Moonlight Scandals by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series de Vincent Series #3
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Avon Books
Publication Date January 29, 2019
It takes a fearless woman to love the most scandalous man alive in New York Times Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s breathtaking novel.
Even a ghost hunter like Rosie Herpin couldn’t have foreseen the fateful meeting between two mourners that has brought her so intimately close to the notorious and seductive Devlin de Vincent. Everyone in New Orleans knows he’s heir to a dark family curse that both frightens and enthralls. To the locals, Devlin is the devil. To Rosie, he’s a man who’s stoking her wildest fantasies. When a brutal attack on her friend is linked to the de Vincents, he becomes a mystery she may be risking her life to solve.
Devlin knows what he wants from this sexy and adventurous woman. But what does Rosie want from him? It’s a question that becomes more pressing—and more dangerous—when he suspects her of prying into the shadows of his past.
Now, the legends surrounding the de Vincents may not be myths at all. But if she’s to discover the truth, she must follow them straight into the arms of the man she can’t resist—the handsome devil himself.
“Let me get this straight. You want my brother to let you into his home to see if it’s haunted?”
Dev honest to God had no idea how to respond to that, but then he watched her suck her bottom lip between her teeth. As shitty as it was, he realized he had bargaining power, and there was something he wanted.
Lots of things he wanted, actually.
“I’ll get you into the house.”
“What?” Surprise pitched her tone. “You’re for real?”
A half grin tugged at his lips. “On one condition.”
He sat up and leaned in close enough that he heard her inhale. The scent of coconuts teased him again. “It’s a pretty big condition.”
“Okay? What is it?”
What he was about to say was not planned. It was not calculated in the ways he wanted it to be and how he was accustomed to. His condition was . . . simply something he desired.
“Kiss me,” he said, voice low. “That’s my condition. Kiss me.”
About Jennifer L. Armentrout
JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT is the #1 international and #1 New York Times bestselling author of over 40 books, including the Wait for You, Lux series, the Dark Elements series, and Til Death. She is published with Tor, HarperCollins Avon and William Morrow, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion, Harlequin Teen and writes steamy and fun New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. Jennifer is also the founder of Apollycon, a yearly reader event that brings in over 1400 readers and authors together each year. She currently lives in West Virginia with her husband and two dogs, Loki and Diesel.
Harper Winston’s brother has disappeared. Pursuing his dream of sailing the Caribbean, Michael hasn’t responded to texts or emails in days. When even the Coast Guard can’t find him, Harper is forced to take desperate measures. Which means going to Chase Garrett, once her brother’s best friend, now the only man she can trust…or so she hopes.
As the successful owner of Maximum Security, Chase has learned to trust his gut. He knows Harper’s father is mixed up in a deadly business, and suspects there’s more to Michael’s disappearance than meets the eye. Getting involved again with the Winstons goes against everything he stands for, yet old loyalties die hard. As the case draws him closer to Harper and deeper into the Winstons’ snarled crime family, he is forced to put everything on the line to keep Harper safe…and both of them alive.
With fast-paced rough, tough, and deadly action and suspense and lust-filled romance, the new series by Kat Martin centering around the Maximum Security is introduced to the readers.
I'm a long time fan of the author, I especially liked the books from Alaska, the unforgiving nature as part of the romantic suspense giving it another dimension. I liked The Conspiracy, even enjoyed the second half of it immensely, it was entertaining and engaging with the unpredictable suspense and savage scenes where the action is up close, and personal combat where no one is safe. I do have some conflicting thoughts about some things, and I have been rewriting this review now too many times.
The book has multiple of sub-storylines, even a secondary romance happening on the sidelines. The point of view changes from the protagonists to the culprits to the secondary characters and so on. Yes, that kind of storytelling gives a well-rounded view of things happening, yet it can also be a bit chaotic at times as well and take away from the intensity of the main focus.
The romance between Harper Winston and Chase Garrett was intriguing, a former best friend's little sister type of attraction in between them. In the first half of the book, the lust-filled sexual thoughts didn't feel truly natural, instead, those inner monologues came off even a bit awkward at times. (Now, I read an e-arc from NetGalley, so there might have been more editing after that copy was released). Chase is lusting after Harper's body, but he is not fond of her family and has no plans to have any kind of relationship with her. There are some things said and mentioned at the beginning about Harper's and Chase's current and past relationships that were a bit cringe-worthy, yet that kind of mentality is dropped soon after, and (thankfully) there's no follow up on those issues either.
The first half of the book it felt at times like the author was searching for an edgier way to write, filling the thoughts of the protagonists with erotic type longing, that didn't quite feel fitting in. There's even a scene at the half point that nearly had me dropping the whole book, yet I'm glad I didn't since things smooth out in the second half, and really picks up, the suspense being intense with twists in the plot, and revenge been sought from the past actions.
The Conspiracy introduces the main characters of the new series. I liked the bond between the Garrett brothers, their love and support of each other is a palpable force in the story, saving the day, and lives, several times. The exciting life Garrett's are living, and their connections to the law enforcement enticed my mind and I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.
Druglords, kidnappings, fighting for the justice, and family drama invite the readers to the alluring world of the Maximum Security, yet it is the character and reputation of the Garretts and the seductive, desire-filled romance that will make me want to come back for more.
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Crave the Heat
The Smokejumpers #2
by Marnee Blake
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: 1/15/2019
Smokejumper Dak Parrish has come home to Oregon to fight fires—and to mend fences with his family. He left the Warm Springs Tribal Reservation after feuding with his father. Now, with tribal lands threatened by an arsonist, Dak gets a chance to make amends by acting as a liaison between the reservation and the forest service criminal investigator—a woman who sparks a surprising and hungry flame in him.
After a trauma on the east coast, Heidi Sinclair left DC to start fresh as a criminal investigator in Oregon. But her first serious investigation provides one stubborn obstacle after another—including an arrogant firefighter she suspects knows more than he's saying. Though she tries to battle her attraction to Dak, it’s too late. As they track down the arsonist, someone will do whatever it takes to keep old secrets buried, even if it turns everything Heidi and Dak have fought for to ashes . . .
Shrugging into the gray T-shirt he’d brought with him, Dak didn’t seem to be paying attention to Kirk. She couldn’t focus either, distracted by the play of muscles along his big chest.
As her gaze met his, a zing of connection reverberated between them. Surely it had affected him, too. Proving her point, the right side of his lips tilted up, revealing a hint of straight white teeth. That halfway grin. The lace of heat in her gut reminded her that it had been way too long.
Well, she didn’t have the emotional bandwidth for that kind of sexy right now. To be honest, she might never have that in her again.
But, she could act professionally. Her job, her work, that’s what she had. Inhaling shakily, she extended her hand. “I’m Special Agent Heidi Sinclair. Call me Heidi.”
He extended his hand, the muscles along his arms and chest flexing. Not that she noticed.
His fingers engulfed hers. “Dak Parrish. Your tagalong.” The corner of his mouth turned up again. He’d heard her, then. If she was the sort to be embarrassed about stuff like that, she would be. But she wasn’t. So she grinned back.
“Exactly. You’re tagging along, so I can get a quick assessment. You’re here because they want you here.”
Tension exploded into the silence. If she was the kind of girl who cared about awkwardness—she wasn’t—it might have bothered her.
Dak Parrish’s eyebrows lifted, and his lips twitched again. “Noted.”
“Fine.” She was proud that she kept her eyes trained on his.
“Yes.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Fine.”
“Then we are in agreement. My son will accompany you to the point of origin today for your initial pictures and reports.” The man who had come in with Dak was dressed too smoothly, everything too neat and perfect, even his smile. His voice was imperious, like a king visiting the masses. This was a man who was used to getting his way, someone who got things done. Heidi disliked him immediately.
Lyle Parrish. This guy was super-hot, looked-good-in-dirt-and-smelling like-smoke guy’s dad.
Bottom line: this was her job. She worked for the Forest Services, and part of that included maintaining good relations with the local communities, including the tribal ones. So, fine. If everyone wanted her to wander out to the side of the mountain today, she’d go.
“Yes. We’re all in agreement.”
Lyle Parrish’s smug grin made her grind her teeth.
“Well, then. I should get going. It’ll be dark soon.” She offered a glance at Dak. “We may need to camp there.” Then she smiled at Mitch. “Thank you again. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other.” Unlike Parrish and Kirk, she’d liked him right away.
Dak? She’d reserve judgment. Right now, she couldn’t decide, thanks to her annoying immediate attraction to him.
Well, that was enough public relating for today. She bid the two men from Warm Springs goodbye and left the air center, ignoring the appreciative glances from a couple of the other jumpers milling around. She had a job to do, and she couldn’t afford to be distracted. Besides, a big male body had been the start of her problems in Washington. That wasn’t a mistake she planned to repeat here.
Crunching across the gravel parking lot, she headed to the SUV the Forest Services had issued her. According to what Mitch had told her, the point of origin for the recent wildfire was on a hillside to the west of the reservation. She already had her gear in the back. Pulling her phone up, she mapped the area, wondering what the best route would be. She’d also need to contact her superior, let him know about this new development.
“Hey. Wait up.” Dak trotted up to her. “I’m supposed to keep you company.”
It had been a while since she’d been a girl who needed company. He definitely didn’t look like the kind of guy who would be used to being unwanted. Maybe all he needed was to be let off the hook. She halted,
squinting up at him in the midday sun. This close, she was painfully aware of how tall and broad he was, dwarfing her five-foot-four-inch frame.
“Look, Dak, you seem like a nice enough guy and I get the impression you’re getting dragged into this. So, if this isn’t your scene, I get it. You can bail. I can wait until tomorrow for the investigator.”
“What kind of nice enough guy would I be if I did that?” He hitched his thumbs into the belt loops on his pants. “What’s that?”
“Point of origin.” She lifted her phone, showing the map.
He cocked his head and grinned as if he found her adorable. “That’s not going to help you.”
She glared at him. “Google maps is quite—”
“Trust me, I’m better.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Come on. I can help. I’m a great tour guide.”
She rolled her eyes. “You ever hiked that ridge?”
He grinned. “Once or twice.”
Of course he had. Guess she wasn’t going to shake him. The lights of her SUV flashed as she unlocked the doors. “Climb in, then.”
Award-winning author and RITA® finalist Marnee Blake used to teach high school students but these days she only has to wrangle her own children. Originally from a small town in Western Pennsylvania, she now battles traffic in southern New Jersey where she lives with her hero husband and their happily-ever-after: two very energetic boys. When she isn't writing, she can be found refereeing disputes between her children, cooking up something sweet, or hiding from encroaching dust bunnies with a book.
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Always the bridesmaid,
never a killer’s target…until now.
Back in his hometown for a wedding, Detective Conor Wildman reunites with his ex-girlfriend’s sister, Laura Karr, once the tomboy next door.
Now Laura is a beautiful woman…and someone wants her dead. Conor is the man to protect her and catch the killer, but will one heated kiss jeopardize their precious friendship?
Or will it prove that he can trust her with his wounded heart?
A sweet, tender, and fierce love story between childhood friends in the middle of a murder investigation is a solid, entertaining, intense tale with ferocious action and a fast-paced chase across the country.
I adore the way Ms. Miller can write a hero who is as tough as they come, yet they sensitive side is as strong as their alpha male side. They have vulnerability and they own it, they have faults and weaknesses and they work on them. Detective Conor Wildman, formerly known as the US Marshall, won my heart over easily, as he struggles with the losses he has faced while is trying to justify his attraction towards his ex-girlfriend’s sister, Laura Karr.
Laura and Conor have an easy connection between them. They have known each other for a long time, they get each other, know the history, and understand the struggles each are facing. The attraction between them is so effortless, enjoyable, yet passionate, it's natural and believable from the start. I loved how they faced each other as equal partners, comparable, perfectly matched for each other. I adored Conor and Laura together. After everything Connor has been through, he deserved a good, strong woman like Laura in his life.
The suspense is intense, as well. The culprits are mostly known, yet the motives and reasons have to be discovered to capture them and bring them to justice. The reach of the perpetrators seems limitless, their powerful mastermind opening doors and ways to them no one knew to expect brining unexpected plot twists on the way.
As a bonus treat in the story, the readers get to visit with the Watson family in Kansas City and shortly catch up where everyone is with their lives.
The harsh, brutal murder and vigorous hunt for the killers is as fervent part of the story as the deepening feelings between two friends, Conor and Laura, and their balancing act to stay alive to explore the new feels and emotions skyrocketing in their hearts and minds.
A well-founded romantic suspense plot, with savage action and potent suspense, and with engaging, charming, easy to love characters in a delightfully adorable love story that captivated my heart.
~ Five Spoons
USA TODAY bestselling author Julie Miller writes breathtaking romantic suspense. She has earned a National Readers Choice Award and two Daphne du Maurier Awards among many other prizes for both her series and single title books. She was also honored to receive the RT BookReviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Suspense, and has twice been a finalist for RWA’s prestigious RITA Award. With millions of copies in print worldwide, many of her books have appeared on the USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon and BookScan Top 100 Romances bestseller lists.
Beyond the Shadows
by Loree Lough
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Elice Glasser is a widow with three young children to raise. Cabot Murray is an ex-cop who returns home to Freeland, Maryland, to deal with the pain of his own tragic loss: the death of his wife and daughter in a fiery explosion intended for him.
Grieving, their sorrow brings them together, and a friendship develops that leads then to explore the possibility of finding love again. But vengeful enemies and jealous rivals are determined to destroy the peace and happiness that Elice and Cabot have found in each other’s arms. Why are their rivals so intent on keeping Elice and Cabot apart? Loree Lough's latest suspenseful romance is a page-turner!
Cabot sat up with a start. Footsteps? Immediately, he turned out the light.
And there it was again. Yes. Footsteps. Definitely.
The kids were safe at the Glassers’ house, he’d told her; it’s the perfect opportunity to catch whoever is pulling these ridiculous, dangerous, stunts. It had taken nearly half an hour to convince her to let him stay. “The neighbors won’t know that you’re asleep in Danny’s bed,” she gasped. “They’ll think …” She’d blushed so deeply that he’d taken her in his arms so she couldn’t see his grin, and promised to park the Jeep behind the shed out back so the neighbors wouldn’t know he was there at all.
Now, he slipped out of the bed and stepped into his shoes. It was a good thing he hadn’t yet removed his pants and shirt. He tiptoed through the quiet hall and into the living room. Someone’s out there, all right, he told himself, and not a small someone, either. The silhouette looked strangely familiar, and then he remembered the shadow in his pines.
She’d taken his advice and changed the locks. He tried to remember where she’d put the key that unlocked the double-deadbolt. Once he’d found it, hanging on a tiny nail beside the door jamb, he cautiously stuck it into the lock and turned slowly, wincing when it clicked into the open position, shattering the silence.
His palm was sweating, and when he grabbed the brass knob, it made opening the door impossible. Cabot wiped it on the seat of his pants and tried again. He’d thought about oiling that squeak in the hinges several times. Now, as the high-pitched squeal grated in his ears, he wished he’d followed through.
Finally, the door was open far enough for him to slip onto the porch. He stood there for a long moment, studying the blackened yard for another glimpse of that shadow. In the dim light of the moon, he could see the tree swing, swaying slowly in the breeze. Beside it, a red plastic sand bucket rolled lazily left, then right. Annie’s tricycle caught a moonbeam and reflected it onto the fender of Danny’s dirt bike, leaning on the shed wall. The toys reminded him that three innocent children lived in this house. Children, and an vulnerable woman.
Something moved near the clothesline, and his eyes riveted to the spot. Crouching, he made his way into the yard and watched it move, show and steady, toward the north side of Elice’s house. And then it disappeared into the inky darkness.
There were three windows over there: one in Danny’s room, two in Elice’s. He was on the lawn now, nearly running to keep up with the quickening pace of the shadow, being careful to stay behind shrubs and tree trunks. A bead of sweat stung his eye, and Cabot swiped it away.
Black leather-gloved hands rested on the window sill. One booted foot balanced on the brick garden wall below it. One good push, Cabot realized, and the shadow would be inside. In her room. Only the screen separated her from this maniac.
He had no choice. If he didn’t grab it shadow now, he may not get another chance. Cabot darted forward and lunged.
Pain shot through his side. Looking up, he saw the gleaming, toothed blade of a hunting knife. As darkness had been his partner up until now, the moon’s glow was now his nightlight, and he saw that blood that covered the blade. His blood.
Rolling over, he managed to escape further injury. But his wound was more than superficial. He’d been hurt enough times in Chicago to know that much. He’d have to act quickly, before he passed out from loss of blood or shock or both.
It surprised him that the guy didn’t run off, that instead, he made his way to Elice’s window.
Would he stab her, too? Is that why he’d come here tonight … to kill her?
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America), and Sisters in Crime. She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Away from Jena Boudreaux.
Usually the rain soothed him and gave him the peace he needed to think, but since he’d come back from Paraguay nothing had filled the crater in his soul.
Her face had been cut from lip to cheekbone.
No matter how many times he went over what happened last month—especially the part where he stole his best friend’s money to save that same best friend’s sister from certain death—he hadn’t been able to justify his actions to himself. At the very least he should have told Brandon he was taking the company coffers to Asunción, Paraguay, to save Jena.
She could have died. Should have, statistically.
He’d saved Jena by getting the ransom to the Paraguayan drug cartel in time, gaining a lifetime’s worth of stress in the process. His first trip to South America had been a matter of life or death. There’d been no time to think, no chance to second-guess. He’d received the alarming text from Jena and acted on instinct.
The image of her motionless figure, bloody and battered, flashed into his mind for the millionth time. Unlike any other memory in his life, this one didn’t fade. It grew stronger, the utter despair it elicited strangling out any flicker of hope left in his battered heart.
And he’d realized that he could no longer see Jena as a fuck buddy, and in fact, that he had never seen her like that. It’d been sheer stupidity to agree to her proposal in the first place. They’d reconnected last year at Christmas, after barely having seen one another in seven years. Like a fool, he’d convinced himself that the years and space had allowed him to see their shattered adolescent and college relationship for what it was: growing pains with a childhood friend and first love, nothing more. But their red-hot chemistry was still there, and it’d been too tempting to turn down no-strings sex with Jena. He’d gone along with her offer, anything to be able to be with her. Even risking his relationship with her older brother, Brandon Boudreaux, his lifelong best friend. They’d kept their sex-only relationship secret, and it worked. Until it didn’t.
After seeing Jena at her physical bottom at the hands of her kidnappers in Paraguay—a haunted ghost of herself—the bubble he’d been living in exploded. While he’d happily engaged in their very private, indeed clandestine, relationship, he’d also fallen for what she’d told her family: that she was in the Navy Reserves and got called to active duty as often as she did because she was doing refugee work in various spots around the globe.
And it made sense, on the surface. Jena had her degree in social work, and she’d said the Navy had assigned her as a general unrestricted line officer, which gave her the ability to serve wherever she was needed, whenever. Jena excelled at channeling her compassionate tendencies in the most beneficial way—he’d witnessed it firsthand when she’d helped the teen daughter of his work colleague early last year.
He grunted. That was when he’d had work colleagues. The destruction his split-second decision had wrought on the boating company he and Brandon had built from the ground up was immeasurable. The fifteen million dollars of absconded funds were easily counted, a solid figure to wrap his head around. And as rough as stealing the money was, it had bought Jena her life back. But the damage between him and Brandon—irreparable. Brandon had been his best friend, his chosen brother, much as the Boudreauxes had been his chosen family since the day Brandon brought him home after school to play Atari.
The only commonality he’d shared with the Boudreaux children was school. Jeb’s family struggled economically. His father left when he was still in kindergarten, and his mother struggled with alcoholism until he was almost in middle school. Jeb had felt responsible for his siblings, but also craved the attention and security he thought the Boudreaux children had. He’d met Brandon Boudreaux in gym class at the local private Catholic school where Jeb was enrolled as a charity case. Their bond had been immediate, as had his friendship with Brandon’s younger sister Jena. He couldn’t remember his life without her.
How had the girl he’d known, the woman he’d thought he’d loved on and off over the last two decades, been an undercover CIA agent and he’d never had a fucking clue?
The not-knowing about her work wasn’t what painfully stuck in his craw, though. He hated to admit the truth of it, even to himself in the small apartment he might very well lose in a matter of days. What crushed him was that Jena had never needed him, had only used him for booty calls. And he’d been too blinded by his attraction to see through it. To be fair, he’d used her for the same things, but deep down he believed that Jena needed him, what only he could offer her.
He’d been a fool.
Jena never stopped calling him her best friend. When they were kids, when they dated in high school, and then, later, college, she never stopped saying that he was the only one who really “got” her.
After seeing what kind of horrible human beings she’d fought and fortunately won against, he had to face facts. The young kids they’d been—and, yes, even the more recent fuck buddies—had been based on his assumption that Jena needed him. That he was a requisite part of her life. And he’d thought it would be that way forever. That Jena knew he was the one she’d always be able to turn to, no matter what. While that part was true, what wasn’t was his fatal assumption: that Jena wanted to turn to him all the time.
Because Jena Boudreaux was a self-made woman who required help from no one, least of all her grade-school friend who happened to know her body better than anyone else.
He slammed his laptop shut, stood, and stretched. Hadn’t he had enough counseling about his alcoholic mother to know that he was a classic caretaker, that his codependency had spilled over onto Jena for too long? He’d destroyed his best friend’s business, their relationship, and his own livelihood, all because of a single text from Jena.
Not the text asking him to tell her family she loved them, to let the FBI know what was going on. No, that hadn’t been the biggest revelation. It was the short, three-word text that came two hours later, when he’d thought it was too late, that he’d never reach her in time.
I love you.
Now he’s her only hope.
Blackhawk Security weapons expert Anthony Harris has trained for any contingency. Except the return of his ex-fiancée. Glennon Chase walked out on the former ranger five years ago.
And now the CID special agent needs Anthony’s help with a deadly investigation into her partner’s disappearance.
Dodging bullets he can handle, but pairing up with his ex is flat-out dangerous. Especially when Anthony discovers that the secret Glennon is keeping could get them both killed.
Edgy is a perfect word to describe the tale -- the battle to survive, the hunt for the criminals, the attempted rescue of Glennon's partner -- there are no guarantees, everyone is precarious and endangered, there are times I truly feared for the hero and heroine, and their survival.
Anthony Harris is a hero easy to like. He oozes charm, good character, honor, and dignity. He has a big heart, a sense of humor, and he is willing to die for those he loves. He is loyal, passionate, protective, and loving. The wars he battled in has made a lasting impact into his soul, yet there's still room for tender feelings and loving thoughts.
Glennon Chase is a survivor. She is a heroine who can stand on her own and has done just that. She loves fiercely, yet rather hide than face the storms if it comes to protecting what she holds dear. She has secrets, she has made decisions and choices I had a hard time accepting, but she stands by her actions and her past, giving reasonable explanations to her way of resolving issues in the past.
The chemistry between Glennon and Anthony is palpable, their history makes it even more belivable, and the churning emotions between them had my heart melting. There is so much love still left in their hearts, minds, and souls, and after everything they have gone through, I have to salute them with their desire to make the best of the situation and finding redemption within each other's arms.
Combustible, intense suspense, flammable romance with lessons in forgiveness and loyalty, a story that takes your breath away and delivers on every aspect.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Nichole Severn writes explosive romantic suspense with strong heroines, heroes who dare challenge them, and a hell of a lot of guns. She graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Psychology and from Nevada State College with a degree in English Literature. She's a member of Romance Writers of America.
She resides with her very supportive and patient husband, as well as her demon spawn, in Utah. When she’s not writing, she’s constantly injuring herself running, rock climbing, practicing yoga, and snowboarding.
website, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, BookBub, Facebook, Twitter
Crimson Point Series #3
By Kaylea Cross
Release Day – Jan 22
Molly Boyd’s entire world unraveled when tragedy turned the man she loved into her greatest threat. Her ex-husband’s death has left her pregnant and alone, struggling to put her shattered life back together—and her confusing feelings for his best friend aren’t helping matters. For years Jase has been a solid, steady source of comfort and friendship. Now she can’t stop seeing him as something more. And just as she’s wrestling with her shifting feelings, a new danger from her ex’s past threatens everything—including her and her unborn child’s lives.
But she’s always been the one.
Jase Weaver is an expert at unrequited love. Years ago he stood by and watched his best friend marry the woman of his dreams, and he’s endured his suffering in silence ever since. But when Carter’s self-destructive tailspin threatened Molly, Jase stepped in to make her safe. And when Carter died, Jase stepped up to be her rock. Now he can’t stay silent any longer. He’s wanted Molly forever and it’s time she knows it. So when a new threat against her emerges, Jase will put his own life on the line to protect her, no matter the cost.
Molly Boyd clamped her teeth together to keep them from chattering and hunched into a tighter ball in an effort to keep warm, but it didn’t help. She was cold all the way to her bones, her sodden clothes sticking to her skin. A summer rainstorm pounded down outside the shelter of the culvert she huddled in—hiding from her ex-husband.
Shock kept advancing and retreating, trapping her in an emotional fog. She’d never imagined she would end up like this. Not even after everything she and Carter had been through.
The left side of her face throbbed. Her cheek was bruised, her eye swelling slightly, and her lip burned where Carter had backhanded her. Her bare feet stung from the scratches she’d sustained in her flight to this lonely culvert at the side of the road.
All of it was eclipsed by the pain in her heart.
She closed her eyes, fought to hold off the memory of him breaking into the house and coming at her with that terrifying, predatory expression on his face. The memory of escaping the house, slamming that branch over his back and running for her life through the darkened woods.
Tears threatened. She shook them off, refusing to give in. If she started crying now, she might never stop, and she had to stay alert because she was still in danger with Carter looking for her.
What am I going to do?
She shivered harder, tucked her knees up tight to her chest and leaned her forehead on them as she fought to keep from spiraling into the black pit of despair yawning at the edge of her consciousness. Jase was coming. She’d called him and he was coming. He would find her, help her, and he’d alerted the cops. He would make sure she was safe—even if it was from his former best friend.
At the faint sound of an approaching vehicle, her insides tightened in fear. She lifted her head, her gaze darting toward the road, dreading the moment the familiar black pickup came into view again. Carter had driven up and down this road earlier, shouting her name through his open window for endless minutes. He would never stop looking for her.
Headlights cut through the gloom. She turned her face away and squeezed her eyes shut, willing Carter away. The divorce papers had set him off, even though he must have known they were coming.
She sat perfectly still, heart hammering against her ribs as she waited, hardly daring to breathe lest the slightest motion give her hiding spot away.
She flinched at the male voice all but drowned out by the thundering rain, her heart rocketing into her throat. Shit, she was trapped here. Carter was former Special Forces and the waterlogged ditch was too steep. She’d never be able to climb out and escape him if he found her this time.
“Moll. It’s Jase.”
Jase. The fear receded instantly, the cold inside her thawing under a tide of relief as she turned her head toward him. She trusted him. Trusted that he would protect her and keep her safe, no matter what.
He was wading toward her through the flooded ditch, a tall, strong silhouette, his jeans soaked to the knees. She couldn’t move, couldn’t call out. Her muscles were too weak and shaky to obey her.
Gathering her courage as he came nearer, she forced her gaze up to meet Jase’s. The instant their eyes connected, she almost lost the battle to keep the tears at bay.
Frowning in concern, he quickly climbed into the culvert and knelt down beside her. Before she could find her voice, he reached out and gently grasped her chin in his warm fingers. His jaw was tight, his aqua eyes burning with outrage. “Did he do this? Did he hit you?” he demanded, voice vibrating with horror and anger.
Molly’s fading composure crumbled. All the emotions she’d been holding back crashed over her like a dark wave, taking her under. She leaned toward him just as the dam broke.
Jase made a low sound and reached for her, wrapping his strong, warm arms around her as she laid her head on his shoulder. He ran a comforting hand up and down her back gently. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Just her heart, now shattered into a thousand jagged pieces.
She shook her head, her entire body trembling while she choked back the sobs trying to claw their way free of her throat, the humiliation all but strangling her. This was a nightmare. Only she wasn’t dreaming.
“All right, let’s get you out of here.” Jase slid one arm beneath her knees and lifted her, keeping her close to him as he carried her out of the culvert and through the water-filled ditch.
Molly ducked her head against the pelting rain and curled into him. She didn’t know what to say. Was ashamed to tell him what had happened.
“I’m gonna boost you up, then come right behind you.” He lifted her toward the steeply sloping side and helped her scramble over the edge before climbing up the side. Before she could even get to her feet, he scooped her up again, ignoring her mumbled protest as he strode for his truck, parked close by at the edge of the road.
Molly curled against him, still trying to come to terms with everything that had happened. As well as something…something that was still happening inside her right now.
Jase opened the front passenger door and carefully placed her on the leather seat. The interior was warm. Almost hot compared to outside.
“Hang tight.” He disappeared for a moment, opened the rear door to grab something and came back with a jacket. He tucked it around her, did up her seatbelt because her hands were still shaking and shut the door. Once he had climbed into the driver’s seat, he cranked the heat to high and reached over to aim the vents at her.
Molly sighed in relief as the warm air flowed over her. The numbness was retreating, leaving a sapping exhaustion in its wake.
Still leaning toward her, Jase reached up to stroke her wet hair away from her face, his eyes worried. “Moll, do you need to go to the hospital?”
“N-no. I’m okay.” You’re not. And you’ll never be okay again.
“What happened?” he asked, turning the truck in a tight circle and starting back up the road.
She huddled beneath his jacket and told him about Carter breaking into the house and attacking her in as few words as possible, her voice hitching due to the little gasps still jarring her lungs.
Jase was silent as she finished, his stubbled jaw clenched tight. He shook his golden-brown head, and a deep, terrible shame engulfed her, almost worse than the pain of Carter hitting her.
But there was more to her story. So much more. She didn’t want to hide the rest from him and had intended to tell everyone anyway. Just not like this.
“And it gets worse,” she added, her voice barely above a whisper.
He looked over at her sharply.
She didn’t speak for a long moment, staring out the windshield into the gloom. “I’m pregnant,” she finally said, her voice breaking.
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Cheyenne Liles has watched all of her friends mate into the Talon Pack and have their lives changed forever, one by one. She’s stood back, helpless to assist in the war with a rival Pack. But just when she thinks her time with the Talons is over and believes she should move on with her human life, the Aspen Pack Alpha takes matters into his own hands, altering her fate far more than a single mate mark ever could.
Max Brentwood used to be the smiling one, the only Brentwood who was somehow able to save his soul during the last Alpha’s reign. But his life was irrevocably changed one fateful day on the battlefield, and he was never the same again. Suddenly, Max is forced to face his future and make a choice when Cheyenne comes into danger: let fate decide, or watch his world crumble around him.
The shifters of this world have fought demons, humans, and themselves. Now, it’s time to find out who they truly are as the war between the Packs ends, and the moon goddess finally takes a stand.
Considering that he’d shown up at the nearest Pack SUV covered in sweat and blood with a woman in his arms and then hadn’t let go of her until he met up with his cousin and Healer, Walker…he didn’t blame them for thinking that.
He was ready to murder someone.
The woman in the bed near him didn’t scent of wolf, only the one who’d hurt her. The shift hadn’t taken, then again, something had come in and changed it all.
Leah, Ryder’s mate and a healer in her own right since she was a strong water witch, had taken one look at him and handed over a wet towel so he could wipe his face and chest. He’d thought it would be enough to make it so he didn’t look that dangerous.
He might be wrong about that.
Leah had given him a once-over, probably ensuring that none of the blood was his, and then left the room. He figured that she or Walker would be back in soon to check on him and Cheyenne. They were worried about him just as much as they were about Cheyenne because nothing was right about this picture.
Somehow, Max had a mate, and that mate, who had been drowning in her own blood earlier that morning, was now almost completely healed and resting.
None of it made sense, and they still had no idea what it had to do with Blade.
Because it always had to do with Blade these days.
Cheyenne mumbled something in her sleep, her hands fisting in the sheets beside her. Max stood up, ignoring the ache in his hips from his run. He was faster than he’d ever been, stronger than he’d ever been because he had to become that man. But, sometimes, he strained himself from pushing too hard. He’d get over it.
When Cheyenne moaned again, he reached out and put his hand over hers, knowing that when his wolf got out of hand, he needed touch—even if the man wanted nothing to do with it.
Cheyenne might not be a wolf, but she’d been pumped full of magic to the point where he could still taste it on his tongue, feel the weight of it in his soul—and not just through the fragile bond pulsating between the two of them in rhythm with their heartbeats.
As soon as he touched her, Cheyenne calmed down, but when he moved away again to give her space, she thrashed. They hadn’t been able to wake her up, and Walker said it was because she needed to finish healing what was inside and that it would take time.
The fact that Walker could feel that along the tentative bond told them all that Cheyenne was now Pack, even if not fully because Gideon hadn’t blooded her into the Pack itself yet. Not that all of the current Pack members had needed Gideon since extenuating circumstances had led to new additions over the past few years. But when Max had tried to turn Cheyenne wolf to save her—something that clearly hadn’t taken since he could only smell his wolf on her—everything had changed.
He didn’t know what would happen next, but things were well on their way to becoming complicated.
About Carrie Ann RyanCarrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over sixty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.
Series The Texas Trilogy
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date January 15, 2019
Faith has always adored the boy her parents took in and raised. But she’s not certain she can ever forgive him for riding out of her life just when she needed him the most. When an urgent telegram forces him to return six years later, Rawley discovers Faith is now a woman to be reckoned with.
As old feelings are stirred back to life and new passions take hold, they both must confront secrets from their past or risk losing a legacy of love.
About Lorraine Heath
LORRAINE HEATH always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals, press releases, articles, and computer code, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s prestigious RITA. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
Hometown Series Book 2
by Kirsten Fullmer
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Resolved to keep his life simple, Chad has his hands full running his delivery business and supporting his adopted family. So why can’t he get that withdrawn city girl, Julia, off his mind?
Will the eccentric but well-meaning Smithville folk push Julia and Chad to open up, or will the emotional toll drive them both back into seclusion?
Bobby flopped back against the wall, his chest heaving and eyes bugging.
Glancing back and forth between the kitchen and the hutch, Julia frowned. “Do you think this will work?”
Chad brushed his hands together. “Will what work?”
Reluctant but with no one to ask, Julia waved for him to follow and wandered into the kitchen, Ringo at her feet. “I bought those two hutches to put on either side of the sink,” she said over her shoulder, “but the sink needs to be moved under the window.”
Trailing behind her, Chad stopped in the center of the kitchen. She continued toward the old sink and ratty broken cabinets. He glanced from the sink to the window. “You’re not going to put in new cabinets and counter tops?”
“I don’t think so...” Julia answered, deep in thought, purposely keeping her gaze from Chad as much as possible.
He walked in a circle, critically surveying the sink, then stared at the wall with a window. “I’m not sure the sink and both those hutches will fit along this wall.”
Julia winced, her eyes finally settling on his face. “Yeah, I should have measured before I bought them.”
“Don’t panic yet,” Chad muttered as he unclipped the tape measure off his belt. With an efficient whir and a click, the tape spread along the floor from wall to wall. “Let’s see, looks like twelve-foot, one and a half clearance from base board to base board,” he mumbled, rewinding half the tape.
He moved to the sink and Julia scuttled out of his way, as if to avoid the masculine force field he emanated into the room. He stretched the tape across the length of the ancient piece of porcelain and bent to get a closer look. “Almost thirty-six inches.”
The tape retracted with a snap. He crossed his arms across his chest and stared at the stained grooves of the drain board. One calloused hand reached out to test the old fashioned hot and cold taps with X-shaped handles. “You really want to keep this dirty old thing? I’m sure you could get a good deal on a nice new one...”
Julia wandered back to the sink, her eyes riveted on Chad’s hand, but she ran her fingers along the curved front edge.“ Well, not the broken cupboards but I’m keeping the sink. Becky says it will clean up and I like it; it fits the house.”
His brows rose. “Okay then,” he said with a shrug, “let’s see how wide that hutch is.” He turned and strode back to the living room, Ringo following at his heels.
Her steps dragging, enjoying the help far more than she should and lost in confusing notions about Chad, Julia followed behind him. Giving herself a mental shake, she told herself to pull it together because she required his strength, knowledge, and no-nonsense approach to the project. After all, she certainly had no idea where to start the kitchen reno.
Pulling out the tape, Chad measured across the width then the height of the hutch, then walked past Julia toward the kitchen. She followed, forcing herself to focus only on the furniture.
When she got back to the kitchen, Chad held the tape propped in front of him at hip level with one hand, the yellow steel kinked out and extended to measure along the wall.
His stance was purely male, bringing a completely different visual to Julia’s mind, and it didn’t involve a tape measure.
He glanced up at her then did a double take at her expression. His eyebrows rose a fraction of an inch in question, as if he could hear her hormones screaming.
Embarrassed to be caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar, Julia straightened her spine and met his gaze, her chin high, her eyes cool.
As if slapped, the tape measure crinkled to the floor with a clatter and Chad tore his bewildered gaze away from Julia. Shifting his feet to get back on track, he gave the tape a few expert flips and kinks and measured from floor to ceiling and then from the corner of the room to the center of the window.
Feeling surprisingly wretched over dousing the warmth in his eyes when he was just trying to help, Julia retreated a step, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips.
Holding the tape in place again with his hip cocked, trying to explain further, Chad turned to Julia. “As you can see, it’s five-foot six to the center of the window and the sink is thirty-six inches wide. If you divide the sink by half, then the hutch can’t be wider than forty-eight inches or your sink won’t be centered under the window. Problem is, that hutch is just over four foot four.” He gazed at her expectantly, waiting, the tape extending from his hip to the wall, twitching slightly, his expression one of concentration.
Silence filled the room as Julia struggled to focus on Chad’s words, not the stiff steel tape extending across the room from his crotch.
Embarrassed and flustered, Julia licked her lips, then shook her head, once again reining herself in.
His brow lifted, as if he knew she was sexually addled, but had no idea what her problem was.
Awkwardly, she glanced toward the window, then back to Chad. Withdrawing mentally and scolding herself, she attempting to break the spell, but failed miserably. A spark of surprised interest glittered in his eye when their gaze clashed, and that catalyst pushed Julia over the edge. She raised her chin, shuttering her expression once again.
Chad’s presence darkened at her blatant dismissal and the tape measure whirred and clattered back up into the roll in his hand; the connection between them abruptly severed.
Other books in the Series:
Born to rule the skies as a Dragon King with power and magic, Cináed hides his true identity in the mountains of Scotland with the rest of his brethren. But there is no respite for them as they protect the planet and the human occupants from threats. However, a new, more dangerous enemy has targeted the Kings. One that will stop at nothing until dragons are gone forever. But Cináed discovers a woman from a powerful, ancient Druid bloodline who might have a connection to this new foe.
Solitude is sanctuary for Gemma. Her young life was upended one stormy night when her family disappears, leaving her utterly alone. She learned to depend solely on herself from then on. But no matter where she goes she feels…lost. As if she missed the path she was supposed to take. Everything changes when she backs into the most dangerously seductive man she’s ever laid eyes. Gemma surrenders to the all-consuming attraction and the wild, impossible love that could destroy them both – and finds her path amid magic and dragons.
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
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She glanced in the direction that her dog had run. She hated storms. Her parents and Kyle knew that. Why hadn’t they helped her? Anger seethed within her. They hadn’t helped because they wanted to leave Daisy behind.
Well, Daisy was hers, and if she had to leave her friends and her home, she wasn’t leaving her dog.
She ignored both her parents, who were now shouting her name as she raced after Daisy. If she had to carry the forty-pound dog to the boat, then that’s what she’d do. Just as soon as she found Daisy.
Another flash of lightning bathed the land in light, giving her just a glimpse of the dog as she headed toward the house. Gemma ran as fast as her seven-year-old legs would carry her. She reached the house and Daisy.
“Hey, girl,” she said to the terrified dog. “It’s going to be all right.”
It took her four tries before she was able to lift the dog. She shook badly, but at least she wasn’t trying to get free. Gemma knew her parents were going to be furious with her. She didn’t know why they were sneaking away in the middle of the night in a storm, but the fear in her father’s voice and her mother’s face let her know that the questions would have to wait.
In less than two hours, they had packed up all they could and put it on the boat her father owned. She’d asked where they were headed, but her parents hadn’t answered and her brother had shot her an irritated look.
Once she got on the boat with Daisy, she hoped someone would tell her something. She hated not knowing what was going on. Kyle didn’t care. He always said that their parents would tell them when they needed to know.
Gemma stumbled and fell to her knees. She pitched forward so that she had to release Daisy in order to catch herself, but she managed to keep a tight hold of the leash and pull the dog back to her. Daisy seemed to like being held, so she didn’t put up a fight.
“I’m coming!” Gemma shouted, hoping her family could hear her.
She couldn’t see the dock through the driving rain and dark. Which was odd. There was supposed to be a light on the dock. She knew the way to the water, so she hadn’t gone the wrong way. But...why wasn’t the light on?
About DONNA GRANTNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her "totally addictive" and "unique and sensual" stories. Her latest acclaimed series, Dark Kings, features a thrilling combination of dragons, Fae, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children and an assortment of animals in Texas. Website / Facebook / Instagram / Goodreads
Series Jokers Wild Book One
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Entangled Brazen
Publication Date January 14, 2018
The first time she meets Casey Waltham, she’s buying condoms…for her grandmother. And of course drops them accidentally at his feet. Face plant.
The second time she sees him, she’s this close to landing her dream job and is celebrating at a club. Two chance encounters in the same day--that’s got to be a sign, right?
He’s charming and flirty and just what Talia needs for the night.
But it was just supposed to be a hook-up. At least, that’s what she thought...until he turns out to be her new boss...
Talia Spencer glanced down at her leg and then cursed again. The run in her pantyhose had spread all the way up her leg. She’d considered going without them, but she hadn’t had time to shave her legs this morning and she was all Chewbacca down there. She glanced at her watch as she drove down the highway. The interview was in thirty-five minutes.
She couldn’t be late. The Jokers Wild Casino was the newest on the Vegas Strip, and she desperately wanted a job there. She’d been intrigued the moment she’d first heard about it. The casino was co-owned by three Las Vegas mavericks—a gambler, an illusionist, and a daredevil stunt performer. Even now, her stomach churned when she thought of some of the stuff the third partner had done.
As much as she hated Las Vegas and resented the casinos that had been such a dominant part of her childhood, she needed a good paying job that she could use to springboard herself out of Nevada.
Sami Shroft, her best friend, had heard about the job through the office grapevine and put Talia’s resume in for her. Sami liked to push and Talia was the first to admit that she needed a shove every now and then. She’d been raised by her grandmother—and her father, when he was flush with money.
He had been a charmer when Lady Luck was on his side, and he would splash out money like a high roller, even though he had only been a small-time gambler compared to the whales that frequented casinos. That had led to her dad getting in deep with several loan sharks. It had only been after his death from lung cancer, just days before her eighteenth birthday, that they’d learned how much he’d gambled.
The Jokers Wild Casino was probably one of the few on the Vegas Strip where she could enter without her last name being recognized. Most of them had repeatedly kicked her father out after he’d lost too much and become belligerent.
She signaled to change lanes, cutting off a sports car whose driver honked at her, but she just waved and muttered thanks under her breath, then turned just as the light switched to yellow.
Of course, there were no spaces near the front of the grocery store she’d promised her grandmother she’d stop at before her meeting, and she really didn’t have time to drive up and down looking for a good spot, so she pulled into the first empty one she saw and then grabbed her purse as she got out. This was insane.
Her phone was blowing up with messages from a group chat she was in with the Sexy Silvers. It seemed her Gran had a hot lunch date with Glen View retirement village’s version of Zac Efron. He was charming, good-looking and had managed to use those two things to work his way through many of the women in the senior community. Gran was susceptible to his charm—she’d mentioned more than once that she thought he was hot. Talia shook her head and grudgingly smiled. Yeah, her Gran wasn’t the sit home and knit type. She kept her hair dyed jet black and styled, and wore cooler clothes than even Talia did. But as hip as Gran thought she was, Talia knew she was also a bit old-fashioned when it came to men. Gran’s date was at six. The charmer didn’t eat during the early-bird menu hours, so that meant that Talia would have time to make it home before her grandmother left, if she hurried.
She picked up another pair of stockings so she could change before her interview, then walked toward the area of the store where she knew they sold condoms. Gran didn’t need a STD.
She paused in front of the selection. There were a lot of choices.
She grabbed her phone and texted her best friend Sami.
Talia: Which condoms are the best?
Sami: Hot damn, girl! Do you have a date?
Talia: Gran does. I’m late for my interview. Wine and whine tonight?
Sami: Yes. I don’t know on the condoms. Most guys have a preference. I guess you can’t get Gran to ask. <laughing eyes emoji>
Talia: No. TTYL
She grabbed the first box her fingers touched as she turned on her heel and bumped into someone solid. The impact jarred her entire body and she felt the box slip from her fingers as she glanced up into eyes that were blue. The kind of blue that dominated the sky on a clear spring day. He had thick lashes and his eyebrows were dark brown and neatly groomed, she noted, as one of them arched.
She backed away and shook her head.
“I’m sorry. In a bit of a hurry,” she said, bending to pick up the condoms. Then she realized he might think she was rushing to have sex. “It’s not what you think.”
He winked at her. “None of my business.”
She just shook her head and moved around him and down the aisle toward the self-checkout. She glanced at her watch.
Five minutes later, she was opening the door to her ten-year-old hatchback that had seen better days. She stood next to the car for a minute, letting the heat escape, then glanced up at the sound of the low growl of an expensive engine. She’d worked the car show one year as a model when she’d been sixteen, so she was pretty sure the vehicle was a Bugatti Veyron. She’d been thrilled when her father had gotten her the gig…until she’d found out that she’d been working to pay off one of his debts.
The car pulled to a stop next to her and the passenger window slid down slowly. “Need a lift?”
“Uh, no. Thanks. Just letting my car cool down before I get in,” she said. “Nice ride.”
“I won it in a card game last weekend,” he said.
A wave of disappointment went through her and she shook her head. Of course he was charming and hot, but none of that mattered now.
“You’re a gambler,” she said. Gran said not everyone who placed a bet was like her dad, but she wasn’t going to take the chance.
“Wow. I’ve never heard so much loathing in one word before,” he said.
He was driving a Veyron and was no doubt flush most of the time. Not like her father, who hadn’t ever really had money unless he’d been to visit one of his loan sharks.
“I’m a responsible—”
“Let me stop you there,” she said. “I know that gambling only hurts those with no self-control.” She turned to look inside her car. “I think I’m good to go now. It’s been interesting meeting you.”
“You too, brown eyes,” he said before he drove away. She watched him leave for another minute before she got in her own car and drove away.
Her pre-interview session was due to start in fifteen minutes, so she had to hurry to the Jokers Wild Casino. She ran inside and checked in before asking for the ladies’ room. She changed her hose and then touched up her lipstick.
She needed this job.
Just like her dad had needed the dice to hit seven or eleven every time he threw them. Desperation. She had to shake it off.
She looked at herself in the mirror, meeting her own brown gaze.
“You got this.”
Jokers Wild was the key to her finally getting out of Vegas. And that was something she’d wanted for a long, long time.
Casey Waltham was a poker playing phenomenon and had won his first million days after his eighteenth birthday. In the last ten years, he’d made more money than even he knew what to do with. He had the best toys that money could buy, and had learned that real friends hung around when life got shitty. In his case, those friends were his blood brothers—Darien Mitchell and Nicholas Pine.
They’d purchased one of the older casinos on the strip that had been in desperate need of a revamp. They’d torn it down and then invested in the areas where they all excelled. Casey was in charge of the day-to-day operations and running of the casino. Currently, he was in the process of introducing a new high-stakes poker room, with a game that would be played at the end of the month. But for it to be as successful as he knew it could be, he needed to hire a new social media/community manager.
Darien had overseen the design and construction of the high-stakes stunt stadium. It was state of the art and would be used for Darien’s show during the winter months. He wasn’t ready to give up touring during the summer yet. So, instead, during the hotter months, Darien had booked a few monster truck shows and other motor-based sporting events.
Nicholas’s arena was taking slightly longer because of the intricacies of illusion and magic—stuff that Casey didn’t understand but knew was important to ensure that Nicholas could complete his showstopping illusions every night. Once it was finished in about six months, the Jokers Wild would be officially complete and open for business.
So far, they were getting good press but the publicity manager wanted someone who understood social media in a way that he didn’t. And since none of them knew how to delegate, they had the human resources department vetting applicants before they conducted the final interviews.
“Did you look at the list? I still don’t think I’m going to be able to add anything to the interviews,” Darien said as Casey walked into the executive office suite filled with floor to ceiling glass windows that offered an unobstructed view of the strip.
Darien wore his blond hair longish in a way that Casey’s new assistant said made him look like a rogue and had a tattoo sleeve on one arm that was part memorial to his deceased father and part tribute to the legend that Dare had become. Darien had followed in his father’s footsteps and was a badass motorcycle stuntman who took his show all over the world.
“We’ve already discussed this. Either we are all in or we hire a management company,” Nicholas said from the corner. Tall, with close cropped black hair, Nick tended to dress all in black because he said it made his eyes seem more mercurial since they were an icy gray color. Nick was a master illusionist who was world-renowned for both his street magic and his arena shows. Casey figured that appearing mercurial only added to his mystique.
“Calm down, Houdini, I’m not saying that,” Dare said. “You know I’m not really good with people.”
“What’s that got to do with the interviews?” Nick asked.
Dare rubbed the back of his neck. “Nothing. I just thought I’d throw it out there and see if you two would give me a pass.”
“Nice try. But we’re not going to let you just do the fun stuff,” Casey said. “The files are over here. I think we should review them and have some questions ready for each of the candidates tomorrow.”
They all settled around the large table in his office. It was a poker table, but for now, it was serving as a conference table until he decided what his office should look like. Casey tried to concentrate on the candidates, but he kept remembering the girl from the grocery store—the one buying condoms.
Why he was interested, he didn’t know. She’d pretty much made it clear she didn’t like gamblers, and he’d made his fortune playing poker. Vegas was like that—a mixed bag of those who believed in luck, and those who had been dragged along with them. He rubbed the back of his neck.
“We need to talk before the hiring manager comes in,” Casey said, pulling his thoughts back to the business at hand. It was time to forget about her smile and those long legs that had kept him in a state of fascination as she’d walked away from him.
“We need a list of things we want to communicate about each of our lines of business,” Casey said.
Darien shifted in his chair, stretched out his legs, and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “I’ve got a list I compiled with Rio’s help. He has been good at getting the crowds at our shows this summer to engage.”
Rio was Dare’s younger brother and had been the one who’d pushed Dare into joining him and Nick on the casino. Rio hated living on the road and since they were the only family the other one had, Dare had decided to make their traveling show a permanent one in the Jokers Wild Casino. It would be a stunt bike spectacular.
“He also wants to offer some classes on stunt riding to our guests. It’s something he hopes the new social media manager will set up, as well as create and manage a community,” Dare added.
“I have a list as well,” Nicholas said, producing it with a snap of his fingers.
“Do you have to do that?” Dare asked, annoyed.
“Yes,” Nicholas said. “It’s part of who I am.”
Darien just shook his head. “That’s like saying I should have roared off the elevator on my Harley.”
“You could have, but that’s not the same as what I did,” Nicholas said, an odd look coming over his face. “It’s second nature to me now.”
“I think it’s fun,” Casey said. “Definitely do it when we meet with the candidates. As for me, I need the new hire to focus on the big poker tournament that we are hosting to open the high-stakes room and a few other things.” He paused and looked at his friends. “A lot depends on us making a good hiring choice here. We should have a final list for Friday. Send your stuff to my assistant and I’ll have her forward it to the candidates so they can be prepared.”
“I can’t be here for the final interviews,” Darien said. “Do you care if Rio sits in for me?”
“Why not?” Casey asked.
“I have to meet with the team about the new show, as well as finish talking to our bike supplier.”
“Can’t Rio do that?” he asked.
“Yeah, but he’s better with people. Besides, he’s the one who will have to work with this person,” Dare said.
“It’s fine with me,” Nick said. “But you can’t delegate everything to Rio, you know.”
“Okay,” Casey said, bringing the group’s focus back to business. “The World Poker Championship is going to take a lot of my energy right now. Winning the bid to host it was a huge win for Jokers Wild. I want to make sure that it’s better than anything anyone has ever seen.”
“You will. Are you playing?”
“Hell, yeah. I’m not about to invite the best players in the world to my backyard and not test myself against them.”
After getting some ribbing about his lack of confidence, Casey wrapped up their meeting and walked down the hall to his office. He couldn’t seem to get his mind off the girl at the grocery store. He wished he’d gotten her name and number, just in case. In a city as big as Vegas, the odds of them running into each other again were slim.
She had mentioned baggage, leading him to assume that she’d been involved with someone who’d had a gambling addiction. He understood how easily that could happen. Luckily, he had always known his own limits, but there were dealers in Vegas—and at tables all over the world—who preyed on those who couldn’t resist trying to change their luck. In fact, that was why he’d come home.
His mom had been one of those people. From a very early age, Casey had realized he needed to learn how to bluff and play the odds, just to keep a roof over their heads and her out of jail.
Some of the people who had fed her addiction were on his list of players confirmed for the tournament. And Casey was going to make sure they didn’t ruin the lives of anyone else.
The pre-interview had gone well. And if she didn’t feel like it was bad luck, she’d even admit to herself that it had gone really well. Ms. Adana at the Jokers Wild Hotel and Casino had been really impressed with her resume and had approved her for the next step—a meeting with the owners at ten a.m. tomorrow. She glanced at the poster that hung on the side of the building, which showed the three owners. The first was Casey Waltham, poker player extraordinaire. He’d won his first multimillion-dollar jackpot before he was twenty-one, and had a reputation for being cold as ice at the table and away from it. The poster portrayed his trademark look—Armani shades and a dark hoodie hiding his features.
She assumed there were people who’d met him and never had a clue who he was.
Then there was Nicholas Pine, master illusionist. He had silver-colored eyes and always dressed in all black. For his shows, he favored designer suits, but for his street magic, he usually wore black jeans and a fitted T-shirt. She’d actually seen him a few years ago doing his act outside the Bellagio. He’d made someone’s cell phone disappear, then reappear in the base of one of the streetlamps. She still couldn’t figure out how he’d done it.
The third partner was Darien Mitchell. He looked like a badass, and had a smoldering sexuality about him that, no doubt, had women falling at his feet. But to Talia, he seemed like he’d be a lot of fun for a short time and then a lot of work. He was the son of famed motorcycle stuntman Ken Mitchell, and he had grown up in his father’s shadow. Then three years ago, he’d surpassed his father by pulling off a stunt that was as dangerous as it was legendary.
If everything went according to plan tomorrow, she’d be working for them. Her job would be to make sure that they were putting out the right message on social media and creating a community around the casino that would be entertainment-focused.
She wasn’t going to lie—she was damned excited about the thought of getting this job. But right now, she had an errand to run. Gran had texted that she needed a bottle of Schnapps so she could make her famous Sex on the Beach cocktail for Mr. Edmonds before they went out, so Talia dashed into the liquor store on the corner, texting with Sami as she waited to pay for the bottle.
Sami: Let’s celebrate your new gig by going out tonight. Don’t say you can’t. I already called your Gran and she’s got a hot date with Mr. Edmonds.
Talia: I know. That’s why I had to pick up condoms earlier. But I don’t have the job yet…
Sami: I’m sure it’s a done deal. They’d be stupid not to hire you. So meet me at my place at eight. Let’s go out and let loose before you get overwhelmed by all the work at your new job.
Sami: Can’t you pretend to be happy.
Talia: <a string of emojis and a gif of girls partying> Better?
Sami: It’ll do, donkey.
Talia: Where are we going?
Sami: Let’s check out the Jokers Wild. I have some comps for drinks that they gave out at work.
Talia: But I might be working there.
Sami: You will be working there. All the more reason to go out tonight, before you have to be on your best behavior.
Sami had a point, but then, she usually did. Talia and Sami had been friends since the sixth grade, when Sami’s family had moved to Hendersonville—a Vegas suburb—and Talia had been assigned to show the new girl around. Now, Sami was doing the same for her. Talia would have a better idea of how the casino worked if she’d been there with Sami beforehand.
Talia: Sounds good to me.
Sami sent back a thumbs up, which Talia knew meant that her friend’s boss was back in the office. Sami worked in the cash control vault for one of the other casinos on the strip. She was a payroll clerk and spent all day matching deposit receipts to the cash and credit card slips that were sent in.
Her job sounded incredibly boring to Talia. But her friend, who was of Indian descent and drop dead gorgeous, and always got offers for modeling work whenever they went out, seemed to love it. She liked numbers, and said they could be trusted.
But Talia knew they couldn’t. Not when they were on the lighted screen of a slot machine or on a pair of dice being thrown on a green velvet table.
“Next,” the cashier said.
She pocketed her cell phone and put the bottle on the counter. She’d drop off the Schnapps and the condoms and Gran should be good to go.
Once she’d paid, she went to leave. But as she did, someone held the door open for her.
“No problem. Looks like you’ve got a fun night planned, brown eyes,” he said.
It was the gambler with the sexy smile.
She didn’t believe in luck, having seen it turn false more than once. “I guess you wouldn’t believe me if I told you it wasn’t for me.”
“Not judging,” he said.
But his mouth was. He had a wry smile on his face and she couldn’t help but notice the shape of his lips. They were full and looked incredibly kissable… She shook her head. She’d spent too much time thinking about Gran’s hot date.
“Goodbye,” she said.
“Catch you around, brown eyes,” he said.
She glanced back at him. “I have a name, you know.”
“Let’s see if we meet again. Then we can exchange names.”
“Fate,” he said.
She shook her head. Of course he believed in fate. He probably thought luck existed too…just not the bad kind. Really, she should be glad he didn’t want to know her name. She didn’t need another gambler in her life. She’d just managed to climb out of the hole her father had left her in.
Tour Wide Giveaway!
To celebrate the release of ONE NIGHT GAMBLE by Katherine Garbera, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 1/18/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Katherine Garbera
USA Today bestselling author KATHERINE GARBERA writes emotionally sexy contemporary romances. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she is also a two-time Maggie winner and has more than 7 million copies of her books sold worldwide.
Today we have the blog tour for Melissa Foster’s TRAILS OF LOVE! Check out this fantastic new contemporary romance and be sure to grab your copy today!
Title: TRAILS OF LOVE
Author: Melissa Foster
Genre: Contemporary Romance
About TRAILS OF LOVE:Discover the magic of New York Times bestseller Melissa Foster's writing, and see why millions of readers have fallen in love with the Bradens and the rest of the Love in Bloom big-family romance collection. In TRAILS OF LOVE... When Graham Braden travels to Oak Falls, Virginia to attend the wedding of his buddy Reed Cross to Grace Montgomery, he sticks around to help with renovations to Reed's new theater. The last thing he expects is to be asked to assess and possibly invest in Grace's sister Morgyn's business endeavor. Graham is a careful, keen businessman, and Morgyn is impulsive, disorganized, and more interested in the energy flow in her eclectic retail shop than in the accuracy of her records. While Graham isn't ready to open his pockets to the sassy, sexy business owner, he may be ready to open his heart.
“You might need that hat later,” he pointed out.
“And you think too much.” She waved her hand dismissively. “I’ll just borrow yours.”
“I’d build you a shelter before I’d part with my lucky hat, sunshine.”
She made a pouty face that was freaking adorable, and then her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms, studying him. “What’s so special about that hat?”
“You want my secrets? You’ve got to give me some of yours.” The hat had been his father’s, and it had always brought Graham luck. He wasn’t about to tell her that he’d never met a woman he wanted a long-term relationship with, and until that happened, his lucky hat would remain solely in his possession.
“I don’t have secrets, so you can keep yours.” She leaned closer and, lifting the strap of his green duffel bag over his head, said, “Ready to live dangerously, Mr. Risk Assessor?”
He tossed his duffel to the ground as she began shimmying and swaying to the beat of the country song, her eyes locked on him, and in that moment, he didn’t give a rat’s ass about his hat. When the beat quickened, she kept pace, dancing with seductive confidence, like she was born with rhythm in her blood. Her allure was too strong to resist, and he began moving without thought. As an engineer and an investor, he did careful research, planning, and execution for everything he did, and that carried over to the extreme sports he took part in. Doing anything without thought was a first for him, but he wasn’t about to fight it because Sunshine was watching him like she wanted to disappear into him, and he sure as hell wanted to disappear into her.
He swept an arm around her, drawing her against him again, and her eyes flamed, but there was no hint of a blush on her cheeks. A bolt of heat shot through him. There was nothing sexier than a confident woman.
He put his mouth beside her ear as he said, “For your information, I thrive on danger.”