brother's team. It is always a joy to see the characters from the previous books and visit with old friends.
Shamrock is an impressive, potent, and vigorous story filled with harsh, vehement suspense and action that is perfectly balanced and matched by the fervent and ardent love story that is developing between the protagonists. It will pull out all the feels, maybe even more than you were prepared to give, yet it does not leave you hanging as it delivers well in the smoothly flowing, well-written, heartwrenching story. What a ride!
~ Five Spoons
Addicted to You
SAPD SWAT Series Book 2
by Nikki Mays
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Comedy
Michelle is my addiction. She’s sweetness and light wrapped up in a delicious package. Almost as delicious as the confections she makes. Until now, I’ve kept my distance to make sure my darkness doesn’t taint her. She’s better than a killer who sits behind a scope.
I watch her from afar. Getting dragged under her spell a little further with every sweet smile and mischievous grin. I know I’ll cave one day, give into the craving to be near her. Being in her presence is a feeling like no other, one I can’t seem to resist.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one living under her influence. While I was watching her, someone else was watching too. But she belongs with me, no matter what anyone else wants.
Now I need to make sure she gives me my next fix of her, even if she’s too stubborn to admit she wants to. She’s my addiction, cure and redemption all rolled into one. Her soul calls out to my own. I’ll make sure she’s as addicted to me as I am to her. She’ll crave me - if it’s the last thing I do.
Surrender to You
SAPD SWAT Series Book 1
Mellie has been hypnotized by a pair of gorgeous green eyes, attached to a very yummy package for months now. Unfortunately for her, her brain goes on hiatus anytime Morris Jackson is around. Looking like a bobble head whenever he asks her anything isn't the best way to go about getting a man like him interested. Not like ruggedly handsome men go for quirky, accident prone introverts like her. Plus, even if she did have a snowballs chance in hell with him, him being her brothers SWAT teammate doesn't bode well for her. A girl can dream though!
Those blue eyes sucker punched him the minute he looked into them. It felt like the ground had literally gone out from under him. Mellie is everything that he could ever want and everything that he shouldn't have. Even if he didn't know that she's too good for a guy like him, her brother would never be okay with it. He is over protective and proud of it. But at some point you have to say screw the consequences and go after what you know is meant to be yours.
Too bad someone wasn't happy for them when the found their way to one another. Someone will make sure they don't stay together by any means necessary. They'll even kill to get what they want.
Nikki Mays is a pen name that was created from her maiden name. She is a wife and mother, who lives in a small town in New Jersey. She has been with her husband for a decade and is surprised that he's still alive. She began writing as a creative outlet after becoming a stay at home mom. She decided that she needed something exclusively for herself, not just being mommy. She has two crazy boxers that love to keep that "Evil" mailman out of the yard. Besides writing and spending time with her little hellions, she enjoys cooking & baking. She has recently taken up gardening and made her loving husband plant her a mini fruit tree orchard, as well as a garden taking up half an acre. Nikki loves to be stalked by her readers and encourages all interaction.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
Who Would You Choose?
Love in the City Book 4
by J.M. Bronston
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Marge Webster has always known what she wanted, and how to accomplish it. As editor-in-chief of Lady Fair magazine, she’s got influence and fame, a social calendar as packed as her closet, and a gorgeous attorney boyfriend. Jerry is successful, loving, and ready to settle down. As for Marge—she just feels exhausted. Maybe that explains her weak knees and fluttering heartbeat when she runs into Sam Packard, her high-school crush.
Back then, Sam was the most popular and charismatic guy around. He didn’t always understand Marge’s dreams, but their connection was undeniable. Marge isn’t that awestruck girl anymore—but for the first time in her life, she has no idea which path to follow. Maybe the answer is to step back, take a doctor-ordered European vacation, and explore exactly what and who makes her happy. The answers might surprise everyone—especially Marge…
It was just too good a day not to be outside in the sun. The retailers’ meeting had gone really well and ended early with smiles all around. She was ahead of schedule for her lunch appointment and the city was inviting her to come out and breathe a little.
“Luke. Stop the car.” She looked at her watch—a gift from Hermès—and said, “I have some time. I’m going to walk from here. You go on to the restaurant and wait for me till it’s time to go back to the office.”
“Okay, Ms. Webster.” Before Marge could move, Luke was out of the car and came around to open the door for her. “Nice day for a walk,” he said. “Summer’s winding down. It’ll be fall soon.”
“Yes.” She smiled. “You can feel it in the air.” It seemed, despite Piero Massione’s childish behavior, the world was full of smiles now.
“You sure can. Need to enjoy what’s left of the good weather.” Luke smiled, too. “Have a good one,” he said, and he got back into the car.
Marge watched the big black town car blend in with the rest of the traffic—the moving mass of other big black town cars and boxy yellow taxis, the private cars, the buses, and the trucks that made the city feel
always on the go.
She turned away and smiled again; she’d just slipped out of the day’s tightly packed schedule and found a little escape time just for herself. It didn’t happen often. It certainly didn’t happen often enough. She really needed just a small escape—needed to get away from her mental to-do list. She took one big, deep breath and looked around, looked to see where she had landed.
It was an ordinary neighborhood street, somewhere in the Village. Small shops, some brownstones, people just quietly going about their business. Babies in strollers. Dogs being walked. Teenagers falling in love. A city street. Always a treat. Better than any television screen for variety, humanity, action, the potential for drama, a laugh, something new.
She took off her jacket, hooked it over her arm and started to walk. A man passed her, turned to look, and kept going. At the corner, a street vendor was filling the air with the irresistible aroma of honey roasted nuts. She paused at his cart, checked her watch once more—forty minutes till she had to meet Bridey—decided she could indulge in a snack before lunch. She paid her dollar and started to walk away with her paper bag of honey roasted peanuts. But an idea stopped her. She turned and watched as a mother and her little boy approached the cart. The mother gave her boy the money to buy a bag. And Marge thought about it.
Street food in New York. Surprisingly, it really is very good. Good, and often very interesting. Might be an idea to discuss with Bridey. See what she thought of a piece on the street food of New York. It would make an amusing story. “What to Wear While Dining Out.” With the emphasis on “out,” of course.
Always new ideas. Can’t help it. I just love the magazine so much.
She really needed to take more breaks like this one.
I know. I know. Doctor Diaz says I have to ease up a little. Working too hard.
She did a little deep breathing, quietly, as she walked along. Marge would never let anyone know, but it was beginning to worry her. Carrying it all on her shoulders. She was feeling the stress, she was seeing the
signs of overwork, the wound-up overdrive of her thoughts that kept her from falling asleep. The little wrinkles forming at her lips. The need for concealer under her eyes.
But who would—who could—run Lady Fair as skillfully as she did? Marge knew it was her ability to be the calm in the eye of the storm that was her major asset—that had gotten her hired for this job at the impossibly early age of twenty-nine.
She’d first come to the notice of the magazine’s owners early on, when she was a young features editor, first months on the job, and an article of hers won an ASME award. Not bad for a rookie. Not bad for anyone! Then, a month later, there was her memo to upper management suggesting a cost-cutting digital innovation that resulted in an annual bottom-line savings of more than eighty thousand dollars. And the clincher came the day a crazy ex-con broke through the lobby security downstairs and ran naked through Lady Fair’s reception area, waving a long Tanaka knife. While the receptionist cringed behind her chrome and glass desk, paralyzed with terror, and the staff trembled in the corridors and behind their locked doors, it was the still-a-rookie Marge whose gentle and sympathetic voice talked the man down and kept him quiet until the police arrived to escort him out of the building, wrapped up in a gorgeous blue floral wool-and-silk
shawl from Gucci, produced at the last minute by one of the design people, out of the nearest fashion closet.
When an ABC reporter did the interview about the incident for the evening news, Marge credited the outfit she’d been wearing. “It was probably the charcoal gray Valentino I had on. It’s a very no-nonsense business suit, suitable for handling any office crisis. Maybe,” she added, “he thought I was his parole officer.”
But it wasn’t only Marge’s steel in the face of danger together with her light touch that got her noticed. She was a brilliant writer, knew how to work to a deadline, and understood the difference between a good story and an indispensable story. She’d proven she understood the dollars and cents of the industry, and she had a respect for its full product range from the low end of a strip mall’s ready-to-wear to the haute couture of the most exclusive salons. And, perhaps the most important skill in a potential editor in chief, Marge had not only a passion for fashion but a sure sense of its exact place in today’s social scene as well as in the scene that would appear over tomorrow’s horizon.
What no one included in the mix, not even Marge herself, was what it was costing her to be cool and effective, day in and day out. No one, that is, except Dr. Martine Diaz who had been telling her to take it easier.
Joan Myra Bronston grew up in New York City, married her college sweetheart, and went with him to Germany for a year while he was in the Army and where she worked as a telex operator and mail clerk. They then moved to Austria where Joan spent five years teaching at an international school. She is the mother of three wonderful girls and the grandmother of a super-wonderful grandson. Joan was also a secretary, social investigator, and psychiatric researcher, before entering law school and eventually becoming a corporate attorney. In addition to her years in Europe, Joan has lived in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and, for 18 years, Salt Lake City. At last, she has closed the circle and returned to her first and most beloved—New York City.
Breathless by Cherrie Lynn
Series The Ross Siblings Series
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled Amara
Publication Date November 19, 2018
Seth and Macy Warren haven't been married long, but they have their eyes on the future. Macy is excited to start a family, while Seth debates the pros and cons of giving up their spontaneity for the potential perils of parenthood. But Macy thinks she can convince him...
When he gets a chance to relive some of his past glory days by rejoining his former band onstage, though, he jumps at it. Still, she thinks she can turn the trip to his gig into some baby-making fun. Until she comes face-to-face with a part of Seth’s past that she'd hoped to never deal with again.
Macy knows she shouldn't have her doubts. But she also knows that when you have everything, you have everything to lose.
Seth “Ghost” Warren wiped his oil-smudged hands on a well-used rag, frowning into the depths of his 1969 GTO’s engine. That should do it. She’d been running hot lately, but he thought he had it pegged to an airflow problem. At least that was what he hoped, since he wasn’t too keen on sinking more money into her right now. Frigging thing had been a drain on his finances ever since he’d bought her, but like any good addict, he couldn’t stop—at least not when the alternative was selling her. They’d been through too much together.
Thunder rumbled overhead, signaling an afternoon spring thunderstorm and the end of his patience. Sighing, he dropped the hood and gathered his tools, heading toward the garage just as the first fat drops of April rain began to slap the pavement. He could’ve worked on her under the roof of the garage, but he didn’t like the closed-in feel, preferring to tinker with her in the driveway. Until ten minutes ago, it had been too nice of a day to be inside—but that was Texas weather for you.
Just as he putting his tools away, the bottom really fell out—a sudden deluge of rain that he was damn glad he’d escaped. It was so loud he almost missed his ringing cell phone on the workbench, but at the last minute he noticed the lit-up display. Unfamiliar number. Ordinarily he didn’t answer those, but it was local, so he relented. Could be a client with a new number, and he never wanted to miss out on work at the tattoo shop.
“Yeap,” he drawled, his usual greeting that was lost somewhere between “yeah” and “yep.”
“Hey dude. Long time no see.”
Ghost’s spine shot ramrod straight. What. The. Hell. “I don’t see you now, motherfucker.”
“And you haven’t changed any.” Mark laughed, asshole that he was. Ever since Ghost had quit his position as lead guitarist of In the Slaughter, the band Mark fronted, there had been absolutely no reason to talk to the slimy little bastard. He’d deleted all evidence of him from his phone, and his life, and had been happier for it. Mark’s little brother had filled Ghost’s shoes in the band, which was exactly what Mark had always wanted. Everyone’s problems solved. So there.
“Well. That’s a problem.”
“What’s that noise? Is it raining?”
“What am I, the fucking weatherman? Look out your window.” He slammed a cabinet shut and glanced around. Nothing was left out that Macy might ride his ass over later. His wife was a damn neat freak, even though he’d clearly specified the garage was his domain. That didn’t seem to matter to her, though. “And is there some reason you’re on my phone right now?”
“I can’t call up an old friend?”
“You never called when we were friends, unless you wanted something.”
Oh. Yeah, that should have occurred to him right from the start. But the only thing more interesting than fucking with Mark was finding out what Mark could possibly want.
“Okay, so you caught me. But I’ve got a proposition for you. Just hear me out, all right?”
“Before you even waste your breath, you know I’m walking the straight and narrow now, right? So carefully consider just how fast I’m going to tell you to fuck off before you even ask whatever it is you’re going to ask.”
“I heard you got married. My invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail.”
“Yeah, your invitation that I never sent must’ve gotten lost in the mail. That’s it.”
“Look, short and sweet,” Mark began, obviously getting tired of the verbal sparring he never won, “we wanted to ask if you’d like to come back for a gig with us.”
Ghost nearly laughed, wondering how many times the other guys had counseled Mark to ask as nicely as possible. Indeed, it wasn’t like him. And in the split second before Ghost’s phone had rung, if someone had asked him his thoughts about rejoining In the Slaughter for any length of time, he probably would have punched them in the face for their insolence.
But with a real offer on the table…
“I don’t know, man.” Macy’s SUV pulled into their driveway, headlights on, windshield wipers beating furiously against the gray curtain of rain. “Hang on a second.” She crept past the GTO and eased into the garage. Ghost didn’t necessarily want her to hear the conversation he was having right now, so he put the phone down and helped her carry her bags into the house before hurrying back out and snatching it up again. “All right. You’ve got my attention. Tell me more.”
“Drew broke his hand in an ATV accident. He’s out for a while, but we have a show in Austin in three weeks. I know it’s been a while for you. Would that be enough time to practice? It would all be familiar stuff.”
“How’s Gus been doing?” he asked, referring to the other guitarist and pretty much the only guy in the band Ghost gave much of a shit about.
“Well, you know. He’s Gus.”
Yeah, that was about what he’d expected. While he’d been in the band, he’d adopted a big-brother approach with Gus, but in the end he’d had to wash his hands of the whole thing. Too many co-dependent woman problems, too much substance abuse. You couldn’t help a guy who didn’t want to help himself.
Besides all of that…Ghost had bad fucking memories of the last Austin gig he’d been a part of. Between Mark and Raina scheming behind his back, and Raina damn near tricking him into fucking her when he was almost passed out, he’d nearly lost Macy. He’d watched the best thing that had ever happened to him walk away, in large part thanks to the guy on the phone who never listened to a fucking word Ghost ever said. Did he really want to get involved with that old crowd again?
“Is it at Crossbones?”
“Yeah. The usual.”
“You’re gonna have to let me sleep on it, man. But I gotta tell you, it’s probably gonna be a no.”
For the first time, a hint of desperation began to creep into Mark’s voice. “If there’s anything I can do, any promises I can make, anything—say the word. I’m sorry for all the shit that went down between us. It was a bad deal. I know that. And…it goes without saying that Raina will not be there.”
No, it really didn’t. Macy might have sent her running once, but his ex-girlfriend showed up wherever she damn well pleased, and if she caught wind of In the Slaughter playing in Austin with Ghost on the axe, she would be there. Oh, would she ever fucking be there. Not that she was even a blip on his radar of shit that mattered, he just preferred not to be the target of any flying beer bottles from the audience.
“Pardon me for saying that coming at me with all this shit now rings a little hollow, you know?”
“I know it must seem that way. But we need you, man. And if it’s a chance to repair some shit and have a great time, it’s all for the good, right?”
Sure. What could go wrong. He was being completely sarcastic, even in his head. “I’ll call you back in a day or so.” Jesus, did he even dare bring this up to Macy? He would have to, of course, but he fully expected that would be the final nail in the coffin of the whole idea. Macy didn’t have fond memories of that night, either.
Yeah, he thought as he hung up. Macy would shoot this down. But damn, the thrill. Even now, he felt it awakening in his veins. No matter how much time had passed, he remembered how it felt to be up there playing on a stage. In the Slaughter had only been small-time, mostly a cover band, but he’d loved it until all the bullshit drama began to erode the friendship he’d had with his former bandmates. All of it had come to a head, and he’d bailed on the band when he and Macy were getting together, but what would one gig hurt?
Just one. Maybe she would understand.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of BREATHLESS by Cherrie Lynn, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 11/2/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Cherrie Lynn
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author CHERRIE LYNN has been a CPS caseworker and a juvenile probation officer, but now that she has come to her senses, she writes contemporary and paranormal romance on the steamy side. It’s *much* more fun. She’s also an unabashed rock music enthusiast, and loves letting her passion for romance and metal collide on the page.
When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, listening to music or playing with her favorite gadget of the moment. She’s also fond of hitting the road with her husband to catch their favorite bands live.
Cherrie lives in East Texas with said husband and their two kids, all of whom are the source of much merriment, mischief and mayhem.
She’ll risk everything to bring her cowboy back home…
One week ago, Cyrus Cahill told Ashley Jo “AJ” Somerfield that he’d be back in her arms by the weekend. He just needed to buy a bull for his ranch, and then they’d pick up where they left off after that romantic ride through the foothills. But now he’s gone missing and everyone—even the sheriff—believes he’s dead.
Everyone…but AJ. She suspects foul play and she won’t rest until Cyrus is back home in Gilt Edge, right where he belongs. Because Cyrus isn’t the kind of cowboy who breaks a promise. And since she’s not the kind of woman who gives up on her man, AJ will risk anything to help bring him home…even her own life.
Ashley Jo “AJ” Somerfield couldn’t help herself. She kept looking out the window of the Stagecoach Saloon hoping to see a familiar ranch pickup. Cyrus Cahill had promised to stop by as soon as he returned to Gilt Edge. He’d been gone less than a week after driving down to Denver to see about buying a bull for the ranch.
“I’ll be back on Saturday,” he’d said when he left. “Isn’t that the day Billie Dee makes chicken and dumplings?”
He knew darned well it was. “Texas chicken and dumplings,” AJ had corrected him since everything Billie Dee cooked had a little of her Southern spice in it. “I know you can’t resist her cookin’, so I guess I’ll see you then.”
He’d laughed. Oh, how she loved that laugh. “Maybe you will if you just happen to be tending bar on Saturday.”
“I will be.” That was something else he knew darned well.
He’d let out a whistle. “Then I guess I’ll see you then.”
She smiled to herself at the memory. It had taken Cyrus a while to come out of his shell. One of those “aw shucks, ma’am” kind of cowboys, he was so darned shy she thought she was going to have to throw herself on the floor at his boots for him to notice her. But once he had opened up a little, they’d started talking, joking around, getting to know each other.
Before he’d left, they’d gone for a horseback ride through the snowy foothills up into the towering pines of the forest. It had been Cyrus’s idea. They’d ridden up into one of the four mountain ranges that surrounded the town of Gilt Edge—and the Cahill Ranch.
It was when they’d stopped to admire the view from the mountaintop that overlooked the small western town that AJ had hoped Cyrus would kiss her. He sure looked as if he’d wanted to as they’d walked their horses to the edge of the overlook.
The sun warming them while the breeze whispered through the boughs of the nearby snow-laden pines, it was one of those priceless Montana January days between snowstorms. That’s why Cyrus had said they should take advantage of the beautiful day before he left for Denver.
Standing on a bared-off spot on the edge of the mountain, he’d reached over and taken her hand in his. “Beautiful,” he’d said. For a moment she thought he was talking about the view, but when she met his gaze she’d seen that he’d meant her.
Her heart had begun to pound. This was it. This was what she’d been hoping for. He drew her closer. Pushing back his Stetson, he bent toward her. His mouth was just a breath away from hers—when his mare nudged him with her nose.
She could laugh about it now. But if she hadn’t grabbed Cyrus he would have fallen down the mountainside.
“She’s just jealous,” Cyrus had said of his horse as he’d rubbed the beast’s neck after getting his footing under himself again.
But the moment had been lost. They’d saddled up and ridden back to Cahill Ranch.
AJ still wanted that kiss more than anything. Maybe today when Cyrus returned home. After all, it had been his idea to stop by the saloon his brother and sister owned when he got back. She thought it wasn’t just Billie Dee’s chicken and dumplings he was after, and bit her lower lip in anticipation.
Not So Happily Ever After by Christina Phillips
Series British Bad Boys
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled Embrace
Publication Date November 19, 2018
Two years ago, I accidentally, yeah maybe on purpose, crossed that line with my best friend and it ruined everything. I haven't seen him much since.
But now he’s standing at my door.
Same lumberjack build. Same dark hair that begs my fingers to run through it. And then he gives me that half smile, and I know I’m about to agree to do something I’m going to regret.
I’ve got to spend two months with him now… and that’s not the worst part.
I open the front door, ready to mock my best friend Brooklyn for turning up early for once. We’d planned to meet at the Portobello Road market in half an hour and spend the morning checking out the vintage jewelry, but the words lock in my throat as Will Hamilton gives me his bone-melting, knee-knocking smile.
“Hey, Mac.” His smoldering voice wraps around me like a velvet caress, setting off flutters in places that have no right fluttering. At least, not when it comes to Will, the guy I’ve known for most of my life, and who just so happens to be my brother Lucas’s best friend.
His close-cropped dark hair is a lot shorter than it used to be, and his deep brown eyes are still as annoyingly seductive as ever. I attempt to find fault with the stubble that darkens his jaw, but no such luck, as it’s sexy as hell and twice as addictive.
Against my better judgment, my gaze slides south. The rugby shirt he’s wearing is completely ordinary, but somehow it manages to enhance the rock-hard muscles of his spectacular chest.
It’s not spectacular.
Yes, it is.
For goodness sake stop drooling, Mac.
“Hi.” Frantically, I try to figure out why he’s here. But I don’t have a clue, when he knows Lucas is in Madrid.
A wary expression flashes over his face. “Didn’t Lucas phone you?”
“No.” Should I invite him in? I pull the door open a little wider, and after giving me a doubtful glance, he steps into the hall. “What’s my brother done now?”
“Nothing. He asked me to pick you up.”
Even my sarcastically wired brain can’t come up with an instant response to that. My blank gaze clearly tells him I don’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about.
“Atomic Fire was in a bus crash,” he adds. “We need to go see them.”
“Ah, shit.” Atomic Fire is the hottest boy band, and Lucas and their manager are good friends. I first met them nearly a year ago, when they were one of the warm-up bands at a huge charity concert. They were the hit of the night, and Atomic Fire took off like a rocket.
They’re also the headline act for the charity event I’ve spent half the year organizing. My stomach churns, and I steel myself for bad news. “Are they hurt?”
“Just a few bruises, but Jake broke his leg.” Relief rushes through me that it’s not more serious. Not that broken bones are any fun, but at least they’re fixable. And it could’ve been a lot worse. Jake Myers is the lead singer—at least he didn’t damage his voice. “Surprised you didn’t know about it. It’s all over social media.”
“I haven’t been online today.” Now that I know the boys are out of danger, my brain races ahead. Four years ago, Lucas and his teammate, Jax, set up the Rainbow Star Foundation to help grant wishes to sick kids and raise money for children’s charities, and every year I’ve organized the Christmas fundraiser. Since Will’s also involved in the charity, him turning up on my doorstep now makes more sense. Except it doesn’t. Because there’s still three months until Christmas, which should give Jake enough time to recover.
Unless there’re some complications we don’t know about? God, I hope not.
I’ve no idea why my brother thought it was a good idea to send his best friend to let me know instead of a text message, but there must be a reason. “What’s the problem?”
“Jake’s convinced his career’s over. And that includes pulling out of the fundraiser. He’s not listening to the other guys in the band.”
I don’t even want to think about it. And not just because of the logistics of trying to rejuggle everything. Atomic Fire’s fans will be gutted.
“We’re missing something here. Jake broke his leg. Why does he think his career’s over?”
“I don’t know. Lucas said the only one Jake’ll talk to about it is you.”
He raises his eyebrows in mock shock at my response. “Thought you were going to shoot the messenger. I would’ve bet on it.”
“Good job you didn’t, then.” The words are out before I even know it, and a warm glow fills my chest. I can hardly remember the last time we had a normal conversation—the way we used to, before things went sideways.
There’s still something I don’t get. “Why did Lucas phone you and not me?”
He shrugs as though it’s no big deal, but I get the strange feeling he’s embarrassed by my question. Which is intriguing.
“You know what he’s like. He doesn’t want you seeing Jake alone.”
I know my brother thinks Jake has a crush on me, and a few months ago he was a little pissed off at the way the rock star behaved with me. But hell, I can handle boys like him.
Will, not so much.
“Wait.” I cross my arms and try not to glare at him, because it’s not his fault. “Are you supposed to be my bodyguard or something?”
“Trust me. It wasn’t my idea. We both know you can wind Jake around your little finger without even trying. I’m just doing a favor for a mate.”
I’m not sure I like him assuming that about me, but it’s not like he’s being a dick. He’s just helping out Lucas. And while I don’t need a bodyguard, it’s not worth starting a fight about.
I don’t want to fight with him anymore.
“Okay, fine.” I flap my hand at him for emphasis, in the hope that’ll stop me from analyzing my accidental thought. Except it’s true. I wish we were friends again. But since we can’t turn back time, that’s never going to happen.
Time to move on, Mac. I’ll be twenty-two in a few weeks. I have to get over Will. Might as well start now.
Pretend he’s just another random friend of Lucas’s.
I give him what I hope is a friendly—but not too friendly—smile. “Your car or mine?”
I’d expected Mac to be pissed off when I turned up this morning, but she didn’t even give me a hard time over Lucas asking me to be her unofficial bodyguard. And what’s with the question? She never gives up the driving seat voluntarily, and I’m not just talking about cars. But since she asked… “Mine.”
“Sure.” She gives me a smile that knocks me speechless. “I’ll just grab my bag.”
I give an inarticulate grunt, which is all I can manage, as she picks up her keys from the Edwardian hall table before pulling her phone from her pocket and sending a text.
Her black hair’s in a plait that falls over her shoulder, there’s a gorgeous blush on her cheeks, and long, multi-colored earrings dangle from her ears.
Stop staring at her. But her deep blue eyes have always done stupid things to me.
“Ready?” She breezes by me, and I steel myself against the faint scent that lingers in the air, and I follow her outside.
As she locks the house, I open the passenger door for her. Growing up, I spent half my life here, and Lucas was more like the brother I never had than a best friend, and even his twin Harry accepted me right from the start.
She gives me a smile of thanks as she gets in the car. I shut the door, get in my side, and she fans her long skirt over the car seat before fastening the belt. She glances up and catches me watching her, but instead of an annoyed glare, she just gives me another smile.
“You okay?” I start the engine and pull into the road. For the last couple of years things have been weird between us, but ever since she opened the door, it’s like we dropped into an alternate reality.
“I’m fine. How are you?”
Are we having this conversation? Anyone would think we hardly know each other. “Feeling old.”
“Not surprised. Twenty-six is pushing it.”
Déjà vu shivers through me, and I shoot her another glance. It’s been ages since she used that mocking tone on me. I’ve missed this. “Where were you last week? I thought you’d be at Lucas’s.” He threw a big party in Madrid for my birthday and invited everyone we knew. Even Harry and Alice were there, and while Harry’s great, he’s also the most antisocial git I’ve ever met.
“Oh, university related stuff.”
“How’s that going?” Considering we used to be such good friends, this is something I should know. But I don’t have a clue, except for the fact she’s starting her third year at Oxford next month.
“Good,” she says, but there’s a strange, high pitch in her voice that scrapes along my nerves. “Really good. Yep.”
Obviously, she doesn’t want to talk about it. For some reason, I can’t let it go. “Still in the top five percent?” I toss her a grin. It’s an academic question. Pun intended. She was always top of her year at school, without even trying.
“Mm-hm.” She sounds like she’s swallowed a frog. “Maybe not quite the top five percent.”
“Tough course, huh?”
“You could say that.”
What isn’t she telling me?
What the fuck am I thinking? If she doesn’t want to talk about Uni, it’s none of my business. Besides, there’s something I’ve wanted to ask her for ages, but never got the chance. “Are you still doing your art?”
Funny, before she took the Oxford route, I thought she’d do something with her art, even though it was always an unspoken given in her family that she’d follow in her late mother’s academic footsteps.
“Not really. It’s just a hobby, and I don’t get a lot of free time now.”
“But there’s always time to party, right?” I sling her a smile, but her answering one is strained, as though the party scene isn’t as great as she’s always made out.
“Definitely,” she says, but it’s like it’s an automatic reflex, the expected answer to a question she’s been asked countless times over the last couple of years.
Am I losing it, or what? Why am I analyzing every bloody thing she says? She loves partying. Her first year seemed to consist of nothing but.
I can’t shift the feeling that I’m missing something obvious, though.
It’s not far from Notting Hill to the top London hospital where Jake and the boys are being treated. It’s a different one than was “accidentally” leaked to the press, so there are no panic-struck fans around, and after I park we make our way to the entrance. Mac’s scrolling through Atomic Fire’s social feed on her phone. “Bloody hell. It says here Jake’s throat is crushed.” She looks at me. “I thought he broke his leg.”
“I wouldn’t believe anything that’s online.”
“I guess.” She sounds doubtful. “But it makes sense if Jake thinks his career’s over, though, doesn’t it?”
“Baz isn’t an idiot.” Baz is their manager, and he’s well on the ball. “If it was that bad he would’ve called their insurers, not Lucas.”
“True,” she concedes. “I just can’t help thinking there must be something we don’t know, for Jake to be in such a state.”
I hold open the entrance door for her. Although her concern makes me question if Lucas forgot to tell me something vital, the urge to make her smile is strong. “Maybe he just wants to see you again.”
She gives a dramatic groan and shakes her head. “I can think of easier ways that don’t include having to break a major bone.”
“Yeah, well, you know Jake. He likes to make an impact.”
This time she smiles, and it’s damn hard not to bump my shoulder against hers the way I used to. Don’t push your luck, Will.
We make our way to the private wing, where a couple of beefy private security guards lurk. They take our details and attempt to confiscate our phones before muttering into their headsets, all the while eyeing us as though we’re a couple of spies for the paparazzi.
Baz appears halfway along the corridor, and we’re allowed through—phones, too. He gives Mac a hug and nods at me.
“How is everyone?” she says. “Lucas wasn’t very clear on the details.”
“The others were discharged this morning. So was Rafe, but he’s still trying to talk Jake round.”
“Not having much luck, then?” It’s rhetorical, since if Rafe had managed to change his younger brother’s mind, there would’ve been no need for Mac to turn up. She’s worked so hard on pulling this year’s fundraiser together, and securing Atomic Fire, just before their first single hit the top of the charts, was a stroke of genius. It can’t fall apart at this late stage.
Baz grunts. “He got it into his head he needs to see Mac. For Christ’s sake, just tell him he looks fucking fantastic, will you?”
“He did just break a leg, didn’t he?” She sounds worried and I take a step toward her. Not sure why. I hope she didn’t notice.
“Yeah.” Baz opens a door, and we follow him into the room. Rafe’s standing with his back to the window, his bandaged arms folded across his chest, and he gives us a nod in greeting. Jake’s on the bed, his left leg plastered, and in a pulley, and--
Is that a bath towel wrapped around his head?
“Jake, thank God you’re okay.” Mac goes over to the bed and takes his hand. His other hand is clutching the towel across his face, so only his eyes are visible. I shift my weight from one foot to the other and have no idea what to say. What’s happened to his fucking head?
“It’s all over, Mac.” His voice is muffled, and I glance at his brother and catch him gritting his teeth and glaring at the ceiling. What’s that all about? I know Jake can be melodramatic, but the poor bugger looks wrecked. “I can’t face anyone like this.”
“You’re doing great.” Her tone is soothing, and it shouldn’t surprise me. After all, this is what she’s working toward. Being a doctor, reassuring patients. This side of her has never struck me before, even though she’s as outgoing as Lucas. Maybe she wants to be hands-on when she’s got her degree, instead of going into research like her mum did, as I’ve always assumed she would.
“I look like Frankenstein’s monster.”
“You’re getting the best care, Jake. Your leg will be as good as new before you know it.”
Jake clutches her harder, and I step toward the bed. Not because she can’t take care of herself, or that I gave my word to Lucas to watch out for her. It’s because I have this crazy need to give her moral support.
Like she needs that from me, of all people?
Doesn’t matter. I brought her here. I’m responsible. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Not So Happily Ever After by Christina Phillips Copyright © 2018 by Christina Phillips. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of NOT SO HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Christina Phillips, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 11/23/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Christina Phillips
CHRISTINA PHILLIPS is an ex-pat Brit who now lives in sunny Western Australia with her high school sweetheart and their family. She enjoys writing paranormal, historical and contemporary romance where the stories sizzle and the heroine brings her hero to his knees. Christina is addicted to good coffee, expensive chocolate and bad boy heroes. She is also owned by three gorgeous cats who are convinced the universe revolves around their needs. They are not wrong.
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One deputy wants to keep her safe.
Another one wants her dead.
Rita Horn doesn’t know the identity of the uniform-wearing criminal targeting her.
But Officer Cole Garrett vows to bring the rogue deputy—whoever he is—to justice.
Strong, sexy and determined to protect, the heroic cop sparks feelings in Rita that she can’t deny, even as the danger swells around them.
To call this story riveting and intense doesn't do it justice. I loved every moment of the heartfelt suspense and growing romance between Rita Horn and Officer Cole Garrett, I think these stories are getting better with each book and considering it started with a Five Spoon BANG, that says a lot.
I adored that the attraction between Rita and Cole had been sizzling in their minds and fantasies for a while without them making a contact. But they had definitely noticed each other, and there is no doubt about the interest there, it is a palpable force that keeps them glued together during this time when Rita's whole world is exploding and Cole's time could be better used somewhere else within the investigation.
In a thriller-like style, the author pulls the story tighter, scarier, eerier each moment without making big gestures or grand twists in the plot. As I read the story, I was horrendously and constantly aware that there will be more destruction and possible death coming, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop the wave of crimes and attempted murders coming at their way. The emotions were high, both in the story and in my mind, as the I bit my nails with teary eyes, hoping for the best, and trusting that Ms. Lindsey would guide us to the safer waters. This is the kind of suspense, gruesome and harsh, that seeps into your mind, and possible into your dreams the night after. It will keep you on the edge, and even push you over it a few times, but the sweet, ardent romance on the side is what balances the tale, and brings smiles at the end.
Julie Anne Lindsey's writing is the kind that reminds me of Linda Howard and Sandra Brown early works, of the books that made me fall in love with romantic suspense in the first place. Shadow Point Deputy is absorbing and intriguing, a fierce tale of intense suspense and the kind of romance that sweeps you off your feet.
~ Five Spoons!
Her rancher boss is looking for the perfect wife...and she wants the job!
Poppy Sinclair kept her feelings for Isaiah Grayson secret for a decade.
When her infuriatingly gorgeous Stetson-wearing boss enlists her help in finding him a convenient wife, she threatens to quit.
Until Isaiah counters with an interesting proposal: Why doesn't she marry him?
Can she say yes to sharing his life and his bed, but not his heart?
Want Me, Cowboy floored me in the best possible way and I wanted to start reading it AGAIN right after I finished it.
Poppy and Isaiah, as characters, were endearing and lovable, with their smarts, intelligence, and ability to shine within their professions they impressed me, but it was the brokenness, the vulnerabilities, and aches in their souls, the fear of losing control and getting hurt, that made both of them so attractive, so appealing, so easy to relate to.
They have known each other for ten years, they have worked closely together, they were colleagues and friends, but there were possibilities to so much more if they dared, if they found the courage, if they took the leap, and just jumped into the unknown, still holding on to each other tightly.
The journey they take on the pages of this book is an inner struggle they have to win. The ardent passion they feel for each other surprises them, confuses them, until it takes over them.
I admired and adored that Isaiah wasn't the perfect male, who has everything under control. I loved that his social awkwardness was part of the story, his difficulties not only to deal with people but to communicate with them just made him even more lovable to me.
Poppy's life hasn't been easy either, going from foster home to another, her life had turned up to be a challenge of trust, knowing everything could be wiped away tomorrow without explanation.
Together, these two didn't only heat up the pages into an inferno, they taught valuable life lessons while they grew as people and as a couple, as friends, partners, and lovers throughout the story.
I love this series more than most, and this addition, that can easily to be read as a standalone novel, is just so perfectly done, an unputdownable experience filled with love and passion, that I consider it a must read!
~ FIve Spoons!
The Cowboy's Christmas Baby by Jennifer Hoopes
Series Fly Creek Series
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled Bliss
Publication Date November 12, 2018
Stranded in the middle of the road in big sky country, Wyoming, at eight months pregnant isn’t exactly what Sofie Pennington had planned when she decided to pack up and surprise her sister. Fly Creek is a fresh start for her, one where she’s finally free from her controlling ex and can figure out this whole single parent thing. First, though, she needs to get there. To her shock, her rescuer comes in the form of a frustratingly handsome cowboy.
Dan Rigby is on his way out of town—for good—when he stumbles across a very pregnant Sofie. She’s the most obstinate, exasperating woman he’s ever met…and the most appealing. She drives him crazy, in more ways than one. When her sister suddenly has to leave, and Dan becomes Sofie’s welcoming committee, they find themselves growing closer despite their desire for conflicting things. Can Dan convince Sofie that Christmas miracles do happen?
Sofie Pennington rubbed her eyes and looked out the windshield again. Sure, she was tired and aching and about ten other adjectives to describe an eight-month pregnant woman who’d driven cross-country, but her eyes told her there was a hoard of large things blocking the road, and they sure as heck looked like cows.
Shifting into park and letting out a string of inventive words that her baby better never, ever repeat, she flipped up the hood of her parka and opened her door. Moos and grunts greeted her with nary a look. The bovines were just chilling in the middle of a two-lane road in Godforsaken Wyoming. This was just her luck.
Why her sister had moved out here, she still didn’t understand, but as Sofie needed Emily, and Emily was here, well, now, so was Sofie. And in order to get to Emily, she needed to make it through this roadblock. A roadblock that she had no idea how to handle, and that was about to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of a complete and utter meltdown.
Wind whipped across the flat plain and lashed her long brown locks against her face. It seemed to find every little crevice in her way-overpriced parka and currently caressed her shivering body in ways no woman wanted to be caressed. Not even a pregnant woman who felt as attractive as the cow patties no doubt littering the road.
“Move,” she shouted and was rewarded with one turned head and a snort that released a puff of steam into the my-god-how-cold-did-one-state-actually-get night. She knew she was close. Her GPS said Fly Creek was only ten more miles down the road. This road. This apparently made-for-cattle-crossing road.
Sofie moved closer and several more heads turned her way, eyed her up and down, and definitely found her lacking.
Well, join the club. She made a shooing motion with her hands.
The baby shifted and Sofie cradled the massive bump. Leave it to her to look ten months pregnant with at least another four weeks to go. A foot or maybe an elbow protruded into Sofie’s ribs, and she rubbed her palm to try to force the little stinker back down so she could possibly breathe a bit.
The cows shifted and mooed, advancing about a foot. At this rate, Sofie would be a damn Popsicle by the time the road was clear. She stomped back to her car and settled in, blasting the heater until her fingers regained some composure. Fumbling through her tote, she grabbed her cell and angled it toward the dashboard.
“No service. Of course not. Why would anything about this trip, and frankly my life, at this point, be easy?” She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the seat. A year ago, she’d been happily married to an up-and-coming politician, living a great life of teaching and playing the dutiful spouse. Now, she was divorced, pregnant, and stuck behind a bovine roadblock.
Her heart pounded against her chest as a lump formed in the back of a very dry mouth. If she let them, the tears she’d managed to hold at bay would spill over, and she didn’t know if they would ever stop. Blindly reaching for the water bottle, she lifted it to her mouth, only to remember she’d downed the last few drops about twenty miles back. Limbs too heavy to move, she let the bottle drop and clatter to the floor.
She needed Emily. Needed family that wouldn’t judge. That would support her and not ask twenty-million questions about what she was doing and what had happened and where she was going from here. That would let her create this new life on her own terms with her decisions leading the way.
Tension seeped into her muscles, and she forced her fingers to relax. Wiggling each one and rotating as many limbs as she could, given the cramped space and her blown up body. She could do this. She had done this. She just needed to get a little farther down the road. Like Dorothy.
“You wanted to be in charge, Sofie. Well, make a choice.” Go back or stay here?
Wind shook her little sedan, and Sofie’s eyes flew open. Decision made. But just as she grabbed hold of the shifter, she thought she caught a glimpse of headlights somewhere among the dark hoofs and massive bodies. Maybe whoever else was stupid enough to be out on a Wyoming road at three in the morning would know how to handle this situation. If they did, she would be sure to show her gratitude in the form of pretty much anything that got her moving in the right direction. Once she made it to Fly Creek, her fresh start could finally begin.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of THE COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS BABY by Jennifer Hoopes, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 11/16/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Jennifer Hoopes
JENNIFER HOOPES lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. When not writing, she can usually be found elbow deep in flour or inhaling chlorine as she cheers her daughter on at a swim meet. She loves musicals, caramel and roller coasters, and lists Machu Picchu at the top of her bucket list. She is a member of RWA and is the President of her local chapter, Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers.
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Knocked-Up Cinderella by Julie Hammerle
Series n/a; standalone
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled August
Publication Date November 12, 2018
I’m a walking contradiction.
School principal who liberally drops the F bomb.
Fiercely independent yet willing to auction myself off for charity.
Serial monogamist who’s down for a no-strings one-night stand.
Except now I’ve gone from one-working-ovary to co-parent in the time it took a stick to turn blue.
Ian Donovan may be a richer-than-hell venture capitalist, but he’s no Prince Charming ready to sweep me off my feet. Good thing I don’t need him. I’ve been doing fine on my own for forty years, and I’m not about to start changing that now.
Ultrasounds, swollen feet, midnight cravings? Bring. It. On.
But why is it when you finally swear off men, you meet one who’s too sexy—and determined we can make it work?
I reached under my voluminous tulle skirt and scratched my butt, once, twice, three times—heck, no one was around. I’d been hiding behind a massive topiary in the hallway outside the ballroom of the Evanston Hilton Hotel ever since I’d escaped a herd of drunk second-grade parents and their ten thousand questions about the school’s paltry foreign language program. My dress itched. My nylons itched. I was developing a pretty massive blister from the clear plastic stilettos I had borrowed from my friend Natalie. Even my earrings were killing me. They were like glittery boulders dangling from my lobes.
But I’d make it through tonight. Somehow. I had to.
Using my phone’s camera as a mirror, I checked my appearance. Back when I taught English to fourth graders, I’d ask the kids to add “sparkle” words, fancy adjectives, to their essays. The “sparkle” words for my current state included “laughable,” “absurd,” “risible,” and “ludicrous.” I was a forty-year-old woman—a forty-year-old elementary school principal—in a half-baked Cinderella costume. At least it was Halloween and not, like, some random day in March.
Having to show up here tonight was an unexpected “perk” of my new job. I had to stay and ride it out, all while wearing a smile. I had to prove to the parents, alumni, and assorted boosters that I was a team player, that I was game enough to make a fool of myself up on stage with the rest of the single ladies to raise money for the Glenfield Academy Athletics Association.
This bachelorette auction marked the first of many, many planned fund-raisers this school year, including the Wintertime Alley Night (yes, the school had a functioning bowl-a-rama in its basement), the Cupid’s Crush Valentine’s Day Ball, and the elaborate, black-tie Glenfield Gala to close out the year.
After reapplying my lipstick, I hiked up my skirt and yanked at the waistband of my nylons. If the shoes didn’t kill me, these control-top pantyhose would. I stretched the band to the hilt and let it snap, satisfyingly, against my stomach, just like, I’m sure, the real Cinderella did whenever she had a moment alone.
A cough from across the way drowned out my sigh of momentary relief.
Heart ramming against my ribs, I dropped my skirt and peered around the side of my topiary sanctuary. A shock of dark hair peeked over the bush on the other side of the hall. I had been operating under the assumption of solitude. I’d scratched my ass. I’d—oh crap—lifted up my skirt and fixed my nylons. My face right now was an inferno.
“I didn’t want to say anything.” The lurker stepped out from behind the bushes. This guy had come dressed in a regular old tux in lieu of a costume to an event the planning committee had expressly billed as a “costume party.” What a rebel. “You seemed to think no one was around.”
“Yeah, I kinda did, dude who leers at unsuspecting women from bushes outside hotel ballrooms.” I stayed put behind my little tree, finger poised on my phone’s 911 button.
“I swear I wasn’t leering.” He held up his hands in surrender. From what I could see through the branches, he was not unattractive. But still. He was a lurker. I kept my finger where it was. “I was hiding, too.”
“What makes you think I was hiding?” I’d entered interrogation mode. The same skills that made someone a stellar FBI agent made me an excellent teacher and elementary school principal. “You’re the one who said ‘hiding.’ Who were you hiding from?”
“Well, that’s personal.”
Phone still at the ready, I stepped out into the open. Time to be a grown-up. Time to put on my professional principal persona and take charge, nip this conversation in the bud. Besides, while it was true that this guy could be here to harm me, the more likely scenario was that he was someone important to my career—a parent, a rich alumnus, a reporter. I owed it to myself and my profession to handle this ugly situation with grace—all the while prepared to scream bloody murder if necessary. I held out my right hand, the one I hadn’t just used to scratch my butt. “I’m Erin.”
His eyes lit up with recognition. “Erin Sharpe!” He grinned and, whoa, it hit me that my earlier assessment of “not unattractive” was a gross understatement. This dude was hot—tall and lean but muscular, in his expertly fitted suit. He’d tousled his cocoa-colored hair in a way that was supposed to look natural but probably took him a half hour to accomplish, and he wore glasses with thick black frames that would’ve looked nerdy on anyone but him. They made him look like Clark Kent, only minimally masking his Superman persona. Pursuing this guy would stress me out. He was much too cool for me. I bet he stayed up way past ten p.m. and enjoyed “spending quality time together.” Definitely not my type.
Besides, he was a tree lurker.
I mean, obviously. I had standards.
Yes, I was dressed like fucking Cinderella at a bachelorette auction, but I had standards.
Also, yes, I was an elementary school principal who used the word “fuck” liberally while not at work. You would, too, if you spent most of your day biting your tongue around surly parents, snippy teachers, and unruly students.
“How do you…?” I asked. Even though I knew how he probably knew me. It had been big news around these parts when I left my job in the Chicago Public Schools to take over as principal at the Glenfield Academy. Chicago was a series of small towns in a big metropolitan area, and I’d come in as quite the curiosity on the North Shore—an outsider from “the city,” who had never attended private school before, let alone taught at one.
“You’re Dirt’s girlfriend,” Glasses Dude said.
Thaaaat…was not what I’d expected him to say.
He narrowed his eyes and shook his head slightly, waiting for a hint of recognition from me. “We met at Loyola…?”
Ohhh. Right. The night my ex had dragged me to his twentieth high school reunion so he could show all the guys who’d once shunned him that he still had his hair. “Dirk,” I said, though who knew why I bothered to defend him by invoking his real name. Old habits died hard, I guessed. “And we broke up.”
Glasses Guy grinned. His teeth were perfect, straight, and white. My dentist dad would probably tell me to lock this dude down now, which, get out of my head, Dad. He’s not the one for us. “You stole the wine,” the guy said.
“Say what now?” I knew exactly what he meant but was shocked he remembered it.
“You stole the wine.”
“Yeah, I know what I did, but why do you?”
“Because it was the most amazing thing that happened that night. You saved the whole party.” He raised his hand and I reached up to high-five him, which was odd, but…okay. I may have noted the size of his hands in the process, not that I looked on purpose. It was just that Dirk’s hands had been so small we could’ve shared gloves. The difference was staggering. Anyone would’ve noticed. Whoop-de-do, Superman had big hands. It hardly counted as breaking news.
“Dirk didn’t think my stealing the wine was so great,” I said.
“Dirk’s an idiot.”
I shrugged. I couldn’t argue with that. At least not anymore.
The guy swept his arm in front of him as if preparing to paint me a mental picture. “Our twenty-year high school reunion. Everyone drinking and having fun, so much fun that we ran out of alcohol. And who comes out of the woodwork with a brilliant idea no one else had thought of—to run up to the school library and pilfer the wine from the guys celebrating their thirty-fifth reunion?” He stared right at me. “You.”
My face flushed. Dirk had full-on berated me during the car ride home. He’d said I’d embarrassed him by taking the six unopened bottles from upstairs. I shrugged. “I just figured the thirty-fifth reunion was filled with a bunch of straight old guys, and none of them were drinking the sauvignon blanc.”
“Like I said, brilliant.”
I had not been called “brilliant” by a man who wasn’t my boss or professor in about, oh, ten years. It didn’t suck. The dude held out his hand again, and I shook it. His hands dwarfed mine. Everything about him dwarfed me, and I was not a tiny lady by any means. Feeling diminutive was a whole new sensation for me, one that I bashfully enjoyed.
“I’m Ian, by the way. Ian Donovan.”
“Ian Donovan,” I repeated. “So are you a parent or alum?” And, yeah, I checked his finger. No ring.
Ian chuckled. “I am definitely not a parent.” He looked me up and down, and I self-consciously crossed my arms over my Cinderella dress. “You’re in the auction, then?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever.” I was totally in the auction, but I couldn’t admit that to this too-cool guy, who’d called me brilliant. No truly brilliant person had to get up on stage and parade around, begging for someone to bid on her. I felt like an old mutt in a crowded dog shelter.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Ian said. “The Halloween auction is a long-standing tradition, and really it only amounts to having to sit next to the person who buys you at dinner. It’s fun, and it helps fund the school’s basketball teams. No big deal.”
“So you’ve done this a lot?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Never. I come for the spectacle only. No bidding.”
“You come to watch the single women get picked over by the kind of guy who needs to buy a date.”
“It’s not as tragic as you make it out to be. No one expects the date to extend beyond tonight, believe me. My best friend, Scott, buys his mom every year. Seriously. Just think of this as a free meal.”
A free meal. That was how Nat had sold the event to me after my first anti-auction tirade, knowing I’d be loath to turn down a dinner. A girl’s gotta eat. “Well, I do love Stephanie Izard.” The “date” at the end of the auction was dinner at Girl and the Goat. Even if I didn’t meet the love of my life tonight, at least I’d be treated to some spicy hamachi crudo and green beans that were, in my experience, way better than sex.
The door to the ballroom swung open and the auctioneer’s voice boomed. “Our first bachelorette tonight is the lovely and talented travel blogger, Maria Minnesota…”
I nodded toward the ballroom. “You coming?”
Ian stared at the door. His face had gone white. “No.”
“Suit yourself.” I made a move toward the door and nearly ran right into Natalie.
“Erin, I’ve been looking for y—” Her eyes snapped to Ian. “You. You stay away from her.” Hands on hips, Nat glared at him. She looked glorious in her Nakia costume from Black Panther. No silly petticoats for Nat. She’d gone full badass tonight—form-fitting green dress, hair done in tight knots.
Ian held up his hands in surrender. “How’re you doing, Nat? It’s been a while.”
“Ten years,” she said. “Not long enough.” Nat grabbed my wrist and yanked me toward the party like her disobedient child. “We’re going to the auction. You”—she sneered over her shoulder at Ian—“can go to hell.”
“A little dramatic?” I hissed as she pulled me into the dreaded ballroom. My face had probably turned beet red from embarrassment. “We were just talking.”
“Ian Donovan is bad news,” Nat said. “A ten-foot pole isn’t enough. You don’t touch that guy with a fifty-yard steel rod.”
“You don’t think I know that?” I said. “Give me some credit. He’s totally not my type.”
“I’m glad you realize that.”
“Of course I realize that.” I glanced back at Ian, who had already disappeared, and ignored the unexpected pang of disappointment in my gut.
Knocked-Up Cinderella by Julie Hammerle
Copyright © 2018 by Julie Hammerle. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA by Julie Hammerle, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 11/16/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Julie Hammerle
JULIE HAMMERLE is the author of The Sound of Us, which will be published by Entangled Teen on June 7, 2016. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones, and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her iPod reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids, and a dog. They named the dog Indiana.
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Yeast of Eden
A Pancake House Mystery #4
by Sarah Fox
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pub Date: 10/30/2018
In USA Today bestselling author Sarah Fox’s delicious new Pancake House Mystery, it’s up to Marley McKinney to discover the waffle truth behind a rival’s murder . . .
Winter has come to Wildwood Cove, and riding in on the chill is Wally Fowler. Although he’s been away for years, establishing his reputation as the self-proclaimed Waffle King, the wealthy blowhard has returned to the coastal community to make money, not friends—by pitting his hot and trendy Waffle Kingdom against Marley McKinney’s cozy pancake house, The Flip Side. Wally doesn’t see anything wrong in a little healthy competition, until he’s murdered in his own state-of-the art kitchen.
Marley isn’t surprised when the authorities sniff around The Flip Side for a motive, but it’s her best friend Lisa who gets grilled, given her sticky history with the victim. When a second murder rocks the town, it makes it harder than ever for Marley to clear Lisa’s name. Marley’s afraid that she’s next in line to die—and the way things are looking, the odds of surviving her investigation could be stacked against her.
My car’s headlights cut through the darkness, illuminating the driving rain. The windshield wipers swished back and forth in a rapid rhythm as I carefully navigated my way along the deserted streets of Wildwood Cove. Normally I preferred to walk to work each morning, trekking along the beach so I could listen to the crashing waves and smell the salty air. Lately, however, I’d been making more use of my blue hatchback. Over the past several days the weather had been less than inviting, drizzling with rain if not outright pouring, and chilly enough that the occasional glob of slush splattered against my windshield along with the pelting raindrops.
The rain was supposed to let up in the next day or so, according to the weather forecast, so I hoped it wouldn’t be much longer before I could get back to enjoying my early morning walks along the shoreline. For
the moment, though, I was grateful for the warmth and shelter of my car.
When I turned into the small parking lot behind The Flip Side pancake house, I pulled up next to the only other car in the lot—a baby-blue classic Volkswagen bug belonging to The Flip Side’s chef, Ivan Kaminski. He arrived even earlier than I did each morning, as did his assistant, Tommy Park. It was barely six o’clock, but I knew the two of them would have been working for a good while already.
I shut off my car’s engine and grabbed my tote bag off the passenger seat, steeling myself for the upcoming dash through the pouring rain to the back door of the pancake house. As soon as I climbed out into the rain, I slammed the car door, ducked my head, and made a beeline for the slim bit of shelter provided by the recessed doorway.
Despite having spent mere seconds exposed to the elements, I had damp hair and droplets of water running down my face. I wiped them away with my sleeve and jiggled my ring of keys until I found the right one. As I put the key into the door, I caught sight of something white from the corner of my eye. A flyer lay plastered against the pavement, waterlogged and with a muddy footprint stamped across it.
I darted out of the shelter of the doorway and peeled the soggy paper off the ground. When I was once again out of the rain, I peered at the flyer, the exterior light above my head providing me with enough illumination to read by.
When I took in the bold black words printed across the saturated paper, my former good mood did a nosedive. I’d seen the flyer before. I’d seen several them, in fact, plastered all over town on utility poles, signposts, and community notice boards. I’d also received one in the mail. That one had gone straight into the recycling bin. This one I crumpled up in my hand as I unlocked the door, the words Wally’s Waffle Kingdom disappearing from sight as the paper scrunched up into a soggy ball.
Once inside, I unlocked the door to my office and tossed the scrunched flyer into the wastepaper basket. If I never saw another one, I’d be happy, although I knew the advertisement wasn’t the real problem. That was the Waffle Kingdom itself. The Flip Side had become a fixture in the small seaside town of Wildwood Cove, with many faithful customers who returned again and again to enjoy Ivan’s scrumptious breakfast creations. There were other restaurants and cafés around town, but none of them specialized in breakfast foods like The Flip Side did.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I’d never really worried about competition. Then Wally Fowler had moved to town—moved back to town actually, since he’d grown up here—and my mind had remained unsettled ever since. I wasn’t about to roll over and give up on the pancake house just because of some competition, but I couldn’t keep my niggling concern at bay.
If the Waffle Kingdom’s fare was as good as the flyer proclaimed (the best waffles EVER!) it wasn’t unrealistic to think that The Flip Side would lose some of its business to the new establishment. In the summertime, when tourists flocked to the small town, that might not be such a problem. There would probably be enough business for both restaurants during those weeks. But during the rest of the year? That could be a definite issue.
I’d been hoping to give each of my three full-time employees a raise in the near future. Now I was keeping that plan to myself, unsure if I’d be able to follow through. I’d have to wait and see what happened once the waffle house opened. As Wally and his flyers had been announcing to the whole town for several days, the grand opening of the Waffle Kingdom would take place next week.
It would take time to know the full extent of the effect on The Flip Side, so I was determined to carry on as usual. I just wished I could get rid of that ever-present worry lingering at the back of my mind.
With the wet flyer in the trash and my jacket hung on the coat stand, I ran a hand through my damp curls and made my way into the dining area. I flipped on the lights, and immediately some of the tension that had crept into my shoulders fizzled away. There was something so comforting about the cozy pancake house. Like the beach and the charming town, The Flip Side had easily worked its way into my heart, becoming a second home away from my blue-and-white beachfront Victorian.
Smiling, I glanced out the large front windows, seeing nothing but inky darkness and rivulets of water running down the panes.
Well, almost nothing else.
I walked quickly across the room to the front door, bone-chilling damp air hitting me as soon as I pushed it open. Staying beneath the awning so I wouldn’t get soaked, I approached the two white rectangles taped to one of the windows, spaced a couple of feet apart. When I got close enough
to recognize them as two more Waffle Kingdom flyers, I let out a growl of annoyance.
Ripping the flyers off the glass, I stormed back into the pancake house.
“Of all the nerve!”
Twenty-one-year-old Tommy Park poked his head out the pass-through window to the kitchen. “What’s up?” he asked.
I waved the crumpled flyers. “Wally the Waffle King strikes again.”
The kitchen door swung open and Ivan appeared. Tommy ducked away from the window and came through the door a second later.
“These were taped to the front window,” I said, waving the flyers again. Ivan grabbed one and glowered at the piece of paper. While an intimidating scowl was the chef’s typical expression, this one was far
darker than usual.
“He’s rubbing your nose in it,” he declared, crumpling the flyer as his large hand closed into a fist.
Tommy took the other flyer from me. “Totally not cool.”
“It’s one thing to open up a waffle house that will compete directly with us,” I said, “but it’s hitting a new low by plastering the ads all over the front of this place.”
“He’s trying to get under your skin.” Ivan tossed the crumpled flyer
toward the wastepaper basket, making a perfect shot. “But why? Does he really think annoying us will get us to close up shop so all our business goes his way?”
“Not going to happen,” Tommy said.
“Definitely not,” I agreed. “But why else try to aggravate us?”
“Probably for fun,” Ivan said. “Some people enjoy riling others up.”
“That’s true.” I’d learned that firsthand several months back when a bitter and vengeful woman had tried to make my life miserable.
“And I hear Wally Fowler’s a slimeball,” Tommy said. “I’m not sure anyone in town actually likes him.”
Ivan nodded his agreement. “Wildwood Cove would be better off without him.”
If enough people believed that, maybe I had nothing to worry about. The townsfolk weren’t likely to give the self-proclaimed Waffle King their business if they despised him.
“I guess it’s best to ignore him and focus on keeping our customers happy, like we always do,” I decided.
“Sounds like a plan.” With a flick of his wrist, Tommy sent the second flyer arcing into the trash can.
He returned to the kitchen and Ivan followed after him, his scowl as dark as ever. Was he more worried about the new waffle house than he was letting on? With his bulging muscles, numerous tattoos, and dark, intense eyes, Ivan wasn’t one to be easily fazed. But something in his face led me to believe he was taking the potential problem posed by Wally and his waffle house very seriously.
My worries tried to resurface, but I forced them back down, focusing on starting a fire in the stone fireplace to keep myself busy. The Flip Side would be fine, I told myself. It was a well-established restaurant, with a solid and loyal customer base that loved Ivan’s cooking and the cozy atmosphere.
Surely it would take more than Wally the Waffle King to destroy what we had here. After all, how much damage could one man cause?
Sarah Fox is the author of the Music Lover's Mystery series and the USA Today bestselling Pancake House Mystery series. When not writing novels or working as a legal writer, she can often be found reading her way through a stack of books or spending time outdoors with her English Springer Spaniel. Sarah lives in British Columbia and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.