Atlanta's Finest Series Book 3
by Sharon C Cooper
Genre: Romantic Suspense
He wants to forget his past… She’s hiding from hers…
Former FBI agent Kenton Bailey traded in his badge when an assignment went horribly wrong. Now he provides personal security to high-end clients. But falling for Egypt Durand, the Queen of Supreme Security, wasn’t part of the plan. She’s smart, classy, and ignites a fire in him that only she can extinguish. Except she retreats from his advances…and she’s shrouded in a veil of secrecy.
Egypt has never met a man as sexy as Kenton. Funny and smart, he’s hard to resist. But her past leaves no room for a happily ever after. Still, with him, she dreams of a future.
Finally, Egypt’s startling truths are revealed, throwing Kenton off balance and forcing him to confront the past he left behind. And when threats from a dangerous crime family send Egypt bolting, Kenton convinces her to stay. Together they will fight to bring closure to their pasts, but will they live long enough to explore the passion brewing between them?
“Why do I always have to go through this with you, Hamilton, and Angelo? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you guys looking out for me, but I’m a big girl. I don’t need my big brothers, going all He-Man whenever I have a date.”
“You know not to include me in the big brothers’ scenario,” Kenton said in a low voice close to her ear, his hand moving to her hip.
Had he not known for a fact that their feelings for each other were mutual, he wouldn’t have made such a bold move. He was close enough to feel Egypt shudder against him.
“I definitely don’t see you or consider you as a sister. In fact, the things I’d love to do with you would not fall into the brotherly love zone.”
Her hand went to his chest, and her touch scorched his skin right through his shirt. At 5’9” she was tall for a woman, but even with her high heels, the top of her head only came up to his nose. He had always been attracted to tall, curvy women and she didn’t disappoint.
“Kenton, I…we,” she started, but stopped and dropped her gaze. When her tongue slid across her bottom lip, an uncontrollable growl rumbled in his throat.
“Cancel your date, and go out with me,” he said, caressing her soft cheek with the pad of his thumb.
Egypt glanced up at him, and the urge to kiss her was stronger than ever.
“I already told you. I can’t go out with you.”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
She stepped out of his hold but didn’t move away. “Is there a difference?”
Kenton shoved his hands into his front, pants pockets to keep from touching her again. “Yeah, there is a difference. Have you ever seen the movie, Pretty Woman?”
Egypt’s brows shot up. “Are you kidding me? There’s not a woman alive who hasn’t seen the movie, at least twice. Question is, have you seen it?”
“I have three sisters, two who are older. It was impossible for me not to see it and every other chick flick that exists. The point is, toward the end of the movie, when Edward asks Vivian to stay with him for one more night, she gives a teary-eyed I can’t. That’s how you say I can’t, but without the tears.”
Egypt stared at him with her mouth hanging open but didn’t say anything.
“When you tell me you can’t go out with me, that speaks volumes. It means you can’t go out with me because you’re afraid, or it’s because of something that has happened in your past. Deep down, you really do want to date me.”
She shook her head, and Kenton didn’t miss the soft smile spreading across her lips. “You’re too much. You know that?”
“Tonight, there was something else behind your words, and I can’t put my finger on it. Have I done something to make you think that you and I can’t date? And don’t give me that shit about fraternizing. That rule is not included in our employee handbook.”
He grasped her arm gently and pulled her close. “If you told me that you won’t or will never go out with me, I would’ve backed off a long time ago. You haven’t done that. So which is it? You can’t go out with me, or you don’t want to?”
Egypt folded her bottom lip between her teeth as if debating on whether to tell him the truth or lie. As a former undercover FBI agent, he’d been good at reading people, and he already knew the answer. She wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her, but something was holding her back. He didn’t know what, but he had every intention of finding out.
“Sweetheart, your silence tells me everything I need to know.”
Atlanta's Finest Series Book 2
Even when he does good, he’s bad…
Detective Lazarus Dimas doesn’t play by the rules. On the streets, he’s a force to be reckoned with, a dangerous man with a badge and a gun. But he does have a soft spot — the sexy assistant district attorney Journey Ramsey. There is something about the woman he can’t shake. She’s irresistible and off limits. At least that’s what he keeps telling himself, but one kiss leads to others and well…so much for limits.
Journey plays by the rules, normally. But she can’t deny the sexual tension that sparks whenever Laz is near, even when he puts her professional integrity at risk. Laz is complex. The type of man fathers warn their daughters about. Yet, there’s a gentle, vulnerable side to him that he lets no one see except her, and she can’t resist him.
Can Laz prove he’s the man for Journey before a reopened case exposes his true colors? Or will the danger they face show that the love they share knows no boundaries?
Journey moaned as his tongue danced with hers, familiarizing itself with every nook and cranny of her luscious mouth. All the desire he’d had pent up over the years to kiss her came to the forefront as he savored every moment. This connection exceeded his expectations and when her hands slid into his hair, he just about lost it. His body throbbed with need. But just as quick as the kiss started, common sense settled over him like a cold chill.
They couldn’t do this. He was no good for her. If she ever got involved with him, his reputation alone would ruin her good name. Laz couldn’t let that happen.
Knowing this, he reluctantly broke off the kiss, but was slow to release her. They were like two magnets molded together and it was almost impossible to pull away. He needed to…he should…but he couldn’t, at least not yet.
Journey took her time opening her alluring eyes and he easily got lost in the dreaminess of them. This woman had a hold on him that he couldn’t explain. And now that he’d kissed her, he was screwed. If she had any idea how much power she had over him, she could do some serious damage to his heart. Good thing she’d never know.
Laz dropped his hands and Journey visibly shivered before clearing her throat.
“Um, how about that drink?” She hurried away from him, pouring herself a glass of wine, and taking a huge gulp.
Laz released a noisy breath and ran his hands through his hair, glad to know he wasn’t the only one affected by their intense lip-lock. Making himself at home, he reached into the refrigerator, not surprised that there was very little food since she spent most of her days at the office. Yet, she had plenty to drink. He grabbed a bottle of water and moved to the other side of the long counter, where she’d set the burritos he’d brought.
He pointed at their food. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.”
He waited until she was seated at the breakfast bar before snagging the stool next to her. They ate in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. What he needed to do was find out what she’d been holding back from him earlier, but first he had to get his body under control. Only minutes ago, flames of desire consumed him like the hottest fire, singeing every cell within him. He hadn’t felt this worked up in a while. Sure, he’d been with plenty of women over the years, but not one had him ready to say to hell with everything in order to have her. He hadn’t felt like this since…not since Gwenn.
Don’t go there, Dimas. He definitely didn’t need to travel down that mental road.
“The flowers were from a client,” Journey said out of nowhere.
Laz nodded, not bothering to ask if the client was male or female. It was best he didn’t know.
“Are you ready to tell me what you wanted to say earlier?” he finally asked Journey, tossing the wrapper from his burrito into the trash.
He poured more wine into her glass before grabbing another bottle of water for himself. “Talk to me. What’s going on?”
She wrapped her hands around her wine glass and he could feel the tension bouncing off her.
“What’s wrong? Are you in trouble? Is it a case? Because whatever it is, I know it’s bothering you.” He touched her hand and she looked at him. “You can trust me. Tell me what happened.”
“Laz, I could lose my job or worse, be disbarred if I say anything right now.”
Okay, so this is serious.
“Is there something I can do to help?” he asked quietly. If she was in trouble, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do. He couldn’t explain his possessiveness when it came to her. He wasn’t even sure when his feelings for her had grown so strong.
“Be careful of the people around you,” she whispered, staring at her wine glass.
He stiffened. The words were spoken so quietly, he almost didn’t hear them.
“So this is about me?” he asked cautiously.
She gave a slight nod of her head before turning her troubled gaze in his direction. His heart squeezed. Not so much for himself, but for the worry he saw in her eyes. “I can’t tell you anything more yet, but for now Laz just…watch your back.”
Atlanta's Finest Series Book 1
She’s a distraction he can’t resist…
A spark ignites the moment security specialist, Hamilton Crosby, meets stuntwoman, Dakota Sherrod. She’s like no other woman he’s ever met. But Hamilton never ignores his gut, and his gut tells him to stay clear of the enticing beauty.
Dakota is an adrenaline junkie. Leaping off buildings and running through fire is just another day at the job. Hence when she sets her sights on Hamilton, she goes after him full-force. Their attraction is fierce, but he thwarts her advances at every turn. He’s the strong, silent type who operates by a set of rules, but he’ll soon realize she rarely follows rules.
Falling for Dakota catches Hamilton off guard. So does the fact that she’s attached to part of his past. A past that indicted him with shame and loss. But when Dakota becomes the target of an unknown enemy, Hamilton stops at nothing to protect her. In turn, vindication is his reward, except it comes with complications.
Dakota snagged his attention when she revved the engine of a custom Ducati 1098S and took off down the street before slowing and circling back. She looked like a total badass on the sleek black bike that was accented in chrome with a matching helmet. The black leather jumpsuit she was wearing added to the fierce look.
“Your woman has nerves of steel, man. I can’t imagine doing half the stunts she’s performed on this project,” Justin said, admiration ringing in his voice. “How much did she tell you about this stunt?”
The question immediately put Hamilton on edge. “Not much. She just said that she’d be riding a motorcycle like one she wanted to purchase one day. I guess she’s been planning to test drive one but hadn’t yet.”
“With the way she’s handling that machine, no one would ever know she hadn’t ridden it before.”
As the words left Justin’s mouth, Dakota did a wheelie, riding a short distance with the front wheel of the bike off the ground. Considering the act was illegal on city streets, he hoped it wasn’t something she did outside of being on a movie set.
Justin chuckled. “Now she’s just showing off, probably for you.”
Hamilton’s pulse thumped loudly in his ear and his chest tightened as she popped another wheelie. When the front tire hit the ground, she sped down the street at top speed, then slowed and turned around only to do it again. This woman was going to be the death of him. He didn’t want her showing off. He just wanted her safe.
“This will be the last time I come and watch her do a stunt,” he said to Justin. “My heart can’t take this shit.”
Justin laughed and pounded him on the back, then gripped his shoulder. “Well, brace yourself, bro. You’re in for a treat.”
Award-winning and bestselling author, Sharon C. Cooper, is a romance-a-holic - loving anything that involves romance with a happily-ever-after, whether in books, movies, or real life. Sharon writes contemporary romance, as well as romantic suspense and enjoys rainy days, carpet picnics, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She's been nominated for numerous awards and is the recipient of an Emma Award for Romantic Suspense of the Year 2015 (Truth or Consequences), Emma Award - Interracial Romance of the Year 2015 (All You'll Ever Need), and BRAB (book club) Award -Breakout Author of the Year 2014. When Sharon is not writing or working, she's hanging out with her amazing husband, doing volunteer work or reading a good book (a romance of course).
Imagine the worst thing a friend could ever do.
This is worse.
When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.
But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.
After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?
I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.
I have loads to do today even though I’m not working. My at-home days are far busier than the ones in the shop. Even though I have two full-time members of staff and three part-timers reporting to me in a thriving store, it’s never as much work as being at home.
However, I find that as I am cleaning the kitchen floor, loading and unloading the washing machine and scrubbing the hard water marks off the shower door, I can’t get Abi out of my mind. I have thought of her often enough over the years, but usually when I’ve done so, I’ve deliberately pushed thoughts of her away. She is intrinsically linked with such a difficult time. No matter how fabulous the result of that time is (and Liam really is a fabulous son), it isn’t easy thinking about being pregnant and having to leave university. I’ve never wanted to think about her. Her path was so different to mine, I just found it easier not to dwell on what might have been.
But everything is different now.
Throughout the day, I keep checking my phone to see if she’s responded to my email at the same time as telling myself she absolutely won’t have. A shiver of excitement skitters through my body when I see her name once again in my inbox and I feel jubilant when I read her reply.
I’d love to visit! Send me your address. I’ll be with you on 22Feb.
All love, A
A. Just A. I remember that’s how she’d sign off her notes when we were at uni. Assumptive and intimate all at once. The twenty-second. Thursday. Just three days away.
Wow, I’m flattered and excited. She’s coming to see me more or less straight away. A pit stop in London and then up to see me. I can hardly believe it. Thursday isn’t an ideal evening to have guests—the girls have ballet. Oh well, I suppose they can skip a week.
My eyes dart around the hallway where I happened to be standing when I checked my phone for emails. There is a jumble of boots, shoes, sandals and wellingtons tumbling out of an overfull wicker basket in the corner; they look as though they’re making a bid for freedom. We have five coat hooks on the wall, one each. There are about five coats hung and slung on and over each hook.
The light grey carpet was a mistake. Who chooses light anything for a family hallway? Well, I did because I saw it in a lifestyle mag and it looked amazing. In all the time we’ve lived here, we’ve never had the carpets cleaned. That’s probably a mistake, too. The paintwork could also do with a freshen-up. We’ve got cats—they rub against the walls, which over time leaves grubby marks. In fact, because of grimy handprints or general wear and tear, most of our rooms look like they’ve been stippled, an effect that hasn’t been popular since the 1980s—and with good reason.
I’d better get to work.
Abigail was always honest with herself. She’d had enough life experience and counselling to understand and appreciate the value of developing a high level of self-awareness. It was essential to be completely truthful with herself because there was no one else with whom she could ever be completely so. She found people were less enamoured with the truth than they believed themselves to be.
So, as she packed her suitcases, she had to admit he had never lied to her or misled her. Not about the baby thing. He’d always been very clear, laid out his stall. No babies. Not then, not ever. She’d accepted as much, even told herself it was what she wanted, too. She decided to work hard at her career instead. That was fulfilling. Very much so. For a time. Quite some time. But that hadn’t panned out exactly as she’d thought it would. How she deserved it to. A gap had opened up in her life.
She caught sight of her reflection in the mirror, puffy eyed, gaunt. She really needed to pull herself together, put some makeup on. She was likely to be recognised at the airport. She was a face. Someone.
Maybe not a name—people didn’t always remember her name—but certainly a face.
Adele Parks was born in Teesside, NE England. She studied English Language and Literature, at Leicester University. She published her first novel, Playing Away, in 2000; that year the Evening Standard identified Adele as one of London’s ‘Twenty Faces to Watch.’ Indeed Playing Away was the debut bestseller of 2000.
Prolific, Adele has published nine novels in nine years, including Game Over, Tell Me Something and Love Lies, all nine of her novels have been bestsellers. She’s sold over a million copies of her work in the UK but also sells throughout the world. Two of her novels (Husbands and Still Thinking of You) are currently being developed as movie scripts. Young Wives’ Tales was short listed for the Romantic Novelist Association Award 2008. She has written numerous articles and short stories for many magazines and newspapers and often appears on radio and TV talking about her work.
Since 2006 Adele has been an official spokeswoman for World Book Day and wrote a Quick Read, Happy Families as part of the celebrations of World Book Day, 2008.
Adele has spent her adult life in Italy, Botswana and London, up until two years ago when she moved to Guildford, where she now lives with her husband and son.
Out of Mind
Maximum Exposure Book 2
by Kendall Talbot
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Adventure
A love frozen in time . . .
Holly knew the romantic helicopter ride up to the remote peak of Whisky Mountain was a bad idea. But she never expected it to snatch her fiancé from her—or destroy her life. A few fiery seconds turn a postcard-perfect morning in the Canadian Rockies into a snowy hell, thirteen thousand feet above sea level. And in the midst of grief and agony, Holly catches sight of a scene in the ice that will haunt her until she can return and discover the truth.
Oliver Nelson could see the stranger had a mystery inside her. The scars on her face, the pain in her eyes, the insistence that he teach her completely alone—no one needs to learn rock climbing, or so he thought. But the more he gets to know her, the more he admires her drive, her ingenuity, and that little edge of recklessness. If she can trust him with her story, he’s ready to follow her wherever her heart takes her.
But nature’s deadly beauty isn’t the only danger waiting for them on Whisky Mountain. To survive, Oliver and Holly will have to move fast—and think faster . . .
From the moment Holly climbed into the helicopter, a sense of foreboding plagued every thought. Three times in her life she’d had a premonition about death. Each time it’d come true. But she wouldn’t say anything. Not when Milton, her new fiancé, had paid so much money for this exclusive trip. And especially not when he’d looked like an excited teenager when he’d first spied the chopper at the ski resort. Holly forced her brain to focus on the mountain scenery around her, rather than the tendrils of dread inching up her spine.
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was supposed to be fun. But the buffering wind and shuddering windows made it so far from fun she could barely breathe. According to the pilot, a private picnic on the west
summit of one of Canada’s highest peaks had never been done before. But Milton had charmed the man with both his expert persuasion skills and his generosity with money. So much so that the pilot simply couldn’t refuse.
Twelve thousand dollars had been his tipping point. For that, not only did they get a private helicopter, but the pilot also provided expensive champagne, a gourmet feast, and a folding table and three chairs, ready
to be set up wherever they wanted.
Milton was capable of convincing anyone to do anything. Her being on Whiskey Mountain was a testament to that. She never did anything that even hinted at danger.
Death had a way of following her. Her brother died as a three-week-old baby. Her father went to work one day and never came home. Her best friend died in a freak accident that’d perplexed all the authorities. Even her one and only pet didn’t make it past puppy stage. And Holly was only twenty-four years old. Based on that average, one death every five or so years, she was due again. She smacked the disturbing statistic away and wiped her sweating palms on her ski pants.
Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked up at the mountain peak. The snowcapped granite wall jutted skyward like an enormous shark fin. It was an interesting color, like the rocks were gilded in copper. She
wondered if that’s why it’d been named Whiskey Mountain. With each foot they rose, it appeared to grow wider and higher, and the very tip glistened like a diamond.
The helicopter shot over the ski resort’s highest cable car station, leaving behind the last signs of civilization. The lump of dread, deep in the pit of her stomach, hit a whole new level. The white terrain stretched as far as she could see. Even the trees had given up trying to live here.
When Holly had suggested to Milton that they take a vacation, she’d envisaged lying in hammocks on a deserted beach, sipping fancy drinks out of coconuts. Not this. Not high in the mountains where snow and ice
blanketed every surface. Cold weather seeped into her bones. Her mother said it was because she didn’t eat enough. Her fiancé said it was because she didn’t eat meat. Ever since their first date, two years ago, Milton had been trying to coax her off her strict vegetarian diet.
“Having fun?” Milton beamed at her. His eyes were hidden behind mirrored glasses, but she could picture the dazzle of excitement in his brown irises that she’d come to love.
Swallowing a bitter taste in her mouth, she decided to dodge his question. “It’s magnificent.” The last thing she’d do was voice her fear, not when he looked to be enjoying it so much. And especially not in front of Milton’s son, who’d commandeered the front seat next to the pilot. Kane had visited more countries in his seventeen years than Holly had dreamed of.
He hated Holly…and had made it his mission to tell her so at every opportunity. He blamed her for breaking up his parents’ marriage. She hadn’t. Their marriage was fractured long before Milton strolled into the coffee shop where she worked.
Holly had suggested to Milton that a vacation would be the perfect opportunity for Kane to get to know her better. She was desperate to prove to Milton’s son that she was worthy of his father’s love. At least, that’d been her plan.
Out of Reach
Maximum Exposure Book 1
In a place where a city can be lost hundreds of years . . . they can still find each other.
Lily saw the temple of Agulinta on television: a vast stone structure swallowed by the Yucatan jungle, rediscovered only now after hundreds of years. So why did the papers she found after her father’s death show the same mysterious carvings that puzzled archaeologists at Agulinta? Her search for answers pulls her to Mexico’s southern border, where the journey to the lost temple will take her through jungle and mountain, over waters home to crocodiles and drug runners, and into uncomfortably close quarters with a man whose need to wander has become a way of life . . .
Australian Carter Logan’s work as a nature photographer has given him the excuse he needs to roam wherever his restless feet take him. But in all the time he’s traveled, he’s never been drawn to anyone the way he is to this determined, cagey young American. Lily’s perseverance through dirt, sweat, and danger to the heart of the ancient temple fires through him. But when the two of them are left alone and stranded in a vicious wilderness, their connection might prove the difference between life and death . . . if the secrets of the past don’t come between them first.
Lily Bennett reached into the satchel at her side and placed her hand on the leather-bound journal that had triggered her traveling more than three thousand miles out of her comfort zone.
She’d already memorized everything inside its weathered pages.
Especially her late father’s sketch of the unusual temple she’d been shocked to see on CNN six weeks ago. According to the news report, the newly discovered, three-thousand-year-old Agulinta Temple had been hidden for centuries—literally consumed by the Mexican jungle.
Yet, somehow her father knew it existed.
The temptation to open the journal again was powerful . . . too powerful.
She pulled it from her satchel and flicked over the yellowed pages, stopping on his drawing of a hollowed-out circular statue, like a giant donut. Around the face of the structure, pictographs appeared to tell a story. CNN had shown footage of a statue at Agulinta Temple exactly like this. Exactly.
A branch with enormous elephant-ear-sized leaves swiped the side of the taxi, brushing the elbow she’d leaned out the door. It was hard to know what was worse—the hot air seeping through the car vents or the humid air blowing in through the window. Shifting on the cracked vinyl seat, she tugged her cotton dress over her knees, hoping for a slight breeze up her skirt, but it was pointless.
She cleared her throat. “How much farther?”
The taxi driver looked at her in the mirror and smiled, showing off his chipped front tooth. “Not long.”
That’s what he’d said an hour ago.
Her mind drifted back to the horror written on her mother’s face when they’d opened the beat-up old suitcase they’d discovered in her father’s shed after he’d passed away. Lily thought she’d known her father well, until that moment.
Alongside the leather-bound journal, they’d also found a collection of black-and-white photos. The implications behind the pictures further shattered her mother’s already broken heart. His sudden death meant their future was forever changed; however, the mysterious items they’d found in that case, changed their past too.
For nearly a year, she’d watched her mother’s slide into a grieving darkness, dragging Lily and her brothers along with her. Lily had feared the secrets her father had taken to his grave were destined to remain unsolved.
Until CNN revealed Agulinta Temple to the world.
From the moment she’d seen that news report and heard the archaeologist’s declaration that the unusual shape of the ancient statue was one of a kind, she’d made it her mission to come down to Mexico and see Agulinta for herself. She needed answers. As did her mother. It’d been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and she still couldn’t believe she was here.
Lily took a tissue from her satchel and dabbed it across her neck and chest before using it to soak up the sweat under her armpits. The driver snuck a glance at her, but when she met his gaze, he quickly looked away. She was used to that. With six older brothers, and overprotective parents, she’d felt the eyes of someone watching her whole life. It was like living in a snow globe, and when things tipped upside-down, they’d all be watching to see how she’d handle it.
That wasn’t how she’d ended up here, though. Traveling to the middle of the Mexican jungle had been her decision. She’d listened to everyone’s objections, fielding calls from every member of her family and her girlfriends.
Her boss had put his foot down, proclaiming the trip too dangerous for a woman like her, which made her even more determined. Taking her new position with More to Explore was a stepping-stone for her career. It had also relocated her from Montana, where she’d grown up under the wings of her abundant family, and into her own dinky little apartment in Seattle.
Defying them all, she’d taken unpaid leave to make this journey from Seattle to the jungles of Mexico. Once she’d proved her decision was final, her boss, being the dirtbag he was, had added a caveat: If she did write a story, and if it was any good, the magazine would publish it.
Everybody thought she was crazy.
Maybe she was.
But this was something she had to do. For her mother’s sake. And her own. People had been controlling her all her life. It was time to show everyone that Lily had grown up.
Kendall Talbot is the author of the Maximum Exposure series, and many other action/adventure stories. A thrill seeker, hopeless romantic, and award-winning author of stories that’ll have your heart thumping from action-packed suspense and steamy bedroom scenes, she lives in Brisbane, Australia with her very own hero and a fluffy little dog who specializes in hijacking her writing time. Meanwhile, Kendall’s two sons are off making their own adventures—look out world
The Smoky Blues Book 9
by Emily Mims
Genre: Contemporary Romance
CAN’T GET HER…
Deke Gregory has a type – petite, feminine, pliable. His ex-wife was his ideal, but she wasn’t his, obviously. Faced with the realities of joint custody and a family “village” raising his son, Deke sets out to find a woman who ticks all his boxes and thinks he walks on water. Enter Doctor Taylor De Witt: tall, strong, willful, opinionated, and too busy to be bothered with soothing his rough edges. Imagine his surprise when he falls for her – hard.
OUT OF HIS HEART
Taylor De Witt knew she would be a heart surgeon since college. Now a single mother with a schedule that requires roller blades, she has little time for her family, never mind a social life. When she meets Deke Gregory she thinks he’s a Neanderthal – yummy, but from a different era. Little does she know what their mutual attraction will bring, including examining her life to include an everlasting love.
Taylor and the man sat down with their children beside them furthest from each other. Mr. Jenkins introduced the man and his son as Deke and Brian Gregory. “And you’re Dr. DeWitt? Charlie’s mother?”
Taylor nodded. “Please tell me what happened.”
“I’d like to hear it as well,” Deke Gregory murmured.
“There’s not a lot to say. For whatever reason, Charlie punched Brian in the face this morning.” Mr. Jenkins looked grim.
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Taylor demanded. “My son wouldn’t walk up and hit a kid out of the blue.”
“It looks like that’s exactly what happened,” Deke murmured. “And I for one don’t appreciate it, not one little bit. This kid needs to be punished.”
“And he will be, I can assure you of that.” Mr. Jenkins turned to Taylor and Charlie. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying on this campus. We will be dealing with this in the strongest of manners.”
“And you wonder why I hate this school,” Charlie ground out.
Taylor looked from her son to Principal Jenkins to the irate father sitting next to the small blond boy with the darkening shiner. Deke Gregory looked like he was about to blow. Brian Gregory was small and pale and a good thirty pounds lighter than Charlie, and to her professional eye he looked like he might be contending with health issues. On the surface it didn’t look too good for her son, hitting a child so much smaller than him. But something niggled in the back of her mind. Something had been going on with Charlie ever since school started. Did Brian Gregory have something to do with that? Was that why Charlie had slugged him?
“As I was saying, we will have to deal with this in the strongest manner,” Mr. Jenkins intoned. “We have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying here at Mountainside Middle School.
Charlie will have to—”
“Wait a minute,” Taylor broke in. “We’re not through discussing what happened this morning.”
Deke looked at her unbelievingly. “It’s pretty clear what happened this morning. Your kid gave my kid a shiner. That’s all that matters, lady.”
She shot him a look of disgust. “No, it’s not all that matters. And that’s Dr. DeWitt to you. Or Dr. Lady if that’s all you can manage.” She ignored Deke’s glare and turned back to the principal. “Did you ask Charlie what prompted him to hit the other young man?”
“Why not?” she snapped. “Was it easier to blame Charlie than to get to the bottom of what happened?” She turned to her son. “Charlie, why did you hit Brian this morning? Does it have something to do with why you haven’t wanted to go to school for the last two weeks?”
Charlie nodded. His lower lip trembled and his eyes filled with tears. “He and his friends wait for me every morning. They watch me come out of Mrs. Foster’s room and say I’m stupid. They call me a dumb jock and say I’m not good for anything since I’m in special ed. I tried telling Mrs. Foster but she said to ignore them, they weren’t hurting anything and there was nothing she could do about it.” He raised tear-filled eyes and looked at Taylor. “I couldn’t stand it anymore, Mom. I couldn’t stand it and I hit him.” Charlie collapsed into noisy sobs.
“Weren’t hurting anything? That teacher’s out of her mind.” Taylor reached out and held her son. “It’s going to be okay, Charlie. I’ll get it stopped.” She looked at Mr. Jenkins with disgust. “Zero tolerance, huh? Looks more like zero give-a-damn from where I’m sitting.” She turned to Brian’s father. “Does your kid know what verbal bullying is? Haven’t you taught him that words hurt as badly as fists?”
“It’s still no excuse for hitting Brian.” Deke Gregory’s lips were set in a firm line.
“The hell it wasn’t,” she shot back. “There wasn’t much else Charlie could do. He’d already gone to the teacher and gotten zip. Maybe if you’d taught your son how to behave, my boy wouldn’t have had to hit him. Your parenting skills leave a lot to be desired.”
She ignored Deke’s sharp intake of breath and turned back to the principal. “Mr. Jenkins, I don’t know how you intend to handle this. But Brian Gregory is equally as guilty of bullying as Charlie, and whatever you do to one you’d better damned well do to both. Do you understand? And while you’re at it, you might want to counsel your teachers about what constitutes bullying, so the next time a kid comes to them for help, they get it.”
Mr. Jenkins had the grace to look embarrassed. “Yes, I understand, Dr. DeWitt. And you’re right, of course.” He turned stern eyes on Brian. “Charlie’s mother is right. You are guilty of bullying. Are you aware of that?”
Brian slunk down in his chair, guilt and embarrassment all over his face. “He’s certainly aware of it now,” his father ground out.
Mr. Jenkins looked from Brian to Charlie and then to Deke Gregory and Taylor. “You know, I’m not sure punishment is the route to go today. I think the name calling and hitting would come to a swift halt if these two young men had a chance to get to know one another. They’re both good kids coming from different worlds who maybe can’t appreciate what the other boy has to offer. So what we’ll do is this. The boys can do in-school suspension tomorrow. Then sometime over the weekend, the boys, under the supervision of the two of you”—he looked from Taylor to Deke—“can take them on a four-hour outing of some sort. Not a movie, but something where the boys can interact and get to know each other.”
“It will have to be Saturday,” Deke said. “I have to work all day Sunday.”
“Let me check my schedule.” Taylor punched up her iPhone calendar. “As far as I can tell at this point, I’m free on Saturday afternoon.” She held up her hand when Mr. Jenkins started to speak. “But I’m on call this weekend. If I get a call from the hospital, I’ll have to cancel.” She
looked at Mr. Jenkins and Deke Gregory. “Does everyone understand?” “I hope you’ll make it a priority,” Mr. Jenkins said archly.
“I hope I can make it a priority,” she shot back.
Deke smirked but said nothing.
The boys were escorted out of the office. She and Deke walked to the visitors’ parking spaces together. “Tell me. Do you always tell other parents and your child’s principal how to do their job?” he asked dryly.
Her lips twitched as she tried and failed to bite back a snicker. “Only when they need it.”
“I see.” If Deke was amused, it didn’t show. “Would you like me and Brian to pick you and Charlie up for the outing?” He looked at her BMW convertible and his Tahoe.
“That might be a good idea.” He programmed her contact information into his telephone and they agreed he and Brian would pick them up about one. “Talk to Brian about what he’d like to do, and I’ll do the same with Charlie. We’ll decide on something when we get together.”
“Works for me.”
She followed his Tahoe out of the parking lot.
Brian Gregory was nothing like his father. The boy was small-boned and delicate to the point of being pretty, and if it hadn’t been for their matching set of vivid blue eyes she would have wondered about Brian’s paternity.
Deke Gregory, on the other hand, was one tough cookie. Big, tall. Vivid blue eyes shining out of a face carved from granite. Probably all kinds of muscles under the sport coat tailored to conceal a shoulder holster. Did he carry because he thought it was manly, or was it part of his job?
Whatever the case, he’d made her tummy do a few flips, and that hadn’t happened for a long, long time.
Author of eighteen romance novels under the pseudonym 'Emily Elliott', Emily Mims combined her writing career with a career in public education until leaving the classroom to write full time. 'Solomon's Choice' is her first romantic suspense and the first novel she has published under her own name. The mother of two sons, she and her husband Charles split their time between Central Texas and eastern Tennessee. For relaxation she plays the piano, organ, dulcimer, and ukulele. She says, "I love to write romances because I believe in them. Romance happened to me and it can happen to any woman-if she'll just let it."
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
SOMETIMES THE BEST GIFTS CAN’T BE WRAPPED
All Mandy Carson wants for Christmas is a distraction…and maybe a date to her friend’s New Year’s Eve wedding. Ghosts from the past always loom larger this time of year, and Mandy’s having a hard time faking her usual fun-loving demeanor. But when her much-needed distraction arrives in the form of the man who rocked her world the long-ago night of their junior prom, she’s forced to confront the painful scars that caused her to bolt back in high school.
Wildlife rescuer Calvin Rocha always regretted letting Mandy slip out of his life, so when fate brings them together on a snowy mountain road with an injured hawk on Christmas Eve, he’s determined to make the most of this second chance. He agrees to be her wedding date, hoping the romantic weekend will bring them back together. And as the clock counts down to midnight, Cal and Mandy might just discover that the best gift they’ll receive this season is each other.
This novella closes out my Risking It All series. It crosses over into my new Almost Royal series, because much of it takes place at a wedding held at the castle introduced in If the Shoe Fits. But you definitely don't need to have read that book to enjoy My Gift is You! Like all my books, it stands alone.
A passion filled Christmas novella that gives a second chance at finding a soul mate for high school acquaintances who shared a moment after the prom back in the old days.
With the limited length of a novella, a romance story often can go two ways: either focus on the emotional side of developing a relationship or for the physical passion burning between the hero and the heroine in the story. With Mandy Carson and Calvin Rocha, the heat is high, the need is urgent, and the ardent love scenes fill the pages.
Calvin had a huge crush on Mandy in high school and will do everything in his power to take this second chance to built a relationship with Mandy.
Mandy is a troubled woman, with family issues that burden her mind, making her doubt her self-worth, and acting it out promiscuously. She is taken by Calvin and the familiarity, safety, comfort, and companionship he brings to the table, along with hot and heavy moments in between them.
The story has its sweet moments as it smoothly flows off the pages and entertains. It is great escapism and touches the holiday theme from the point of a single person in mids of all the coupled up friends. The love scenes are tastefully written, and Calvin's job gives the tale an intriguing touch.
A good romance novella to escape the possible holiday stress with
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Beautiful Sinner by Sophie Jordan
Series Devil's Rock Series
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Avon Books
Publication Date October 30, 2018
Locked in with the town bad boy . . .
Most women would be scared, but Gabriella’s only worried about resisting Cruz Walsh, who’s even hotter than he was back in high school. Cruz was wrongly accused of the high-profile crime for which he was imprisoned; Gabriella’s desperate for the scoop that will get her career off the ground and get her out of Sweet Hill, where everyone still remembers her as “Flabby Gabby.” Being stuck in a supply closet with Cruz is the perfect opportunity to land an interview. What Bri doesn’t count on is Cruz taking “up-close and personal” to a whole new level.
If there’s a silver lining to the hell Cruz went through, it’s that losing his freedom put everything in perspective. Maybe starting over someplace new would be easier, but after years locked up, Cruz values his family—and his true friends—more than ever. So he’s back home, facing the gossip, dodging reporters . . . and face-to-face with Gabriella Rossi. They’ve both changed: Bri wants a story and Cruz just wants her. Another thing he’s learned? Don’t let a good thing slip away.
“How long have you been wanting to kiss me?”
It was tempting to fling the truth at him—the truth that they had already kissed. It would feel good to catch him off guard and watch him absorb that fact.
She couldn’t do it, of course. After the satisfaction of shocking him wore off, she’d be left with the awkwardness of him knowing she was the idiot who had kissed him in the boathouse while he thought she was someone else.
“You were stroking my lips,” he reminded.
“I was checking to see if you were breathing.”
He whirled her around, sending her colliding into his chest.
“Oh!” Her hands came up to his chest, palms flattening on the very body she had only moments ago felt at her leisure. Now it felt different. Now he was awake. Alert . . .his eyes as sharp as a hawk’s gaze on her. Now his heart pounded swift and hard beneath her touch.
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Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of BEAUTIFUL SINNER by Sophie Jordan, we’re giving away one paperback set of the complete Devil’s Rock series by Sophie Jordan!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of the complete Devil’s Rock series by Sophie Jordan. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 11/12/2018 @ 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 Sophie Jordan
SOPHIE JORDAN grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she’s the New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author of more than twenty novels. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with anything that has a happily ever after.
No One Like You
A Chateau Jolie Romance #1
by Heather McGovern
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub Date: 10/30/2018
In the quaint mountain town of Windamere, North Carolina, the three Sargent sisters are determined to make their hotel and winery, Chateau Jolie, a success. And one by one, they’re finding that nothing pairs better with new beginnings than unexpected love…
The downside of living in a charming small town is that it’s impossible for Brooke Sargent to avoid anyone. Especially someone as big, handsome, and friendly as Trevor Bradley. At his brother’s wedding, they flirted and danced…before Brooke recalled that she’s not ready to trust any man after her divorce, let alone one who’s the competition. Her family’s struggling chateau is planning to host the local senior prom—without the Bradley family’s renowned Honeywilde Inn muscling in and stealing the glory.
Trevor has thought of no one else since the night he and Brooke connected. Even though she shot him down—hard—he’s seen the warmth beneath her guarded facade. Working together, they could give the high school students a spectacular prom. Navigating the rough terrain of Brooke’s business, while proving himself to his own siblings, won’t be easy. But Trevor loves a challenge—especially one that could win him the woman he can’t stop wanting . . .
Brooke clung to her menu like it was a full skirt on a windy day. “Coffee,” she said to the Honeywilde waiter.
Her hands cramped, palms sweaty, and the pinching start of a headache worked its way up both temples.
Meeting with Roark Bradley shouldn’t set her on edge like this. Roark was professional and pleasant. All of the Bradleys were nice people.
Trevor Bradley in particular.
Nice looking too, though that was beside the point.
Since Devlin’s wedding in August, she’d seen Trevor only in passing. In town, she’d see him maybe shopping or walking down the sidewalk, but the glimpses were enough to confirm what she already knew—he was still as wickedly handsome as ever.
Her muscles tensed, ready to jump out of her skin, but her nerves couldn’t be because of Trevor.
“I’m back. Sorry to keep you waiting.” Roark took the seat across from her and motioned for coffee. “Anyway, as I was saying, the high school needs Chateau Jolie’s help with their prom.”
Ding, ding, ding.
That would be the source of her anxiety.
Didn’t matter that she and her sisters had been running Chateau Jolie for almost a year, the prospect of being the location for the school’s emergency prom had her more wound up than a set of novelty chattering teeth. Brooke unclenched her jaw. “I believe you were about to ask if we could host the prom at Jolie.” Both a blessing and a curse that couldn’t come at a more inopportune time.
“Yes. The venue they were going to use went out of business last week.
With no notification to the school, their prom is just…gone.”
“No place to have it, no backup plans. Nothing.”
“Those poor kids.”
Taking this project on wasn’t ideal, but how could she say no to a bunch of sad teenagers who would get all dressed up and have no place to go?
Roark sipped his coffee and shook his head. “They lost their money too. That event place in Newton went bankrupt. All of the juniors and seniors had bought tickets, so that’s their hard-earned cash gone. Which means they’ve got no budget.”
Her stomach dropped. “Well, that—” Sucks. “That’s awful.”
And she couldn’t help them without a budget. Chateau Jolie certainly didn’t have the spare cash to fork over.
“The assistant principal came to me yesterday asking—actually, pleading is more accurate—to use Honeywilde. But we’re booked solid for the whole season.”
Of course they were.
Honeywilde was always booked. This season, next season. Every season two years from now. Honeywilde’s success was one of the reasons for Jolie’s lackluster couple of years.
But she wasn’t about to tell Roark Bradley that.
“Then Sophie thought of Chateau Jolie. Thank goodness your ballroom is available.”
She pasted on a smile. “Yes. Thank goodness.”
“That is, if you can host the event. It’s in two and a half weeks.”
Her eyes almost popped out of her skull.
“I know, I know. It’s not much time, but we’re still going to help,” he rushed to add. “You wouldn’t be doing this alone. I’m ready to offer up a donation for food, décor, and other expenses. And some added manpower for the event itself, since Jolie is…well, we have a larger staff here.”
He was understating to be polite. Honeywilde had the money and people to spare. Chateau Jolie did not.
The throb in her skull got a little bit worse. “I think…”
She didn’t have the luxury of thinking. Chateau Jolie needed to catch a break, especially now that she had to shell out thousands of dollars to keep from losing part of Jolie to an evil a-hole of a man.
Not only was hosting the school’s prom the right thing to do, but a community event and charity might give the hotel the kind of promotion and PR it needed to spark off their slumping reservation rates and make
some much needed money.
“We wouldn’t throw all of this on you to deal with alone.” Roark leaned forward, his coffee mug cradled between his hands. “We plan to help out as much as we can. But what the school needs most is a location.”
Brooke flexed her fingers to get some blood into them. Chateau Jolie could easily be the location, but they didn’t have Honeywilde’s financial resources to fund a party.
She wasn’t about to tell Roark Bradley that either.
“We’d love for the school to use our ballroom,” she said instead.
But she couldn’t only offer up a location.
If all she provided was a room, then yet again, Honeywilde would be the hero of the day. They’d swoop in, save the town, and hog all the glory. Again. Chateau Jolie would be the little stepsister who got dragged along to the dance.
Her family’s business couldn’t afford to be the stepsister anymore.
Brooke stiffened her spine. “We’d want to do more than provide a location though. We have resources of our own.” Pitifully few, but potay-toe, po-tah-toe. “If the prom is at our hotel, I’d prefer to be the one in
charge of coordinating with the prom’s committee chair.”
Roark nodded. “Absolutely. I agree.”
Proms weren’t in her wheelhouse, but she knew enough about parties to handle one for teenagers.
Roark took another sip of his coffee, looking proud as a peacock. “That works out perfectly for us too. With the Blueberry Festival coming up, and peak season, we don’t need to commit to managing more than we
Peak season. Must be nice.
She shook off the resentment to concentrate on the possibilities. This prom could be the very thing Jolie needed, and if she could run the show with a Honeywilde income, even better.
She could make this the goodwill event of the year, get on every social media platform, and prove her family’s hotel was every bit as charitable and wonderful as Honeywilde, and she might be able to redeem herself. No, she would redeem herself.
“Hey.” A deep voice interrupted her pep talk.
Brooke looked up, into striking blue eyes and dimples that ought to be outlawed.
Heather McGovern writes contemporary romance in swoony, southern settings. While her love of travel and adventure takes her far, there is no place quite like home. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son, and a collection of Legos that's threatening to take over the house. When she isn't writing, she's working out, or binging on books and Netflix.
She is a member of Romance Writers of America, as well as Carolina Romance Writers, and she's represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.
Connect with Heather on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or her group blog. She'd love to hear to from you!
Beauty and the Greek Billionaire by Stefanie London
Series n/a; standalone
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled Indulgence
Publication Date October 29, 2018
Marianna Halsey has the most boring life in the world. With seven overprotective older brothers, she’s even ended up a virgin at twenty-four. But when a dark and sexy male prevents her from getting her wallet stolen on a Greek vacation, she decides it’s time for some adventure. She’s read a gazillion romance novels. How hard can it be to score a hook-up?
Greek billionaire and stock market whiz, Nico Galinas has built an empire from nothing. Literally. Orphaned as a baby, Nico trusts no one. Especially not the quirky, attractive woman using the worst pick up tricks in history. She wants something, and Nico decides to play along, even when she invites herself back to his place.
But what happens when "the beast" accidentally knocks up "beauty"?
For a woman who grew up with seven older brothers, Marianna Halsey knew surprisingly little about men.
Oh sure, she knew they ate like wild animals, forcing her to wolf down her meals as a kid so she didn’t miss out. She knew that they sorted their problems out with fists, and that they believed little sisters needed to be sheltered at all costs. She also knew they thought showering was optional and that it was perfectly fine to make a tower out of empty toilet paper rolls instead of taking them to the rubbish bin.
But when it came to knowing what a man wanted in a woman, she was at a total and utter loss.
Big boobs, small boobs, blondes or brunettes? Did they want witty and extroverted or thoughtful and quiet? She had no freaking clue. Truth be told, she wasn’t sure what she wanted in a partner, either.
What she did know, however, was that men didn’t seem to want her.
Marianna leaned back against the blue-and-white-painted chair, letting her eyes flutter shut as a warm breeze rolled past. Fanning herself, she sucked in the salty tang of the ocean and the sound of people speaking Greek. Allowing herself to get lost in the language, letting her ears delight in the sound of new words, gave her a moment of peace. The only moment of peace she’d had since she landed in Corfu yesterday.
She supposed most people would experience that muscle-loosening sense of relaxation the second they set foot on the idyllic island. But then again, most people hadn’t come here to lose their virginity.
She glanced down at her ereader, the searing words of a romance novel staring back up at her. Since she had no close girlfriends or people with whom she could talk about sex, she’d decided—as she did with most things—that books would be her best option. In fact, she’d barely slept a wink the entire journey from Australia to Greece as she’d devoured the stories, gobbling them up in her quest to garner any information which might help her seduce a man.
It was a damn good thing her ereader allowed her to shrink the text on her screen so her brother couldn’t lean over and see what she was reading! Romance novels should come with a warning: read in a cool place or risk spontaneous combustion.
Fire hazards aside, the books had aided her research and allowed her to create a checklist of important items.
To execute her anti-virginity plan she needed the following: a sexy Greek man, a romantic but private location, some fancy underwear—or in her case, a sexy bikini so she was beach-ready—and a bit of liquid courage. But not too much liquid courage…because vomiting on her target was bound to be a mood killer.
The open-air café across from her hotel was dotted with groups of people, a mix of locals and tourists from what she could tell. As yet, no one had caught her attention.
Patience. You’ve waited this long, what’s another hour or two to find the right guy?
All she had to do was pick her moment to slip away from the watchful eye of her older brother.
“Speak of the devil,” she muttered under her breath. Daniel, older brother number two, strode toward her with his shirtsleeves rolled back and perspiration beading along his hairline. Like her, he was used to the bone-dry heat of home rather than this sticky island humidity.
He dropped into the chair across from her. “How’s the reading?”
You wouldn’t be asking that if you knew how many times I’d read the word “cock” in the last five minutes.
“Good.” She reached for her coffee and sipped in an effort to stifle a giggle. “How was your meeting?”
“He didn’t go for it.” Daniel’s usually relaxed, jovial expression turned dark as a storm cloud. “I was warned he was difficult to deal with, but…he cut me off at the knees before I could even get the whole pitch out.”
“That’s a shame.” Her stomach clenched. As much as she wanted the best for her brother, she had a selfish reason for hoping he’d been successful. This trip could not be cut short.
“I’m not going to take no for an answer.” Daniel raked a hand through his hair. “I told him as much. What we’re doing will totally change how people invest their money. He should be all over it.”
Daniel was the “face” of their invention with his business background, but their younger brother, Matthew, was the brains. A child prodigy, Matthew had completed his degree in computer science before he was legally able to drink. He’d been building computers and designing programs for as long as anyone could remember. Now, with blockchain disrupting the finance industry, Matthew’s program enabled crowdsourcing for cryptocurrency price predictions, creating a whole new environment for making money.
But what they needed were a few high-profile investors to get on board. If they backed the product, then others would follow. And Daniel, never one to shy away from lofty goals, had decided that some fancy Greek billionaire—she’d forgotten his name already—would be target number one. Hence the trip.
“You should have brought me along to the meeting. I could have turned on the charm.” Marianna winked, and Daniel’s hearty laugh was so immediate and so genuine that she frowned. “It’s not that hilarious.”
“Sis, you are many things. Smart, kind, funny…but you’re not about to charm anyone into a business deal.” He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
None of them would. Growing up in a small country town with more overprotective brothers than should be legal had meant dating prospects were nonexistent. She’d been put permanently in everyone’s “too hard” basket.
“Don’t look at me like that. Besides, this guy is a bit of a bastard. You don’t want the attention of someone like that.” Daniel shook his head. “And I know the software is good enough to sell itself. I’m not going to pimp my own sister out to get his attention.”
“So what now?”
“I’ve got a meeting with an ex-trader who was a big deal before he retired. I’m hoping he might have some contacts.” He checked his watch. “But he lives on the north part of the island, so I’ll be gone until this evening. Can I convince you to come with me? It’s supposed to be beautiful up there.”
Her heart skipped a beat. It was like the fates had handed her the perfect window of opportunity. And there would be no need to make excuses as to why she wanted to slip away if her brother was going to be on the other side of Corfu.
“Didn’t you just indicate that I’d be useless in a business meeting?” Marianna raised a brow, hoping to hell that she sounded calm, and not like she was about to spend the afternoon trying to find a stranger for the purpose of having sex.
Daniel blew out a puff of air. “I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone for that long. We’re in a strange country, and this is one language you don’t speak.”
True. She was fluent in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German, and could carry on basic conversation in Portuguese, Indonesian, Russian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mandarin, but still hadn’t gotten around to learning more than a few cursory phrases in Greek. It was on her list.
Maybe if you hadn’t spent your whole life with your nose in a book, you wouldn’t be so inexperienced in dealing with people.
She’d been that child—the one who preferred learning over relationships. An information sponge. Marianna liked that about herself, though perhaps she should have made some girlfriends over the years. Perhaps if she’d tried harder, she wouldn’t be looking to romance novels for information about the opposite sex. And it wasn’t like she could ask her best friend, Jules, about it, either. He was a guy, and they’d never ever crossed that line, even if she’d wanted to many times as a teenager. But asking him about it now would just be…weird.
Hence, the romance novels.
“I’ve got my translation app, and if there’s one thing you don’t need to worry about, it’s me and languages.”
“You’ve got roaming turned on for your phone, right?” Daniel asked, his brows creased. His dark eyes were a mirror-image of her own, of all the Halsey kids. “Don’t worry about the cost.”
“I’ll turn it on,” she promised. She drained the rest of her coffee and stood, tucking her ereader back into her handbag.
Daniel looked at her sheepishly as they headed out of the café. “I know you think I’m being overprotective—”
“Promise you won’t go too far, okay?”
“I’ll be fine. I’m going to sit and read, and then I’m going to go to bed early and try to shake this jet lag.” She ignored the guilt zipping through her for lying to her brother.
She shouldn’t feel guilty. Marianna was a grown woman, and she didn’t have to account for herself. But the truth was, she’d gotten used to being protected. To being alone with her nose in a book. Back home, it had become harder and harder to meet people. To date.
The weight of knowing she was so inexperienced made her incredibly self-conscious, and it had only gotten worse as time passed. Guys back home expected a woman in her mid-twenties to be confident. And Marianna had fumbled so badly the one time she’d managed to kiss a man that he’d laughed in her face. Said she kissed like an overeager puppy.
Needless to say, she wasn’t encouraged to try again.
But that was the whole point of coming on this trip. Here, she could pretend to be anyone.
In fact, she already had a fake identity planned out. She was going to be Bianca, a well-traveled, cultured language student who was enjoying a holiday in the Greek islands. And if it all went horribly wrong and she embarrassed herself again, then she could fly home and avoid the risk of awkwardly running into her lover.
The very thought of it stoked the fire already burning inside her. Excitement, trepidation, and need all twisting and turning together to create a ball of anxious energy. She wanted to go home a new woman. An experiencedwoman.
“Daniel, will you go already?” She laughed, hoping it sounded genuine. “You came here to do business, not to babysit me. It’s a little insulting that you think I can’t take care of myself. I’m twenty-four, not fourteen.”
They hovered outside the café. Across the road, their hotel stood proud and white against a perfect azure sky dotted with marshmallow clouds. The streets bustled with tourists, and Marianna’s gaze immediately zeroed in on a man a few feet away.
Her breath stuttered at the sight of his jet-black hair and smooth olive skin. Darkness coated the sharp angle of his jaw, like a shadow. Her fingers itched to touch him, to see if the stubble was rough beneath her fingertips. And, unlike her and her brother, this man looked cool as a cucumber. There wasn’t a drop of sweat on him.
Her pulse quickened, and she was shocked at how quickly her body reacted. It was like someone had found the perfect marble statue of a man and brought him to life. Brought him here. For her.
He looked exactly like how she’d pictured the heroes of her romance novels—tall, dark, handsome. Mysterious with an undercurrent of something deeply sensual. Like a sexy secret that needed to be uncovered.
“Trust me,” Daniel said, breaking into her haze of lust by bending down to plant a kiss on top of her head. “When you’re well into your thirties, twenty-four will seem like a lifetime ago.”
“Okay, old man,” she teased.
“Call me if you need anything.” He looked at her pointedly. “You have the number for emergency services, right?”
“Yes. And the hotel concierge, and the number of the bank in case my credit card gets stolen.” She cut him off from asking any more questions by holding up her hand. “The only thing you have to worry about is whether I’m going to fit in the airplane seat on the way home from all the loukoumades I’m eating.”
She placed a hand over her stomach. Maybe she should be a little more worried about that. She had a tendency to snack while she read, a habit cultivated during many hours spent working on her studies back home.
“I’ll call you when I’m on my way back,” Daniel said.
“Good luck.” She smiled up at her brother. He worked hard and he deserved to succeed. For himself, and for their family. “I hope you bowl this guy over.”
Daniel left her alone, and the second he’d disappeared out into the crowd, Marianna’s eye drifted back to the handsome stranger. From this angle, his profile was proud and strong. He had a straight nose, heavy brows, and full lips that curved wickedly. Her blood thrummed in her veins, and the longer she stared the more she knew thiswas the man she wanted to take to bed.
Perhaps trying to seduce such a stunning man was aiming too high, but Marianna was sick of missing out on the joys of life. Instead of being the mousy country girl she was back home, she was going to be a worldly woman. Smart, intelligent, and sexy. Deserving of any man.
But just as she was trying to work up the courage to approach him, he walked past. The crowd moved around her, and she stepped back to get out of the way. Trying not to feel defeated, she stuck her hand into her bag to grab her phone. But when her fingertips brushed something warm and decidedly human, she screamed and balled her fist.
Shit! Nico Gallinas dodged a small fist as it came flying in his direction. It whizzed past his ear as he stumbled back against the guy who’d been trying to pickpocket the sister of Daniel Halsey. He’d noticed a man lurking behind her, eyes laser focused on the straw bag that was sweet but stupidly designed. Way too open at the top for a busy tourist area.
The second he’d seen the man stealthily slip a hand inside the bag, Nico had snatched at the man’s wrist. Only the woman had mistaken him for the pickpocket.
“How dare you!” She swung again, and this time it landed. It wasn’t enough to make stars dance in front of his eyes, but his jaw smarted, and he stumbled back. At the same time, she yanked her bag away from him. But the pickpocket still had a grip on the handle, possibly hoping to use the commotion as an opportunity for a snatch-and-grab. “Thief!”
The sound of material splitting cut through the air, and the contents of the bag exploded. Nico slipped and stumbled back. The pickpocket ducked out of his way and made a grab for the wallet, which had bounced next to Nico’s foot.
As the thief reached for it, Nico kicked at the man’s ankles. He didn’t fall, but it was enough to throw him off balance. And when the woman’s shocked gaze landed on the man who was really to blame for the commotion, the thief turned on his heel and darted down an alleyway.
Nico reached for the wallet, holding it out to her. What had Daniel said her name was? Marianna. “Here. You might want to consider using a more secure bag next time. Pickpockets target this area.”
She clamped one hand over her mouth as she accepted the wallet. “Oh my god, I am so sorry. I thought…”
“You made it very clear what you thought.” He shoved his hands into his pants. “I’d have to be doing more than picking pockets to afford this suit, for what it’s worth.”
“I thought the suit was a tactic.” A rosy flush filled her cheeks, and she hung her head as she bent down to pick up her things. “So you didn’t look like a thief.”
A man and a woman had stopped to assist them in gathering her personal effects from the ground. Tissues, a tube of lipstick, sunscreen, a mobile phone. A sleeve of birth control pills. She sucked in a breath and snatched them up, quickly stuffing them into her broken bag.
He noticed an ereader on the floor next to his foot, so he stooped down to collect it. In the fracas, the device must have landed on the power button. The screen showed a page of text, and when Nico squinted he let out a bark of a laugh. Miss I-Can-Pack-A-Punch was reading one hell of a book.
I want you to fuck me. Hard. Take your big cock and bend me over.
Her eyes widened as she looked at the device and saw it was on.
“Give it to me. Now. I mean…crap. Give the ereader to me.” She cringed as he handed it over, hugging it to her torso like a protective shield. “How much did you see?”
“Not much,” he replied. “I stopped reading after bend me over.”
A flush of embarrassment pinkened her cheeks, matching the pretty shade of her lips. Stunning. He especially liked the way her hands fluttered at her neck. He’d expected a woman reading such bold words to be a little more confident, but the contradiction grabbed his attention. He was always attracted to those.
“Oh god.” She pressed a palm to her face. “How’s the jaw?”
He chuckled. “I’ll live. I’ve taken worse punches.”
Actually it damn well stung like a bitch, but he didn’t want to make her feel bad. She’d only been trying to protect herself. And he was pretty damn impressed by her swing.
It was lucky he’d even noticed her coming out of the café with Daniel Halsey, otherwise she’d have more than a broken handbag to worry about.
What had her brother told her? That Nico was a cold-hearted bastard? An asshole? Probably. It’s not like he could dispute it. One didn’t make it to his level by being nice or by accepting every “life-changing” offer that came his way.
The Australian man had come to him so full of energy and excitement, wide-eyed with naïveté. A system that could allow people to crowdsource cryptocurrency price predictions? Right, and why would Nico want to endorse that? He’d made success by learning the ropes and honing his ability to marry gut instinct with a critical mind. By doing the work. Predictions were worthless without an experienced man in possession of them, and assuming anyone could do what Nico did by simply sourcing a bunch of predictions was even more of an insult.
Nico had shut the meeting down quickly. If Daniel Halsey had bothered to agree to a phone meeting first, he could have saved himself a flight. But the man had obviously assumed he could talk his way into Nico’s endorsement easier in person. More fool him.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have punched you.” She bit down on her lip. “I took a few self-defense lessons at university, and I guess all that training must have been waiting for a moment to be used.”
Her skin was slightly damp with perspiration, and it gave her an ethereal glow. The fabric of her white sundress clung to her in patches, making the conservative cut sexier than it should have been. Nico was surprised to notice his normal urge for solitude was absent around this woman. He found himself wanting to know more about her.
“Apology accepted,” he replied.
The crowd had dispersed now, the thief long gone. Corfu was a mostly safe place, but anywhere tourists congregated there would be someone looking to take advantage.
“Can I buy you a drink to say thanks for saving my wallet?” she asked. Her dark eyes bored into him, unsettling something deep inside his chest.
Nico raised a brow. Most often women expected him to buy drinks. Not that he planned on letting her pay, mind you. And any bartender in Corfu wouldn’t take Nico’s money even if he offered it. One of the perks of being rich enough that everyone wanted you drinking at their establishment. Not that Nico got out much these days, mind you.
What had his business partner called him the other day? A hermit?
But that was beside the point. He shouldn’t be fraternizing with the sister of a man he’d just rejected for a business deal. There was always a chance that it could end badly.
“I’m Bianca, by the way.”
Bianca? Nico frowned. Daniel had mentioned his sister in passing, calling her Marianna. Unless he was mistaken in assuming they were related? Daniel had kissed the top of her head with such platonic affection that Nico would have been shocked if they weren’t close.
He accepted her hand and closed it in his fist, surprising himself at the steady hum in his blood. From a distance, he might have simply called her pretty. But up close there was a subtle complexity to her, a depth only those with a keen eye would see. And he was a man who loved details.
Long, dark hair tumbled down her back. It was so dark one might mistake it for being black, but the shade was so much more interesting than that. Sunlight bounced off strands rich with red and gold undertones, giving them a faint but fiery gleam. Her skin was incredibly fair, her eyelashes long and dark. Thick. They framed wide eyes the color of rich cocoa.
Whatever this woman was playing at with her fake name, she’d officially intrigued him.
“Sure, let’s get a drink,” he said. “But how about we find you a new bag, first?”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of BEAUTY AND THE GREEK BILLIONAIRE by Stefanie London, 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 Stefanie London
STEFANIE LONDON is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance with humour, heat and heart.
Growing up, Stefanie came from a family of women who loved to read. Her favourite activity was going shopping with her Nan during school holidays, where she would sit on the floor of the bookstore with her little sister and painstakingly select the books to spend her allowance on. Thankfully, Nan was a patient woman.
Thus, it was no surprise Stefanie was the sort of student who would read her English books before the semester started. After sneaking several literature subjects into her ‘very practical’ Business degree, she got a job in Communications. When writing emails and newsletters didn’t fulfil her creative urges, she turned to fiction and was finally able to write the stories that kept her mind busy at night.
Now she lives with her very own hero and dreams of travelling the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, French perfume, high heels and zombie movies. Recently she gave up her day job to write sexy, contemporary romance stories and she couldn’t be happier.