May 282021
 

You Loved Me Once by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a heartbreakingly beautiful standalone story about letting love in.

I’m losing myself trying to save everyone else…

As a doctor, I walk a dangerously delicate balance of being compassionate but not overly invested. The same is true in my personal life–love is a luxury I can’t afford.

It isn’t until Dr. Westin Grant breaks down all my walls and offers me a future, I find myself wondering if I’m brave enough to risk my heart.

When who I was and who I’ve tried to become collide during my clinical trial, the fate of one patient changes everything.

In a single moment, everything I’ve worked for is jeopardized. My integrity, my career, and even my relationship with Westin.

He loved me once, I just hope he can love me always …

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 28 May 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 022021
 

Could Have Been Us (Willow Creek Valley #2) by Corinne Michaels

New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels returns to Willow Creek Valley in this stunning small town, brother’s best friend romance.

Fifteen years ago, I fell for Jack O’Donnell.

I was just a girl, but I knew my brother’s best friend was the only man I’d ever love.

On my eighteenth birthday, when I asked him to kiss me, I never imagined it would change my life so completely.

I gave Jack everything that night.

In order to move on, we had to go our separate ways and pretend like nothing happened… as though it wasn’t the greatest moment of my life.

But even that wasn’t as heartbreaking as the secret we were forced to keep.

I’ve tried not to think about how much I still love him. How I long to be back in his strong arms or the way his hazel eyes make my heart race.

Until he kisses me again. And this time there’s no turning back. This time I know what it means.

We belong together and there’s no use denying it any longer.

But our feelings aren’t the only thing that won’t stay buried, our past resurfaces and threatens to destroy our second chance at happiness.

When our love is tested once again, will we be strong enough to stand together?

Excerpt Could Have Been Us by Corinne Michaels

 

Jack

I’ve been handling things with Stella. I’ve learned that love isn’t for me. I don’t get the girl in the end, she’s not for me.

She’s meant for love and happiness and a family.

I toss back the drink the bartender set in front of me. Then, as fate would fucking have it, I feel her beside me.

“I thought weddings were supposed to be happy,” Stella says as she grabs a glass of wine.

“They are.”

She laughs once. “Neither of us looks very happy.”

“We both know the truth about it all.” I turn to her, my elbow resting on the bar.

“And what’s that?”

“That love and happiness don’t go hand in hand.”

Stella shakes her head. “And I thought I was the jaded one.” She brings the glass to her lips and takes a long sip. “That’s where you’re wrong. They are happy because they’re in love.”

“And what about the people who are in love but are miserable?”

She drains her glass and places it down. “Follow me and you can find out.”

There’s no pause before her exit, she just walks out of the tent.

I look around to see if anyone notices, but everyone is drinking, laughing, dancing, and smiling, not paying attention to Stella and me.

So, like a dog with a bone, I follow her. My feet are moving before my mind can think better of it. I trail along the path she took, and when I get to the tree line, she calls my name softly.

I move into the forest, finding her in a small clearing where the sun is coming through the leaves, making her look like an angel.

“What are we doing here?”

She lifts her head, a beam of light catching her dark brown hair and causing it to shimmer. “We’re breathing, Jack.”

“Don’t we pretty much do that each minute?” I ask, moving closer to her.

Like a magnet, she pulls me in.

Her eyes meet mine, and she smiles. “No, I don’t think either of us do. I think we fight it.” She steps toward me. “I think that if we didn’t, if we really inhaled, we’d find that it hurts.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” I tell her.

“I know.”

“Everything I do is to avoid that.”

Stella takes another step. Slowly, her hand lifts to rest on my cheek. “I know that too, but you avoiding me, Jack, it hurts. I’ve been in love with you for . . . God, fifteen years.”

The restraint I’m using to keep from grabbing her causes my arms to shake. I can’t move or I’ll fuck everything up. I’ll take her in my arms and kiss her until the only breath she knows is mine. I’ll . . . No. I can’t. I won’t.

“This is why love and happiness don’t exist,” I tell her.

“No, it’s because you’re afraid. Tell me you don’t want me right now. Tell me that, when I touch you, you don’t wish it would never end.” She moves closer, her chest brushes against mine, and I swear I’m going to fucking die. “Tell me that you don’t love me the way I love you.”

I have to lie because if I say the truth, then we will just be back where we started. Even if I tell her the truth, it won’t change our circumstances.

I take her wrist, pulling her palm away from my face. “I don’t feel that way.”

Anger flares in those brown eyes. She knows me too well. “So, you’re going to pretend? Like . . . it’s nothing?”

“It’s better this way,” I tell her.

My heart is pounding, and when I try to let her go, she grabs the lapels of my jacket. “We have to deal with this. We can’t . . . we can’t pretend anymore. You still have feelings for me, I know you do!”

Yes, I do. I fucking love her enough to stay away because we will never work.

Instead of telling her that, I dig deeper into the lie. “I don’t.”

She shakes her head, tears starting to fill her gaze. “Lies,” she whispers. “Tell me the truth for once.”

“I do . . . I can’t.”

Why can’t she fucking see it? If I let myself love her, then we won’t be able to go back. We’ll have to tell everyone the truth. The number of lies we’ve told over the years will unravel and it will destroy everything.

“You can’t pretend with me, Jack.” Her hands fall away, and I make a grave mistake.

I reach for her. She comes to me instantly, her hands on my chest as I hold her close, making one last attempt. One chance for her to see what I’m saying before I do everything I said I wouldn’t. “We can’t. God, Stella, we can’t.”

Her eyes flutter, and her lips part. And then, like the bastard I’ve always been, I stop fighting and kiss her.

“Get your fucking hands off my sister,” Grayson says from behind us.

*** 

Stella

Of all the damn people to catch us, it had to be him. “Grayson . . .” I say quickly, moving toward him.

My brother doesn’t look at me though. No, his rage is centered on Jack. “How could you?” he seethes.

“It’s not what you think,” I cut in, hoping to defuse this.

Grayson’s hands flex as he glares at Jack.

I look to Jessica, who shrugs. Great, I finally get a sister, and she’s no help.

Jack takes a step toward Grayson’s direction. “I know you’re pissed, and I get it, but you have to know . . .”

Gray doesn’t let him finish. His hand goes up, and then Jess grips his arm. “Come on, love, let’s dance and let them talk.”

“Talk? Did you see that? It didn’t look like they were talking when he was kissing her.”

Jessica gives me an apologetic smile and then turns back to her stark-raving-mad husband. Her voice is calm and soothing. “Yes, and it’s not our business. Your sister can handle it.”

And I now love this girl. Yes, his sister can handle it. Thank you. Finally someone sees I’m not a fourteen-year-old. “Go with your wife, Gray. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

He sends a dagger-like glance in Jack’s direction again before he allows Jessica to pull him away.

As soon as he’s out of view, Jack runs his hands through his hair and practically growls. “This is why!”

“Why, what?”

He gives me a look, one that is clearly not affectionate. “Why this was a mistake.”

“Yes, the sky will fall and the ground will crumble now that Grayson saw us kiss.” I roll my eyes.

“This isn’t funny.”

I turn back to him. “No, it’s not. It’s sad. Did Grayson ask you for permission to date Jessica? What about Yvonne? Did you two discuss the who’s and what’s about dating? No. You didn’t.”

“Neither Yvonne nor Jessica are my little sister.”

“And that’s the fucking issue!” I yell at him. “I’m not little, Jack. I’m a grown woman who doesn’t need her brother’s permission to be with someone. You don’t need it either. I love you. I love you and you love me.” I throw my hands up. “This is insane! Don’t you see that? Grayson knows now. There’s nothing to hide. We’re found out.”

He starts to pace, his head shaking the entire time. “He saw us kiss once.”

“Yes, and he’ll be upset, but you know what will piss him off even more? You breaking my heart. So, here’s an idea, don’t do it. Don’t make me walk out of this clearing with tears streaming down my face because, once again, you let me go.”

Jack stops moving, his eyes on me. “You think I let you go?”

“Haven’t you? Each time you choose not to kiss me, love me, hold me, and tell me the damn truth, you let me go.”

His strides are steady and sure as he closes the space between us. In a few seconds, I’m hauled against his chest, my arms trapped between us as he looks down at me. “I’ve never let you go.”

“Prove it.”

He kisses me. His lips are soft and yet unyielding. I close my eyes and get lost in his touch. It’s as though all the world is right, the birds are chirping, and the sun is streaming down around us, illuminating the truth that has always been—we belong together.

Jack is the other part of my heart, and for so long, I’ve been desperate for it. I’ve needed this—us.

*excerpt posted with the author’s permission

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 2 April 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 232021
 

Return to Us (Willow Creek Valley #1) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a new second chance standalone love story.
At eighteen, I walked away from Willow Creek Valley for good.
I was young, scared, and stupid, and it cost me the love of my life—Grayson Parkerson.

Fourteen years later, a crash sends me back home to recover.

Back to where we met, fell in love, and planned a future.
The one he’s now living as a single dad to his daughter.
Working at The Park Inn together gives us a chance to reconnect, and seeing him with his little girl makes me long for the days when he was mine. One look in his gorgeous blue-green eyes, and it’s like I never left. One kiss, and my world is upside down. One night together, and I know without a doubt, in his arms is where I belong.

I’m not the girl I was—intimidated by his wealthy family and desperate to escape our small town. I can imagine a new life for us here.

But he’s learned to guard his heart, and trust won’t come easily.

How can I convince him to give first love a second chance?
Publication date : February 23, 2021

I have been reading this book last night until 3 Am. When a book starts with a plane crash, you have no choice but to finish it, am I right?

If you’re a newbie to the series of Arrowood, don’t worry, you’ll still enjoy the heck out of this book.

Jess fled her hometown and the man she only loved. Her first love, Grayson had to stay behind because she had dreams to follow and she left him before he left her. At least that is what she thought.

But now, after suffering a plane crash and surviving, she returns home to recover from a brain injury. Headaches, nightmares… this isn’t easy for her and knowing the man she still loves is here doesn’t help.

But she sees Gray again and their feelings return full force. He hasn’t forgotten her, but he fears being left behind again.

He is a single dad now, but Amelia is a sweetheart and connects with Jess.

Will their second chance at love be easy? Nope, but it’s worth the ride.

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Dec 042020
 

Return to Us (The Arrowood Brothers Book 5) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a new second chance standalone love story.
At eighteen, I walked away from Willow Creek Valley for good.
I was young, scared, and stupid, and it cost me the love of my life—Grayson Parkerson.

Fourteen years later, a crash sends me back home to recover.

Back to where we met, fell in love, and planned a future.
The one he’s now living as a single dad to his daughter.
Working at The Park Inn together gives us a chance to reconnect, and seeing him with his little girl makes me long for the days when he was mine. One look in his gorgeous blue-green eyes, and it’s like I never left. One kiss, and my world is upside down. One night together, and I know without a doubt, in his arms is where I belong.

I’m not the girl I was—intimidated by his wealthy family and desperate to escape our small town. I can imagine a new life for us here.

But he’s learned to guard his heart, and trust won’t come easily.

How can I convince him to give first love a second chance?
Publication date : February 23, 2021

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Nov 092020
 

A Holiday Lift by Corinne Michaels

New York Times Bestseller Corinne Michaels brings a fun, sweet holiday short story.

All I want for Christmas… is to pretend the holidays do not exist.
That should be my tagline for life.
Another year with no one to kiss under the mistletoe.
Of course, it doesn’t help that after my last epic breakup, I hopped into the sack with the one man I should’ve avoided.
My arch-rival, Dean Pritchard.
Despite the fact that he didn’t bother calling after our night together, I can’t get him out of my head.
I am so on the naughty list.
But when a snowstorm traps us in an elevator, I can’t avoid my work crush any longer.
Will Dean be the lift I’ve needed for the holidays, or will Santa skip me yet again?

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 9 November 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Sep 202020
 

Stay for Me (The Arrowood Brothers Book 4) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes the final poignant standalone love story in the Arrowood Brothers Series.

Hollywood taught me everything I know about relationships—except how to be in one. As an actor, I became an expert at faking it. Faking that I wasn’t affected by my childhood. Faking that I was okay. Faking that I knew how to save the day, the girl, the whole damn world.

But I’ve always known the truth—I’m no one’s hero.

Until I’m forced to move back to Sugarloaf for six months, and Brenna Allen offers me a chance to prove otherwise. She’s everything I never knew I wanted, but can’t have. Her broken heart, perfect face, and adorable children turn my world upside down. Instead of preparing for my next leading role, I’m directing a middle school play.

All to make her smile.

The more time I spend here, the more I want to stay. Build a life in this town that I swore I’d leave—for her.

But when the world comes crashing down around us, I’m forced to decide if staying for her is the right choice or if leaving is better for the woman I love.
Publication Date : December 8, 2020

Excerpt Stay for Me by Corinne Michaels

Chapter One
Brenna

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Ugh.

It can’t be six thirty already. I swear, I just fell asleep.

I roll over, check the clock, and sure enough, it’s time to get my ass up. My hand slides across the sheets to feel the cold, and I want to cry. Over the last eight months, I’ve felt like I’m living the same day on repeat. I look for him, ache for him, try to feel the warmth that was once there, but it’s gone.

Just like he is.

“Mom!” Melanie’s voice screeches at the end. “Get up!”

I sit up in the bed, drape my legs over the side, and close my eyes.

I can do this. I’ve been doing it this long, and I’m doing the best I can. The kids need better, and I have to be that for them even if the pain is still so intense I want to give up.

Ten days ago, we moved into this new house, which is a simple house in the middle of nowhere, but it’s close to my husband’s—my now-gone husband’s—family and the place he’s buried.

I’m struggling to breathe, to find something to hold on to that will let me know that life will be okay again. It will be. I know this, but I’m alone, and it hurts. I don’t have Luke or his steady faith to remind me that I’m a warrior and I always find a way. I’m the one having to push myself up and remind myself that this isn’t just a deployment. It’s forever. He’s gone. He’s buried in the ground, and I’ll never hear his voice again.

When I closed on this place, it should have been a time of joy. Instead, I sat in that cold chair, signing the mortgage papers with just my name. There were no smiles or jokes as we notched another address on our list. It was tears that filled the space as my pen swiped along the final black line.

My head tilts back to the ceiling and the hurt in my heart grows.

“Mom! Sebastian won’t get out of the bathroom! I have to do my hair!”

I release a deep breath. “I’m coming.”

Clenching my teeth so hard they may shatter, I get to my feet, pull a robe on, and shuffle out the door.

Melanie gets one look at me, and her eyes bulge. “Oh my God!”

“I look that good?” I joke. Sure, I haven’t slept in a week and was up crying half the night, but I don’t think I look that bad.

“No, it’s . . . your eyes are swollen. If Miss Cybil were here, she’d be screaming.”

“It’s been a rough few months.”

Plus, Cybil wouldn’t say shit. When I met her, we were two lonely military wives, stuck in Pensacola without any family or friends, and I was pregnant. Cybil was a sweet Southern girl with a thick accent and a heart of gold. We’ve been best friends for twelve years.

She’s a peach. On the outside, she’s soft, sweet, and you think she’s easy to bruise. But on the inside, there is a pit. A hard shell that’s impenetrable and able to withstand almost anything. She’s my rock, and I miss her more than almost anything.

Mel sighs and then looks at the bathroom door. “I know.”

And she does. It’s been rough on all of us and we wrestled with the idea of coming to Luke’s hometown. Not because we don’t love it here or want the family close but because it meant another life altering change.

We were a military family. Always close to a base, stopping the car at sunrise and sunset to hear the national anthem, and living in cramped houses that had more issues than we could count, but it was our life.

After having held Sebastian in my arms as he sobbed hearing the jet fly over the house, I knew we had to go. It had gone from being a source of joy, of knowing his father could be in that plane, to an ever-present reminder that Luke is gone and will never fly again.

I left, stayed with my in-laws as we looked for somewhere to live. This house came on the market, and thanks to one of the teachers I met at my new job, I was able to grab it quickly. The only issue is that it’s small and the kids don’t have their own separate bathrooms.

“He has to get out of there!”

“You will be totally fine, Melanie. I promise that no one will care if your hair isn’t perfect.”

“You don’t know that. What if these girls are mean? What if the boys don’t like girls who don’t wear makeup? Why can’t I get ready in your bathroom? Why won’t you let me put eyeliner on?”

The life of a preteen girl is always so dramatic.

“Well, I need to get ready in my bathroom. To answer your other questions . . . you’re twelve, your father said he didn’t want you to do it, and I’m going to abide by it because he’s dead and I’m tired.”

Her eyes meet mine, and then she sighs. “I’m sorry, Mom. I shouldn’t have said it . . .”

My sweet girl, always the caretaker. She may only be twelve years old, but you’d never know it. She’s sometimes more grown up than most of the adults I know, but that’s the life of a military child. They grow up too fast, understanding that a family is its own unit and everyone needs to do just a bit more.

Then she lost her father, and her childhood became nonexistent. Gone was the girl who spent hours on fashion and beauty. Instead, she has been trying to be an adult and I’m doing everything I can to stop that progression.

“Don’t be sorry, sweetheart. I am. I shouldn’t have snapped. I was wrong.”

She waits for me to breathe normally and chews on her lower lip. “I’ll get Sebastian and me off to school.”

“No, that’s not necessary. I just need to get going. It’s a first day for all of us.”

Luke’s favorite saying was that everything happened for a reason. He felt that kismet was real, and that it was the reason we met. I don’t know if it’s true, but I never argued. I was eighteen years old, met a man who was a pilot, and I fell—hard. Within a few months, I was pregnant with Melanie and we were married.

No one thought we’d last—in a way, I guess we hadn’t, but it wasn’t the ending anyone had in mind.

“Did Grandma make our lunches?”

I really freaking hope so. I was unpacking while she helped get things ready for today. “She said she did last night.”

“Did she make Sebastian’s sandwich without the crust?”

“I gave her all the instructions.”

She sighs, knowing that, most likely, it didn’t happen. “She’s as bad as Daddy. He doesn’t make the sandwiches right either.”

Her body tenses at her slip. She never mentions Luke. She pretends that he’s just deployed and that we didn’t suffer the most unimaginable pain a family could feel. Melanie has taken it horribly. Luke was her world.

Her hero.

The father that every little girl dreamed of. He may not have always been there because of his job, but neither she nor Sebastian ever felt neglected. His job came first, yes, but kids never felt that. It was only me who got shafted in the time department when it came to Luke’s job, and I accepted my role. I was to handle everything at home—the kids, appointments, moves, and shuttling them around. I ensured that our home was a well-oiled machine, and if something broke, I got it fixed.

However, no one told me to plan for me being the broken piece or what happened when the plane went down.

“Everyone is trying,” I tell her with a smile, thankful that my mother-in-law has been able to step in and help.

“I’ll check on the sandwich while Sebastian is hogging the bathroom!” Mel screams the last part so loud I wince. Then she heads downstairs, missing the soft sound of her brother laughing at her.

“Sebastian, you have five minutes, buddy. All you need to do in there is brush your hair and your teeth. Doesn’t take more than that.”

“Okay, Mom!”

He’s eleven and this is really just to irritate his sister. I love my kids, but I really hoped to have today go smoothly.

It’s their first day of school in Sugarloaf. They’ve met a few kids over the years when we visited Sylvia and Dennis, but it’s all uncharted for them here. Typically, a new school is no big deal, but this time felt different because we had left military life behind. There was camaraderie between military kids. They understood how hard it was to be the new kid, year in and year out, and tended to be more welcoming.

Now, they’re going to a place where these kids have known each other their whole lives.

Not even thirty seconds later, he’s standing at my door. “Do I match?”

I look at him, dark brown hair just like his father’s and that grin that is impossible to resist. Then I look at his attire and groan. “I thought you and Grandma laid your clothes out last night?”

“We did.”

Oh, Jesus. “And that’s what you want to wear for your first day?”

“Granny said it had character.”

I snort. It has more than that. “Sebastian, sweetheart, that doesn’t match. Go put on the pair of new jeans I bought you.”

“What about the shirt?”

This is not the hill I want to die on, so I say, “If you like it, I think it’s great.”

My mother-in-law has a thing for loud colors and animal print. If it has stripes or spots, she owns it and wears it. I am nothing like that, but she and Sebastian bonded over it years ago, prompting her to help him, “Dress to own the world.” If he likes the shirt, I am not going to stop him.

A boy named Bruce or Troy or God-only-knows-what with fists the size of watermelons will probably have something to say about it, but Sebastian has long since tried to make people like him. He’s a sweet boy who loves to make us smile and constantly entertains us with jokes or music. He writes songs, plays the guitar, and has straight A’s. I couldn’t be any prouder of him if I tried.

“I wish Dad were here.”

“Me too.”

“He would’ve liked the shirt.”

I fight back the tears that threaten to form. “He would’ve bought a matching one.”

One thing that Luke didn’t have was fashion sense, but he loved trying to give Sebastian the confidence to wear what he wanted. If he—a big bad navy fighter pilot—would wear a zebra shirt, then Sebastian would too.

“Do you think he’s in heaven watching me today?”

“I would bet all my dollars.”

Sebastian’s face falls slightly. “I miss him.”

I give him a soft smile, one that is a signature. It says, I understand, I wish it were different, but I can’t fix this. “I know you do, but it’s a good thing that we’re in this town with Granny and Pawpaw, right?”

He nods, but I can see the disappointment. “Yeah.”

“It’s not the same, though,” I tack on. There’s nothing that will make this better for any of us, and trying to give him false hope is only going to make it worse.

We are alone.

We’re no longer the Allens, a family of four. We’re just three of us, down a spoke on the wheel that will never be mended.

I lost the man I love and the father of my children because of a mechanical failure. So many apologies. So many nights spent crying, wondering how our life would be if he hadn’t reenlisted three months before that.

If only he hadn’t let me down.

If only he’d loved me enough not to go to work that day like he promised.

If only . . .

But only is a dream that I can never have because reality took him from us, and now, we only have each other.

“No, but I have you.”

“Always.”

Sebastian rushes forward, arms wide, and I pull him tight. His hugs are the best. They’re full of warmth and love.

He lifts up onto his toes, kisses my cheek, and hugs me tighter. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.”

Melanie comes back up. “Crisis averted.”

I laugh. “Thank you, Mel.”

She shoulders past Sebastian and darts into the bathroom. “Jerk.”

My son rolls his eyes. “Sisters.”

As they get themselves ready, I head to my bathroom, dressing in a pantsuit that I hope says hip but still professional. Working as the district counselor will be a huge change of pace from what I’m used to. In California, I was in a rough area. The kids I dealt with needed help in all areas of their lives, from escaping drugs, gangs, and abuse to passing SATs and applying to colleges. My days were never boring, and I loved helping everyone who entered my office.

Mrs. Symonds, the principal here, laughed and told me to prepare for days where I’d be searching for problems to solve.

I’m still excited and ready for any challenge that comes my way.

The kids meet me downstairs, backpacks slung over their shoulders, and I can feel the tension in the air. “You guys ready?”

They nod. Our house has very deep-seated traditions for the first day of school, and I’d like just one damn thing to be the same for them. They file into the room, pushing the other out of the way as they try to win the implied race.

“Move, squirt.” Mel’s voice is hushed.

“You move! You’re stupid.”

Oh, siblings. “Both of you stop.”

“She hears everything,” Sebastian says with wonder.

“Yes, I do. Now, stop being buttheads and let’s have our cake.”

They come into the kitchen area and grab a plate. This was something Luke and I came up with after our first duty station change. On that first day, we have cake for breakfast. It’s a celebration of the wishes we want to make. Even though this isn’t a first-first day of school, it’s a first for us in Pennsylvania, and we’re going to count it. Plus, cake has eggs, and eggs are a breakfast food. Sure, the sugar, oil, and frosting negate anything healthy, but I don’t care.

Each slice has a candle, and in order for the wish to be put out in the world, it must be spoken aloud.

“Melanie, you go first.”

She lifts the cake, staring at the flame. “I hope this year I get all A’s and I finally get a boyfriend.”

Sebastian laughs. “Yeah, right. No boys are going to want to go out with you. You don’t even wear makeup.”

“Sebastian!”

He shrugs.

Oh, I don’t have enough strength for this.

She glares at him and then blows her candle out.

“You’re next, Mom.”

I hope this year I don’t fall apart.

They don’t need to hear that. Instead, I bring the cake up and wish for something that might actually happen. “I hope this year gives us new friendships, lots of laughter, and we love our new home.”

“That’s sweet, Mom,” Mel remarks softly.

Sebastian’s voice is opposite of hers. “And boring.”

“Yeah, yeah, you go, Mister Adventure.”

He grins and then closes his eyes. “I hope that I can stop missing Dad so much, I meet some cool kids, and I get to see Jacob Arrowood, tell him how amazing he is, get to go on set, and become a famous actor.”

Melanie and I share a look because Sebastian might just get a part of that wish.

Chapter Two
Jacob

~One month later~

“I am not staying in that thing!” I tell Declan for the tenth time as I stand at his porch with boxes.

“You’re not staying here, Jacob. I’m married with a newborn. I love you, brother, but you really don’t want to stay here either.”

If he thinks that is going to deter me, he’s wrong. “Better than staying in that shack.”

“It’s not a shack. I stayed in it for six months, and Sean managed it as well. Your spoiled ass can handle it too.”

He’s out of his damn mind. He stayed there voluntarily because he didn’t want to stay with Connor. Sean did it because he was trying to win over Devney. I don’t have a damn reason to. “I’d rather not attempt it.”

“Go to Connor’s then.”

“He’s got two kids. You only have one. When it comes to chaos, that’s better.”

Declan huffs. “I swear, we should’ve tossed you off the mountain as a kid.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t. Now, let me in.”

He shakes his head, arms crossed over his chest. To anyone who didn’t know him, he might look intimidating. Not me. I find it hilarious.

I start to make my way up the porch steps but then see the only thing in this house that is scary shove her way past him. All five-foot-two inches of Sydney Arrowood stands there, brow raised and ready for battle. “Jacob Arrowood, you try it, and I’ll knee you so hard in the balls that they never come back down.”

I wince because I don’t doubt that she’ll do it. “Syd.”

“No.”

“I can’t stay in that box. I’m claustrophobic.”

“You are not! You used to lock yourself in that chest your mother had as a hiding spot and you loved the dried out well down on Mrs. Beackerson’s land. Not to mention, you know you have to stay on Arrowood land. That’s the agreement.”

“Yes, but you merged your land with ours, so really, this is Arrowood land.” It’s a stretch, but I don’t care. The damn thing doesn’t even have running water. It’s a compost toilet. Seriously, I didn’t know that was a thing.

She sighs and steps toward me. “I love you, Jacob. I do, but I don’t love you that much. You are not moving in for six months. Not when I have a baby and Declan.”
“He’s worse than the baby, isn’t he?”

Syd nods with a grin.

“Nice,” Declan adds.

“Glad to see your hearing works, old man.”

Declan gives me the middle finger before Syd’s hand touches my arm. “Ellie has the tender heart. You should try her. Devney would let you stay in the main house if you begged enough. But seeing how they’re getting married in a few days and will probably be humping like rabbits when they get back from their honeymoon, I’m not sure you could beg enough. Plus, they have Austin, who needs stability, not their homeless uncle . . .”

“Syd, I’m begging. I’m begging you to let me in this house, you won’t even know I’m here.” I’m the damn charity case in the family.

She rolls her eyes. “No.”

“You know I’m a big fucking deal in the real world, right?”

“Yes, but you’re in Sugarloaf now, and we really don’t care how big of a deal you’ve become. Here, you’re just Jacob, the idiot brother who once starred on that horrible sitcom that I made a meme out of.”

“Wait, you made the meme?”

She grins. “It doesn’t matter who made the meme, the point is that you’re not staying here.”

I should’ve known it was her repaying me for putting a rubber snake in her bed or when I convinced her a bear ate Declan. That was a fun one.

It was also when I realized that acting might just be something I was good at.

Right now, all I want is a normal house to sleep in. So, I play nice. “You’re seriously going to turn me, your favorite brother-in-law, out?”

Not like I’m really homeless, I just don’t want to stay in that tiny house.

Sydney doesn’t look apologetic. “I really am, but for the record, you’re not my favorite, Sean is.”

My mouth drops at that. “Sean? Why the hell is he everyone’s favorite?”

“He’s the nice one.”

Okay, that’s true, but who cares about that? Nice is overrated. “I’m the attractive one,” I counter.

“True.” Sydney looks back at her husband and shrugs. “But it doesn’t change the fact that your ass isn’t staying here.”

Declan shakes his head. “Wait. You think he’s the attractive one? What the hell does that make me?”

Sydney’s fingers slide against his face. “The perfect one.”

Well, this is a bust and making me nauseated. “It’s not a great idea to start a marriage off on lies,” I shout as I stalk off to the car.

“And this is another reason you’re not staying here,” Syd yells back.

“Some welcome home I get!” I say.

“Welcome home, idiot!” Declan calls back.

If I didn’t have a box in my arms, he’d get a fist to the face.

I’m clearly going to have to stay in that damn thing or with Connor. The tiny house is a more appealing option. I love my brother, and he’s great and all, but we’ve always been the ones who bicker. It doesn’t matter how old we get, when we are around each other, my inner ten-year-old comes out. God only knows what the hell living together would be like.

Also, I love my nieces, but I’m not ready to have that twenty-four seven. Hadley is a handful—a loving, beautiful, adorable handful who never stops talking. I need to study my lines and prepare for my movie that begins shooting as soon as I get back.

“Come for dinner tomorrow, Jacob,” Syd says as she wraps her arms around the jackass she married.

“Oh, I will. If I have to sleep in that damn thing, you’re all feeding me!”

She laughs while Declan shakes his head. They might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve lived in Hollywood for the last nine years without having to cook. I am a pro at takeout and delivery, but this is Sugarloaf, and there’s none of that here.

I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without help. Hopefully, Mrs. Maxwell is still on the welcoming committee and will bring over a casserole or some shit. I make a mental note to stop by and visit with as many neighbors as I can.

Mom was always part of that crew. If someone came by, she fed them. If that’s still part of the town’s MO, I’m all for it.

I get the box back into the car and stand with the door open, leaning against the frame. “I really expected more from you, Syd. You could’ve offered the barn at least!”

“Where would I sneak off to have hot, crazy sex with your brother if I did that?”

I gag. “God that mental picture is now burned in my brain.”

“You’re welcome!”

I get in the car before anyone can say anything else. Now, I’ll have nightmares of them as well as what Sean and Devney will be like after they return from their honeymoon. I take the scenic route as I make the drive back to the Arrowood farm.

The corner store where I had my first job is still there. So is the gas station with the old pumps that they won’t change out because the new ones are complicated. Then there are the new things like the bakery that Mrs. Symonds’s daughter owns, a pizza place, and a dairy barn.

It’s the same in so many ways, but it feels different. It was like the first night after my mother died. Everything was there, just as it always had been, and yet, it was as though the house were empty. The most important thing was gone, and that void has remained.

After a few winding turns, I get to the entrance.

It doesn’t matter that in the last eighteen months I’ve been here several times. I still feel the same knot in my stomach as I get to the gate.

I stare up at the sign that has been there for fifty years and sigh.

“What’s one truth about an arrow?” I ask as I look up, wishing it were my mother’s voice asking. “Removing half the feather will create the curve and alter its course.”

She always made it seem like we needed to stick together, but in the last few months, I’ve realized that isn’t it. How does removing the feathers or creating a curve bond us together? It doesn’t. She clearly thought I needed to change directions—I think. Is it because I’m the one who always bends? Is it because I need to remove something in my life? Or that I never follow the right path? She never explained it, she would just smile and tell me that one day I’d understand.
Well, I’d like that day to hurry up and get here because it’s pretty lame not to understand what the hell my meaning even means. My brothers had lightning strikes with theirs, and I’m over here, still trying to figure out a riddle that no one has the answer to.

“A little help here, Mom,” I say. “I don’t think I’m asking for too much after all these years. The other three idiots got easy ones, but you gave me the one that requires an answer key.” I feel like an idiot looking up at the sign as though she’s going to answer. Still, there’s an overwhelming sense of her around me. “What would you think of all of us now? Would you at least be happy with three out of four of us being married? Well, Sean isn’t yet, but he will be in, like, four days.”

The sun peeks out of the clouds, and I smile. I thought she would be happy.

I get up to the house, and there’s a car there.

I park next to it, not knowing who the hell would be at the house since my brother is in the Caribbean.

As I open the door and get out, a woman emerges from the other car. Her long red hair blows softly in the spring breeze, her blue eyes lock on mine, and for a moment, I don’t know who I am. Everything escapes me. My name, where I am, the ability to breathe and think is gone.

I’ve seen beauty before.

I’ve known women who are every man’s desire, but this woman is . . . something else.

“Hi.” She waves tentatively as I stand there, staring. “Are you . . .” I watch as awareness strikes her. “Oh. You’re Jacob Arrowood. I’m . . . I didn’t think . . . I mean, I just . . . yeah, I’m Brenna Allen. I bought the house that Devney owned. It’s just down the road a bit. I guess her brother lived there before. I’m sure you know that since you’re from here and all, and . . . I’m rambling. But, anyway, I came by to bring this.” Brenna lifts a casserole dish. “It’s for Ellie, but I’m not sure where her house is since it’s a little confusing . . .”

Brenna’s voice drops, and she pulls her lower lip between her teeth. I need to say something instead of standing here like a fucking idiot. “Okay.”

Okay?

That’s the best I can come up with. Jesus, I need to be slapped. I clear my throat and try again. “I mean, thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”

“Is Ellie here?”

“They live a little down the road that way. It’s the third driveway.”

Brenna closes her eyes and sighs. “I’m sorry. Ellie mentioned it was past the main house, but I don’t know which one the main house is.”

“This is the main house.”

“I see that now.” Her cheeks blaze, and she ducks her head. “Well, what about Devney? I’d love to say hi since . . . I’m guessing this is her house?”

“Yeah, that would be great. I’m sure she’d love to see you, but my brother whisked her away to St. Lucia.”

“Oh! Wow. That’s one heck of a whisk.”

I smile—or, at least, that’s what I hope I do. “Yeah, my brother is a romantic at heart. He is surprising her by proposing and then marrying her in a few days.”

Brenna tucks her hair behind her ear. “That’s sweet.”

“Or really stupid if she says no and he’s paid for all of us to fly out there to celebrate a wedding that won’t happen.”

Her deep blue eyes look up, nearly taking my breath away. “Luke always said a man only asked that question when he knew the answer.” She laughs. “I would hope that your brother is confident.”

I take a step toward her, wanting to ease the look of pain in her eyes, and then stop myself. “I’m sorry to hear about Luke. I didn’t know him well. He was a few years ahead of me.”

No idea what possessed me to explain that, but at least I’m talking in full sentences.

“Thank you. We miss him a lot. It’s always so weird when people say they’re sorry.” She smiles. “I mean . . . I appreciate your saying it. It’s just that we’re finding a new normal and doing our best even though we miss him. My son, Sebastian, especially.”

I remember that. After Mom died, people were always apologizing, but we were just trying to live without the core of our family. I feel like an ass for bringing it up.

“Ellie mentioned your son is a big fan of Navigator.”

She nods. “Yes, he loves you. You play a superhero that happens to be a fighter pilot as your day job in the movie, so . . . I’m sure that’s a part of it. I don’t know why I just explained what you do since you clearly know that. Anyway, he pretty much worships the ground you walk on.”

I laugh. “That must be shaky ground then.”

Brenna’s smile is soft as she takes a step back. “I’m sure you’re worthy of the praise. After all, you’re willing to spend time with a kid you’ve never met. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“I lost my mother at a very young age, and I remember all too well how hard that was. I think her death shaped all of our lives in a lot of ways, so if there is a way for me to help someone through a similar situation, I’m happy to do it.”

“You’re very sweet to say that, Jacob. Or is it Jake? I never know, and I hate to assume.”

“Jacob. Only one person is allowed to call me Jake. She’s nine and pretty much owns all of her uncles.”

“I understand. Sounds like the little girl is lucky to have you.” Brenna’s smile is warm but ushers in an awkward pause. “Well, I should go, but I’m going to be late getting back, would you mind giving it to her?” She extends the tray of food toward me, and I grin. I have one meal down.

“I would, but you see, I’m living in this house by myself for a week, and well, I will starve to death if I bring this to Ellie.”

Her lips turn up, and the sadness in her eyes disappears. “So, you’re telling me that this casserole will save your life if I give it to you instead?”

“That’s what I’m saying. I’m a man in need of food, and Ellie is completely capable of cooking for herself.”

“In that case, consider it yours.”

“You’re the hero here, Brenna.”

Her smile does something to my heart. “I appreciate you thinking that.”

“I appreciate the casserole.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

She starts to walk toward her car, and there’s a need so deep to stop her, to exchange even a few more words, or see her deep blue eyes brighten, that I step forward as if to follow her.

“Brenna,” I call out, forcing her to stop.

“Yes?”

“I’d like to meet Sebastian whenever you think it would be okay. I leave for Sean and Devney’s wedding in two days, but then I’ll be back here for six months and will have more free time than I’ll know what to do with.”

Her smile is stunning, and my throat feels tight. “He’ll love it. He’s had a rough first month at school. Well, he’s had a rough nine months in general if I’m being completely honest. Sebastian is a sweet boy who is trying to fit in somewhere he’s not sure that he does.”

I planned to make a sarcastic comment about how I’ll save him, but the look in her eyes tells me she’s past jokes. She’s suffering, tired, and overwhelmed by everything on her plate, and this deep urge to make it better fills me.

I need to stop that shit.

She’s a widow.

The widow of someone I knew and liked. Also, she shouldn’t get involved with a bachelor from Hollywood who has zero intention of ever moving here.

Not because of the past or because I am nothing like my idiot brothers who found farm life more appealing than the city, but because my life doesn’t exist here.

There’s nothing in the world that could make me stay.

So, I give her my signature grin. “Hopefully, we’ll turn it around for him.”

“I hope so too.”
*excerpt posted with the author’s permission

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Jun 262020
 

The One for Me (The Arrowood Brothers Book 3) by Corinne Michaels

New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels brings a new endearing friends-to-lovers story to life in the third STANDALONE in the Arrowood Brothers series.⁣

Devney Maxwell has been my best friend since we were six years old, but she has no idea I’m in love with her.⁣

Even when I’m on the road playing professional baseball, she’s my home—the only one I’ve ever known. But when I return to Sugarloaf to care for the family farm, I discover she’s trying to talk herself into a life with the wrong man … and I become desperate.⁣

It only takes a single, perfect kiss to change everything.⁣

I have six months to get it right with Devney—to convince her to leave this town and turn that kiss into forever.⁣

I aim to do just that as I spend my days coaching her nephew’s baseball team, fixing up the farm, and loving her with all I have. Finally, it seems like our relationship is secure and we’ll find a way to make it work.⁣

Then tragedy strikes … changing her life forever. She’s needed here more than ever, but as for me—there’s no way I can stay.⁣

I know she’s the one for me, but I might have to let her go …
Publication Date: August 18, 2020

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Apr 052020
 

Fight for Me (The Arrowood Brothers Book 2) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a new emotional and riveting standalone second chance love story.

I fell in love with Sydney Hastings when I was ten years old.
At sixteen, we whispered promises of forever.
When I was twenty-two I broke them all. I left her and promised never to return.

After my father’s death, I’m forced to go home to Sugarloaf for six months. She’ll be everywhere, no longer just in my memories and regrets.

When we’re together, it’s as though time never stopped. She’s still the one I want, but I don’t deserve her. Instead of apologizing, I take that beautiful, broken woman in my arms. But after that, it’s her turn to leave me.

Now I have to fight. For her. For us. For the life we both want …

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Mar 042020
 

Kiss Me Slow (Top Shelf Romance #1) by Tijan, Corinne Michaels, W. Winters, Louise Bay

Some men know how to kiss. ⁣
Some men know how to love.⁣

Sometimes you get those butterflies in the pit of your stomach instantly. Other times… well sometimes other feelings come first. ⁣

In this collection, you get it all. Right down to those fluttering feelings at the end of the book that make reading romance worth every single page. ⁣

Kiss Me Slow is a collection of four best-selling novels, including: ⁣

Ryan’s Bed by Tijan
We Own Tonight by Corinne Michaels ⁣
Irresistible Attraction (a complete trilogy) by Willow Winters
King of Wall Street by Louise Bay

Top Shelf Romance represents the best of the best in romance. There are no cliffhangers. These are simply must-read novels for readers looking for the best in happily ever afters.

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Nov 032019
 

All I Ask by Corinne Michaels

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Time comes a breathtaking story about first love, second chances, and starting over.

Teagan Berkley is trying her best. A single mom raising a precocious teen, she may have given up on her dreams, but she’s accepted her life in her small beachside hometown. Now the one person who abandoned her when she needed him the most has returned, bringing back memories of what might have been.
Derek Hartz arrives in town with a teenage daughter – and he’s full of guilt over his failed marriage and the way he ended his friendship with Teagan. He’s determined to set things right with her, but first he needs to gain her trust. Something he’s not convinced he deserves.
As Teagan and Derek open up to each other-and confess their deepest secrets-it’s impossible for them to deny what’s always been between them. But just when their happily ever after is within reach, their complicated history surfaces again and threatens to keep them apart. Forever.

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 3 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Nov 012019
 

Come Back for Me (The Arrowood Brothers #1) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a new emotional and riveting standalone love story.

One night, eight years ago, she gave me peace.
No names.
No promises.
Just two broken people, desperate to quiet their pain and grief.

In the morning, she was gone and had taken my solace with her. I left for the military that day, vowing never to return to Pennsylvania.

When my father dies, I’m forced to go home to bury him. At least I’ll finally be rid of his farm, which is grown over and tangled with memories I’ve fought to forget.

And that’s when I find her. She’s even more beautiful than I remember and has the most adorable kid I’ve ever seen.

Years have passed, but my feelings are the same, and this time I refuse to let her go. They say you can’t bury the past, and they’re right. Because when long-ago secrets are exposed, rocking us both to the core, I have no choice but to watch her walk away again . . .

Excerpt Come Back for Me (The Arrowood Brothers #1) by Corinne Michaels

Chapter One
Connor
“Arrowood! Wake the fuck up!” Someone punches my arm, and I shoot out of my seat. My eyes dart around for whatever danger is present, but only find my buddy, Liam, next to me on the plane. “Man, you sure like to talk in your sleep.”
I rub my hand over my face, trying to clear the cobwebs. “I have no idea what I was dreaming about.”
“A woman.”
Great. God only knows what I said. “Doubtful.”
“Dude, you were totally talking in your sleep.” His voice goes higher. “Oh, Connor, you’re so sexy. Yes, give it to me like that.” Then he returns his voice to normal. “I’m just saying that she was very animated.”
I know exactly what I was dreaming of—an angel. A beautiful woman with dark brown hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. It doesn’t matter that I spent one night with her eight years ago, I remember her perfectly.
The way she smiled and crooked her finger at me to follow. How my legs moved without my brain ever giving them permission. It was as if she were sent from above to save me.
The night my father had gotten so drunk he sucker punched me as I walked out the door for boot camp, promising never to return.
She was perfect, and I don’t even know her name.
I elbow him, knowing there isn’t a chance in hell I’m about to confess any of that. “Thank God you’re married. No woman would be stupid enough to ever go for you now. Your impressions suck and you’re an asshole.”
He grins, no doubt thinking of his wife. Some guys have it all—Liam Dempsey is one of them. He has a beautiful woman to come home to, kids, friends, and he had one of those picture-perfect childhoods.
Basically, his life is the opposite of mine.
Only things I have that are worth a damn are my brothers.
“What are you talking about? There’s a reason they call me Dreamboat and call you Arrow. I’m a goddamn dream.”
“Here we fucking go. They call me that because of my last name, asshole.”
Liam chuckles and shrugs. “Maybe, but mine is because of my glowing personality.”
Even though he’s a total idiot, I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss all of my team. I hate that this was my last deployment and I won’t be a part of this brotherhood anymore. I’ve loved being a SEAL.
“Thankfully, you’re so vain that I will see your glow anywhere I end up.”
“Any idea where that’s going to be or what you’re going to do now?” Liam asks.
I lean back in the much too uncomfortable chair of this C-5 plane and push out a deep breath. “Not a clue.”
“Glad to see you’re on top of your life. You need to get your shit together, Arrowood. Life isn’t going to hand you shit.”
Liam has been my team leader for the last two deployments and is like a big brother to me, but right now, I’d like not to be lectured. I have three older brothers who do enough of that as it is.
Although, I guess that’s what the SEAL team is . . . brothers. Brothers who would do anything for each other, including help the other through a big transition, even if it’s one that’s been coming for a while. Three years ago, I was on deployment. It was a routine checkpoint and my leg was crushed when a car tried to run through. I had a few surgeries, all looked good, but I’m not healing right. This deployment, I was on light duty, which was basically admin. I fucking hate admin. I wanted to be out there, making sure my brothers were safe. Then the doc gave me the news that I’m going to be medically discharged.
I’m no longer fit to be a SEAL.
And if I can’t do this, then I don’t want any part of it.
“I have plans.”
“Like?” he asks.
“Kicking your ass, for one.”
“You could try, young buck, but I wouldn’t put money on it.”
“If my leg were a hundred percent . . .”
Liam shakes his head. “I’d still kill you. But, all kidding aside, you can’t sign the papers in two weeks and have no idea what to do.”
My oldest brother Declan was up my ass and saying the same thing when I called him a month ago. Dec runs a huge corporation in New York City and said he was looking for a new head of security, but I’d rather ram my bad leg through a meat processor than work for him. He’s a hothead, who knows everything, and he doesn’t pay shit. I’ve already done eight years of that, so I’d like an upgrade in the financial department.
Still, he has a point. I can only survive on what little savings I have for so long, then I’ll need to get a job.
“I’ll figure it out,” I tell him.
“Why not go back home to the farm?”
My eyes narrow, and I bite back the anger that fills me at the mention of that place. “Because the only way I’ll step foot on that land is if I’m burying the man who resides there.”
The Arrowood brothers made a vow to take care of each other, protect one another, and that was what each of us did until I could get out. Two weeks after graduation was the last time I touched that farmland in Pennsylvania. I’ll live on the streets before I go back there.
He puts his hands up. “All right, brother, no need to look like you’re about to slice me open. I get it. No going home. I’m just worried. I’ve seen a lot of guys get out and struggle to navigate civilian life. As much as we bitch about this life, it becomes us, you know?”
He’s right. Hell, I’ve seen it too, but I wasn’t ready for getting out to be my reality. I would’ve done twenty years with a smile because the navy saved my life. I was going to end up in jail if I hadn’t enlisted. Then, when I was in, I got selected for BUDs and refused to ever be anything else. Now, it isn’t my choice.
“I’m not sure what else I could even be at this point.”
“My buddy Jackson has a company that takes broken SEALs, I’m sure he has room for one more.”
I flip him off. “I’ll show you broken.”
Before we can get any further into a spat, the officers come around, letting us know we’re preparing for landing and how they want the offload to go.
Homecomings are like nothing anyone can comprehend. They are filled with emotions, balloons, fanfare, tears of happiness, and a lot of excitement. The wives are dressed up, and the kids look perfect and polished when we know that their lives the last nine months were anything but. You can see the families so ready for a glimpse of their loved one they would climb on top of each other.
Then there is how we feel.

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 1 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Oct 132019
 

Say You’ll Stay (Return to Me #1) by Corinne Michaels

One word.

Stay.

It was all he had to do. Instead, he got on that bus and took my heart with him.

That was seventeen years ago.

I moved on. Marriage. Kids. White picket fence. Everything I ever wanted, but my

husband betrayed me and I was left once again.

Alone, penniless, and with two boys, I had no choice but to return to Tennessee. He

wasn’t supposed to be there. I should’ve been safe. However, fate has a way of

stepping in.

This time around, the tables are turned. It’s my decision. Second chances do exist,

but I don’t know if we can repair what’s already been broken . . .

Excerpt Say You’ll Stay (Return to Me #1) by Corinne Michaels

A knock on my office door causes me to stop working. “Zach?” I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose and stand. I should’ve known avoiding him wasn’t really going to work when he can roll up any ol’ time he wants. It was only a matter of time.

“Sorry to stop by without callin’, but the other night wasn’t exactly the best place for us to talk.” He removes his hat and tosses it on the chair. “I saw you in town yesterday trying to be incognito. Figured we should try to be civil.”

Civil? He can’t just show his face when he wants. He doesn’t belong here. I don’t want to see him at all, much less in my home, the one place that’s my safe haven. Damn him for not taking the fucking hint.

“Your mother said you were out here. She didn’t throw something at me, so I took that as a good sign.”

“What are you doing here?” I stand, slamming my hand on the desk. “My mother may not have thrown anything because she’s a proper Southern woman, but I’m not anymore. I’ve spent enough time in the North to not give a shit if I pelt you in the head with a stapler!” I grab it off the desk and rear back.

“Whoa! Whoa!” he says with his hands raised. “I’m not coming to start anything. I just want to see how you are. I’ve missed you.”

“Asshole!” I throw the stapler at his head. “You don’t get to miss me!”

He ducks as it makes a loud bang against the wall. Zach’s eyes widen as his lips turn up. “Seems all those years watching me play ball taught you how to throw.”

I grab the next thing I see. “You apparently sucked at teaching!”

“Felicia and I wanted to invite you over for dinner.”

He has lost his damn mind.

Zach lets out a sigh and moves closer. “I know it could be awkward, but I figured if . . .”

“If what? That there’s a chance we could be friends? Hang out even? You need your head examined if you think that’ll happen.” I don’t know if maybe he forgot how we ended things.

“Pres,” he chides.

“Don’t ‘Pres’ me! You have some nerve showing up here.”

“It was a long time ago.” I want to sock him in the face.

“Leave,” I demand.

Zach walks closer and crosses his arms across his chest.

“I’m not leaving until we settle this. I want us to get things out in the air.”

“Fine.” I grab the paper clip holder and toss it. I miss again. “That was in the air.”

Newsletter

 13 October 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Oct 122019
 

One Last Time (Second Time Around #2) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times bestselling author, Corinne Michaels, comes a new heartwarming standalone romance.

I’m getting really good at cutting my losses.

First, the husband. Divorcing him was the best decision I ever made. But between single-parenting and job-hunting, I can’t catch my breath. When a celebrity blogging position falls into my lap, I’m determined to succeed.

That is, until I get my first assignment and actually see Noah Frazier for the first time . . . practically naked and dripping wet. My heart races and I forget how to form complete sentences. His chiseled abs, irresistible smirk, and crystal blue eyes are too perfect to be real. So, what do I do? Get drunk and humiliate myself, of course.

I’m ready to forget the awkward night, yet Noah has no intention of allowing me to move on. Instead, he arranges for me to write a feature on him, ensuring a lot more time together. One embarrassing moment after another, one kiss after another, and before I can stop myself, I realize—I’m falling in love with him.

But when the unthinkable happens, can I even blame him for cutting his losses?

What I wouldn’t give for just one last time . . .

There are four standalone books in The Second Time Around series.
We Own Tonight (Heather & Eli)
One Last Time (Kristin & Noah)
Not Until You (Nicole & Callum)
If I Only Knew (Danielle & Milo)

Excerpt One Last Time (Second Time Around #2) by Corinne Michaels

Before I can make a move either way, the glass door slides open and Noah walks through the threshold.
My legs start to quiver as his eyes meet mine. All I can think about is how I’d like to climb him like a tree and shake his coconuts. I thought he was hot in the photo, then he was better through the window, but up close, he’s otherworldly.
“Hi.” Noah’s throaty voice floats around me. “You must be Kristin.”
Instead of speaking, I stand here with my mouth hanging open. Some small sounds that could be words escape, but they aren’t coherent.
Kill me now.
“Noah, this is my best friend, Kristin. Who we told you about.” Heather elbows me.
“Yes. Me. Hi. Kristin. I. You. Hi.”
Smooth. Someone should video this because I’m sure it’s highly entertaining.
“Right.” Noah flashes a blinding smile. “I hear you’re a reporter?”
Okay, Kristin, you have to speak in more than one-word increments or grunting noises.
I grab Heather’s glass she just poured and hope it’ll act as a talisman. “Yes, for a small blog, but I’m that. A reporter. For a blog. I write.”
And a bumbling idiot.
Noah’s green eyes are filled with humor. He moves a little closer and places his hand on top of mine. “Eli filled me in a little. I’m happy I came.”
I’m pretty sure I just came. At least we’re all coming.
“Me, too.”
His lips turn up as his eyes rake my body. “See you out there.” He winks and walks back out.
My ovaries have officially disintegrated.
I turn back to Heather, who bursts out into a fit of laughter. “Oh, that was epic. You all said I was starstruck when I met Eli? You should’ve seen that!” Heather continues to laugh at my expense. “Yes. Me. Um. Blog. Er—” She mocks.
“Shut up.” I laugh—because, really, what else can I do—and bump her hip before moving around the bar and grabbing a glass. “Now, pour me a shot before I drink straight from the bottle.”
There’s only one way to get through tonight.
Alcohol.
Lots of Alcohol.

Book #1 We Own Tonight

review soon

Book #2 One Last Time

review soon

Book #3 Not Until You

review soon

Book #4 If I Only Knew

Newsletter

 12 October 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Oct 102019
 

We Own Tonight (Second Time Around #1) by Corinne Michaels

I’m not a one-night stand kind of woman. I’m especially not the woman who has a few drinks at a concert and ends up in bed with my childhood celebrity crush, Eli Walsh.

However, that’s exactly where I find myself.

What’s a girl to do after a drunken mistake? Run. I grab my clothes and get away from the powerful, irresistible, and best-sex-of-my-life superstar as fast as I can. His gorgeous green eyes, rock-hard body, and cocky smile have no place in my world. My life is complicated enough.

Someone forgot to tell him that.

Eli is relentless. Pushing his way into my heart, wearing me down, proving he’s nothing like I assumed, and everything I need. But when my world shatters to pieces, he holds the broken bits together. Unwillingly, I fall desperately in love with him.

He made me think we’d have forever . . . I should’ve listened when he said we could only own tonight.

Excerpt We Own Tonight (Second Time Around #1) by Corinne Michaels

CHAPTER ONE

Heather

“Damn it, Heather. We’re always late because of you!” Nicole yells from outside the bathroom. She’s been my best friend since the sixth grade. You’d think by now she’d know to pad things by twenty minutes if she wants a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anywhere on time.

“The peril,” I taunt her as I finish putting my hair up.

“You drive me nuts.”

“Such is life.”

I hear her mutter something under her breath as she walks away. I don’t know why she gets so upset. We have plenty of time. With the way Nicole drives, her lead foot will have us at the concert fifteen minutes before the opening act.

Of course, I’m taking my sweet ass time getting ready. I have zero desire to be forced to put on makeup or any version of pants.

Nicole’s idea of girls’ night out and mine are totally different. I could stay home, drink a martini, and be happy. My best friend wants to paint the town red. I’m too old for that shit. I end up smelling like a garbage can and feeling like I ate a jar of cotton balls. I’d rather be comfy in pajamas than wear these jeans that I had to lie on the bed to shimmy into. I can only imagine what I looked like while I was sucking it in and bending backward to get the damn button closed. Then I did about fifteen lunges to “stretch” the pants, all the while praying I didn’t bust a seam. Nothing like a workout just to get dressed.

I make a mental note to call my trainer friend at the boxing ring.

She knocks again. “I’m leaving you.”

No, you’re not.

I open the door a smidge. “I have the tickets in here. So, you know what? Go ahead.” I stick my tongue out and then quickly close the door and lock it. If they hadn’t already left me twice before, I wouldn’t have to go to such lengths. I learned quickly that I always had to have the upper hand with my three best friends. Then again, if I had let her leave me, I could be watching Netflix and shoveling popcorn into my mouth.

Nicole may not have figured out to pad time, but she has learned I have a spiteful side, so she lets me finish without another interruption. I could stay in here longer just to piss her off, but that would mean more time staring at the pink tiles on the wall that I loathe.

My house isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either. When my parents passed away, it was passed down to me. It’s old and probably falling apart more than I’d like to admit. Yet, I can’t get rid of it. It’s the only thing of them I have, and it’s the only place I can afford.

The mortgage is paid off, which allows me to put what little money I have left over after my monthly bills to go toward my sister’s medical care.

Once I’m happy with my appearance, I head out with a shit-eating grin.

She looks at her watch as I emerge and shakes her head. “I swear.”

The best way to keep Nicole from blowing up is with diversion. “You shouldn’t swear, it’s unbecoming of you. Are we picking up Danni and Kristin?”

“No, and I’m grateful we aren’t, because we would miss the opening band.”

She and I are the two most sarcastic and the biggest assholes out of the group. When we start to bicker, it gets bad—quick. Without our two mediators, it’s best not to engage.

“Are you sure?” I ask ignoring the jab.

“Yes, I’m sure. They’re meeting us there.”

Nicole and I walk out and get in her car. I wish she’d buy a normal size vehicle. I’m five-foot-five, and my knees mash my boobs because of how squished I am. Between my already tight jeans and this sardine can, I’m going to bust a gut.

“Please,” I say dramatically, “tell me they’re not bringing their husbands.”

She laughs. “Dickhead One and Jackhole Two aren’t coming. They’re going for a boys’ night.” She sticks her finger in her mouth and makes a gagging sound.

Thank God for small miracles. Their husbands are the worst, especially Danielle’s.

“Maybe the two loser husbands will fall madly in love with each other,” I muse while I shift to get comfortable.

Nicole smirks as she watches me. “And figure out they were never meant to be married to such amazing women like them.”

“And then we’ll finally build that compound where the four of us can live.”

“No. We’re going to need penises. There’s no way I’m living with you people without having someone to bang. You three will drive me so far up the wall that I’ll need the release. Daily.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“You’re damn near celibate.”

Here we go again. “Shut your face.” She whips out of my driveway so fast that I almost smack my head on the window. “Nic!” I yell as she takes another turn way too fast in this damn death trap. “Jesus! Slow down!”

“Stop being dramatic. I’m with you, and you have a badge. No one is going to ticket me.”

“I don’t care if you get pulled over.” I right myself and grab the edge of the seat. “I care about dying.”

“You’re going to die from lack of sex if anything.” She rolls her eyes and cues the ’90s station. “Listen to Four Blocks Down, and get ready to watch the boys shake their delectable asses on stage. After that, you can remove the stick up your ass, maybe then you won’t be so miserable.”

“I’m not miserable.” I slap her arm.

“Okay.” She shrugs and ignores me, which is her typical way of blowing me off.

Am I miserable? No. I’m happy . . . for the most part.

I have a great job that keeps me fulfilled. Being a female police officer isn’t easy, but I love it.

The only real downside to my job is that I come face to face with my ex-husband every day. Luckily, things didn’t end that badly. But I’d be full of crap if I didn’t admit how much it bothers me. Things with Matt are—weird. Sometimes people just don’t work or you realize the person you married isn’t what you thought. I wish I could transfer to another town, but my sister Stephanie and the twelve years invested in my pension keep me here.

Nicole belts out another round of lyrics. “Sing it with me, Heather!”

I don’t want to, but I’m taken back in time when the four of us had bangs that were so high they could cause whiplash, wore colors that no one should ever wear, and drooled over Four Blocks Down without a smidgen of shame.

Smashed in the tiny death trap posing as a vehicle, I let go a little.

We both sing along, belting out the lyrics of our first crushes. “I wish I still had my Eli pillow case,” I grin.

“I had a Randy towel. I would like to wrap myself up with him again.” Nicole sighs.

I swear this girl needs sex more than anyone I know. “Does your vibrator ever get a break?”

She looks over at me with her usual you’re-an-idiot face. “You’re going to realize very soon, my love, if you don’t use it . . . you lose it.”

“And you’re going to overuse it,” I say. She’s the only one of us who never married. Nicole lives in downtown Tampa. She has to schlep it all the way out to Carrollwood to pick me up, but she knows if she didn’t, I wouldn’t go.

Sometimes, I envy her life. She has everything she dreamed of. Opening Dupree Designs and then landing her contract with one of the wealthiest developers in the city was pure luck. She slept with him, got a few more jobs, and before she knew it—she was on top.

Then she dumped him.

We park the car at the arena, and Nicole shifts in her seat. “Listen, I know you’re hell bent on being the responsible one of us, but tonight,” she grabs my hands, “I beg you to let loose. You need a break.”

I glare at her. “I do let loose.”

“Your hair is in a bun,” she raises her brow. “You’re the definition of tight.”

I touch my hair, hating that she has a point. But this is me. I like to make good choices. Other than marrying Matt, which wasn’t bad per se . . . just hasty. Never mind that he was an asshole. And he sucked in bed.

Okay, so maybe it was a bad choice.

Moving on. “I’m not uptight, Nic.”

“I didn’t say uptight. But let your hair down. It’ll make Danni jealous since she can’t get her hair your color blonde no matter how much money she spends. Maybe one day she’ll get over herself and stop trying.” Nicole and Danielle have a love/hate relationship. This week it seems to be more on the hate side. I wish they’d get over this already and talk it out, but they both claim there’s no issues.

From what I can gather, Nicole slept with Danielle’s ex three days before she got married. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised since it is Nic we’re talking about. When I heard the back story, I distanced myself from the entire thing. No way was I getting in the middle of it, but Nicole typically has something snippy to say about her and vice versa.

Feuds aside, Nicole is right. I don’t ever go out. If I’m not being a couch potato, I’m with my sister.

I pull my hair out of the bun, allowing my blonde locks to fall around me. Thanks to the twist, it almost has curls. Nicole grabs her bag from the backseat and tosses her makeup pouch onto my lap. “Put some of that on. You know, look hot. Not like a frumpy divorcée.”

“I often question why I didn’t drop you after high school.” I grab some eyeliner and darken my brown eyes. I add a little blush and lip gloss. “Better?”

“Much.”

We head into the concert, and I can’t stop giggling to myself. Everyone is around our age—all here to see a freaking boy band. The group we all lusted over as teens is now fully grown, but here we are, ready to swoon and scream their songs.

I can’t remember how many dreams I had about Eli Walsh or how many notebooks I filled with Mrs. Heather Walsh signatures. I’m sure I’m not alone, either. There are probably a few hundred middle-aged women here tonight who had done the same thing.

Some more scantily clad than others.

“What the hell is she wearing?”

Nicole glances over and makes a disgusted face. “Dear, Lord. Someone needs to tell her that a muffin top and a mini skirt don’t mix.”

I snort.

“I feel like this is our version of a high school reunion,” I cogitate while scanning the crowd for Danni and Kristin. I know we’re not spring chickens, but when did we get as old as some of the people standing in line? Sheesh.

“Heather!” Kristin waves as they rush toward us.

Even though we see each other at least every three months, I miss them. We made a promise when we graduated high school we’d have a quarterly date, and so far, we’ve all made a point of sticking to it. It helps that we all stayed in the greater Tampa area, but I think no matter the distance, we’d always be there for each other.

Some friendships are unbreakable—even if someone sleeps with someone else’s ex.

“I’ve missed you,” I say as she wraps her arms around me.

She plants a kiss on my cheek. “I missed you more.”

We all stand here, hugging it out. We’re dorks, but I couldn’t care less. Other than my sister, they’re the only family I have.

“How’s Steph feeling?” Danielle asks.

“She’s doing good, I think. I’m waiting for her to call me.” It’s so sweet how Danielle always asks about Stephanie.

“I’m glad she’s doing okay.” She smiles.

“Yeah, she should’ve called though. I should probably give her a call . . .”

Danni grabs my hand, stopping me from going for my phone. “I’m sure her nurse would let you know if there were something wrong.”

She’s right, but the worrier in me can’t help myself. I’ve spent what feels like my entire life making decisions around Stephanie. I don’t take any chances when it comes to her.

“I’m just going to check,” I explain as I grab my phone from my bra.

Danielle laughs. “I should’ve known better than to try to stop you.”

There are no missed calls or texts.

Breathe. I’m sure she’s fine, don’t overreact.

I send a quick text because I’ll never let it go.

Me: Hey, you okay? I haven’t heard from you today.

She answers right back.

Stephanie: Yes, Mother.

Brat.

Me: Have you had any more tremors?

My sister suffers from Huntington’s disease. She was diagnosed at nineteen, and it took her independence before she even had time to enjoy it. I tried to care for her. I did everything I could to keep her with me, but when she started suffering from relapsing paralysis and struggling to speak, we knew it was beyond my capability.

Watching your twenty-six-year-old sister battle with early onset dementia is devastating. The last few weeks have been good, though. She’s been cognitive, alert, and even happy. Her symptoms are sometimes so mild that I forget how sick she is, but then the disease rears its ugly face again and there’s no forgetting.

Stephanie: Nope. And aren’t you out with the girls? Go have some fun, Heather. Tell them I said hi!

“Is Steph okay?” Nicole asks when she sees me typing away.

“She’s fine. I mean, you know . . .” My mood drops immediately as I think about how she’ll never experience this. Danielle touches my arm, and I force myself to smile. “She says hi.”

“Give her our love,” Kristin replies. I type out their message and tell her I love her before tucking my phone away again.

“Okay!” Nicole exclaims. “Let’s go see these amazing seats that our super-fan Kristin scored us.”

Kristin gives Nic the stink eye, which would be way more effective if she weren’t in their fan club. Yup, my thirty-eight-year-old best friend is in a fan club for Four Blocks Down. I’m positive she regretted telling us this piece of information, but it landed us front row seats, so we haven’t been too hard on her . . . yet.

“You can sit in the nose bleeds if you want.”

Nicole wraps her arm around her shoulder. “You love me too much to deprive me of Randy.” She lets out a dreamy sigh.

I laugh. “As if you’re ever going to get that close to him. And he’s married!”

I try to put Stephanie in the back of my mind. My sister’s illness is ripping me apart. I wish I could help her, but I can’t control any of it. It makes me feel helpless all the time.

Stephanie grew up listening to me blare the music and dance around like a loon, and instead, she’s stuck in a damn assisted living facility while I’m out. It isn’t fair. None of this is fair. She should be here with me.

“Hey,” Danni nudges me. “You look beautiful.”

I give her a small smile. “Thanks.” I’m no longer feeling carefree. I can’t stop thinking about how much I wish I could be doing this with her.

“I’m sorry.” Her smile falls slightly.

“For what?”

She shrugs. “I made reality come crashing into our big fun night of no worries.”

“Stop! Don’t feel that way.” I wrap my arm around her shoulder. “My reality never leaves me. My sister is dying. It’s just the way it is.”

Danielle’s smile falls completely now. “I’m so, so sorry, Heather.”

I know she didn’t mean to bring me down. I wish I could be more like Nicole. No responsibilities, sex with random strangers, nothing to worry about . . . but that isn’t how my life goes.

Nope. Mine is a series of tragedies. While my friends were partying in college, I was working full time. My nights and weekends weren’t filled with formals or trips to the beach, they were consumed by doing homework with Steph. I’m not bitter. I’m actually grateful in some ways. It forced me to cherish life and the people in it. Every day I have with Stephanie is a gift.

I shake my head. “You have nothing to apologize for. Let’s act like idiots and pretend there are no problems in the world.”

“You want to party like it’s 1999?”

“Yeah, just like that. If only we had our Four Blocks Down dolls.”

“They are collectable memorabilia,” Kristin corrects before blushing scarlet and mumbling about needing to go find our seats. Nicole, Danielle, and I laugh hysterically as we follow her inside.

I wave to two of the guys in my squad, who are apparently working overtime detail as security as we pass them. Shit. I didn’t even think anyone from my squad would be here. Usually, it’s the other district that handles the MidFlorida Amphitheater. They look thrilled to be here—not. I make a note to behave so my entire department doesn’t find out that I came to see my favorite boy band. However, knowing them, they’ve already texted everyone. I swear, cops are worse than teenage girls with their gossip.

I’ll never live this down.

Music plays from the two opening acts. I sing along because . . . their songs were my jams when I was a teen. I would blare their screw men anthems through my speakers, windows down, singing off key, and belting every note because they were my idols. I owe many of my breakups to them telling me that I didn’t need to take it.

“Ah!” Danielle squeals after the second band finishes. “FBD is next! I had the biggest crush on—”

“Shaun,” Nicole cuts her off. “We remember you licking his poster.”

“Oh my God!” I giggle. “I remember that. She straight made out with it.” I guzzle the rest of my beer and shake my hair around.

“I wanted him to be my first kiss,” Danielle explains.

We all did. Hell, I may have had multiple fantasies with Eli, but I wouldn’t have kicked any of them out of my bed. They were everything when we were younger. I think somewhere in my mind we’re all frozen in time.

“Want another beer?” Kristin yells.

I’ve had three already. I’m halfway to drunk. I shake my head no.

“Yes, she does,” Nicole answers for me. I look at her with my mouth open. “I’m driving. You’re having fun.” She turns back to Kristin. “She’ll be drinking all night.”

“Oh,” Danni laughs, “this is going to be epic.”

“Shut up, I’m a good drunk.”

In my mind.

“You’re good for a laugh,” Danni tacks on.

The lights go out, and the mood shifts. All of us start to scream and hold hands. This is Eli and Randy’s hometown, so it’s extra special. Their homecoming concerts are always louder and longer.

“Are you ready, Tampa?” PJ’s voice booms.

We all yell louder.

“We said,” Shaun’s voice comes through this time, “are you ready?”

I bounce with Nicole, unable to control myself. I allow the energy of the room to fill me. I’m probably the loudest of the four of us. I don’t give a shit, either. “Hell yeah!”

Kristin looks at me with a huge grin. So unlike me.

“That’s it, Tampa!” Randy’s face flashes on the screen on the side of the stage. “The Walsh brothers are home. And we want to hear you!”

Eli’s face. I sigh. “Did you miss us?”

“Fuck yeah I did,” I scream.

“Good.” The screen displays both Eli and Randy. “We missed you, too. And you’re about to see a whole lot of us. FBD is back, and we’re ready to blow your minds.”

The arena goes black.

And slowly, I see something rise out of the stage.

I stand mesmerized.

The light shines in my eyes, blinding me, but when I can see again, I would swear that Eli Walsh is staring right at me.

Emerald-green eyes pierce through me. His dark brown hair is cut short on the sides and the top falls errantly around his forehead. I take in every ounce of his perfect body. The way his arms pull against the fabric of his shirt, the pants that hug his perfect ass, and the span of his broad shoulders, makes me want to climb him like a tree. Then, with our gaze connected, he winks and throws a wicked grin my way.

Holy shit.

I stand there and gaze back at him like a fish with my eyes wide and mouth open. He looks away, but it happened. Eli Walsh smiled and winked at me. I just died.

Book #1 We Own Tonight

review soon

Book #2 One Last Time

review soon

Book #3 Not Until You

review soon

Book #4 If I Only Knew

Newsletter

 10 October 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Sep 232019
 

Hold Me Close by Melanie Harlow & Corinne Michaels

Ian Chase broke my heart at seventeen, and I’ve spent the last eighteen years hating him for it.He makes it easy, with his smart mouth and playboy lifestyle—which I unfortunately have to observe since he lives behind me. Every time I see him climbing out of his pool, practically naked and unreasonably sexy, my blood boils.I’ve always loved to loathe him.I never planned to need him.***London Parish is my little sister’s best friend, not that it stopped me from falling for her.Our history is complicated. The only thing we have in common is being godparents to my sister’s three adorable kids—until our lives are changed in one tragic moment.Now we’re trying to raise the children we love, mourn an unthinkable loss, and fight an undeniable attraction.My life is already upside-down, and the last thing I need is for old feelings to resurface.Because I’ll never be able to keep her, no matter how hard I try to hold her close.

Excerpt Hold Me Close by Melanie Harlow & Corinne Michaels

PROLOGUE
London

Pinch me.
Tell me this isn’t a dream.
Tell me the memories of last night—the most unbelievable, most romantic night of my life—are real.
Carefully rolling onto my side, I prop my head in one hand and study Ian’s face as he sleeps. He’s gorgeous, even if I can’t see the bright blue of his eyes and he isn’t giving me that sexy grin, the one he gave me last night before he said, “You have no idea the things I want to do to you. You should tell me to leave.”
Tell him to leave?
Why did he think we were in this hotel room all by ourselves? Did he really have no clue how long I’d loved him? Did he not know how many nights I’d spent dreaming that he’d see me as something other than his little sister’s best friend? Couldn’t he see the way I idolized him? Especially last night . . . he was my hero.
Back home after his freshman year at UNLV, Ian witnessed my tearful meltdown yesterday morning as I cried to Sabrina that my senior prom date had ditched me last minute for someone else. He offered to take me instead.
I was stunned. He’d kissed me once at a party a couple months back, but we’d hardly spoken since. I figured he’d forgotten all about it.
I’d never felt as beautiful as I did walking into the prom on his arm. Pressed against him as we danced, I’d never felt my heart pound so hard. When he kissed me on the dance floor and told me he’d had feelings for me for a while, I’d never felt so head over heels.
After the dance, he asked me if I wanted to go to the hotel with the rest of my friends. “Yes,” I said, forcing myself to be brave. “But I don’t want to go to the party. I want to be alone with you.” Without another word, he took my hand and we raced for his car. When we arrived at the hotel, Ian got us our own room.
On the elevator, my pulse raced with anticipation. He kept my hand in his as we ascended, and my stomach ballooned as if we were cresting the top of a rollercoaster.
Alone in our room, door locked, shades drawn, lights low, he reached for me. Pulled me against his body. Kissed me as if he knew how many nights I’d dreamed he would.
Tell him to leave?
Not in a million years.
Instead, I gave him everything. My heart, my soul, my body. He was slow and tender and sweet with me, because he knew it was my first time. I was in awe of him—of his hard muscles, of the way he moved, of the thrilling words he whispered.
God, you’re so fucking beautiful. I’ve wanted this for so long. You feel so good.
I still can’t believe he wants me. Me! I look nothing like the blond Barbie dolls he usually dates. My hair is dark, my chest is small, and my waist is not the size of my thigh. On a scale of one to ten, most days I feel like a six.
But last night he made me feel like I was the only girl in the entire world. It was magical . . . and it was only the beginning.
Light is spilling in beneath the drapes, so I know it’s morning and we should probably get up, especially since Sabrina’s graduation party is later this afternoon. I promised to help her with decorations.
But I never want this time with him to end.
He’s lying on his back, one arm flung over his head, the sheets pulled up to his waist. I resist the urge to run my hands over his taut abs and muscular chest, but it’s not easy.
His eyes open. Upon seeing me, his lips tip up. “Hey.”
My heart races. “Hey.”
“Did you sleep?”
“A little.”
“I didn’t tire you out enough?”
I grin. “You did. But it’s hard for me to sleep when I’m this excited.”
He cocks one eyebrow. “And what has you so excited?”
“You,” I say guilelessly. “This. Us.”
He grins too. “Come here.” Hooking me with both arms, he pulls me tightly against his side, and I lay my head on his chest.
For a moment, I simply breathe him in and let pure happiness wash over me. “Did you mean all those things you said last night?”
“Of course I did. Do you think I’m the kind of asshole who’d lie to you just to get you in bed?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m not, London. Look, I might not be the most sensitive guy on the planet, but I’m not a total dick, and I don’t take this lightly. We’ve known each other too long.”
“So . . . what happens now?”
He’s quiet a moment. “What do you want to happen?”
“I want us to be together.” I take a deep breath. “I’m in love with you, Ian.”
He freezes, and for a moment I fear I’ve gone too far.
“You don’t have to say it back to me,” I say quickly, picking up my head so he can see my face. I want him to know my feelings don’t come with any demands. “I just want you to know how I feel.”
His eyes are locked on mine. “I’ve never been in love before.”
“I haven’t either.”
“But the way I feel about you—I’ve never felt anything like it.”
I can’t stop a smile from forming. “Really?”
“Really. I want to protect you. Keep you safe.” He pauses. “But I also want to fuck you like a hundred and ten different ways. It’s actually kind of weird.”
I giggle as my stomach whooshes. “A hundred and ten?”
“At least.” Suddenly he flips me onto my back so he’s on top of me. “And that’s just this morning.”
My heart threatens to burst from my chest. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good.”
Sex is even better the second time. It doesn’t hurt as much, although I’m sore from last night, and I even have an orgasm, thanks to his patience and skill. I’m curious about how many girls he’s been with, but I don’t really want to know. The only thing that matters is that we’re together now. And I hope we always will be.
Mrs. Ian Chase.
London Marie Chase.
Mr. and Mrs. Ian Matthew Chase.
“This feels so right, doesn’t it?” I ask dreamily. We’re still breathing hard, our skin hot and sticky, his chest heavy on mine.
“Yes.”
“Like it was always meant to be.”
He props himself up and looks down at me. “Maybe it was.”
“So were you just pretending to be annoyed with me all those years Sabrina and I followed you around?”
He shakes his head. “No. You were definitely annoying.”
I push against his chest playfully. “You’re so mean.”
“But you love me, remember?” He drops a kiss on my lips, then lowers his head to whisper in my ear. “And I love you. It just took me longer to realize it.”
A lump forms in my throat, and for a second I’m scared I’m going to embarrass myself by crying. But after a few deep breaths, I’m okay again. More than okay, actually—I’m a new person. Everything is different now. My entire life is him.
“God, I’m so happy, Ian. This changes everything.”
“It does?”
“Yes.” I’m smiling again.
He picks up his head and looks down at me. “I don’t want you to change, London. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“I mean my life—it’s going to be different now.”
“Different how?”
“Well, for one thing, I won’t be going to Northwestern in the fall.”
He looks confused. “You won’t?”
“No, silly. I want to be with you.”
He brushes the hair back from my face. “What about that scholarship?”
I shrug. “I got one to UNLV too. I’ll take that offer instead.”
“But UNLV isn’t your dream school. Northwestern is.”
“You’re my dream. I don’t care about anything else.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment, and his expression has changed. There’s something in his eyes I can’t read.
But then he kisses me once more. “Come on. We better get going.”
We drag ourselves out of bed and get dressed.
On the short ride home, I alternate between replaying every delicious moment from the night before and fantasizing about everything yet to come. Ian is silent too, and I wonder if he’s doing the same.
When he pulls into the driveway of the house I share with my dad, he gets out of the car and walks me to the front door.
“See you in a few hours,” I say. “Thanks for . . . everything.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you at the party.”
I let myself into the house and float dreamily up the stairs, humming a song we danced to last night.
“London?” my dad calls from the second-floor bedroom he uses as an office. “That you?”
“It’s me.” I pause in the doorway and see him hunched over his computer. The poor man has terrible posture.
“Did you have a good time?” he asks.
“Yes. A wonderful time.”
“Good.” He smiles at me briefly before focusing on the screen again. It’s nothing new—my dad has always been a workaholic. We have that in common. I don’t know who was more proud the day I got the scholarship offer from Northwestern, him or me. He’s going to take the news hard when I tell him I’ve decided not to accept it.
But I don’t care, I think stubbornly as I continue down the hall to my room. The only thing that matters to me now is being with Ian. I might be only seventeen, but I swear I’ve loved Ian Chase since the day I met him.
This is the real thing.

* * *

The party begins at six, and Ian still hasn’t shown up. Mrs. Chase keeps asking Sabrina where he is because he’s not answering his phone, but neither she nor I have any idea. By seven I start to worry he might be avoiding me. By eight, I’m convinced of it.
“Stop worrying,” Sabrina tells me. We’re in her bedroom sharing a strawberry wine cooler we snuck upstairs. She takes a sip and hands it to me. “He’ll be here eventually.”
“I just have a bad feeling.” I take a few swallows of the sweet fizzy drink.
“Why? He said all the right things, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I admit.
“Then I’m sure he’s just being his usual clueless self. I love my brother and all, but he rarely thinks about anyone’s feelings besides his own. He probably has no idea he’s making you worry.”
“Maybe you’re right.” I force a smile, take another sip, and hand the bottle back to her. “Sorry. I’m being stupid. Let’s finish this and go back to your party.”
By the time the bottle is empty, I’ve got a happy little buzz going and I feel much better. But as soon as we come out of the house, I nearly throw up. Because that’s when I see him kissing another girl in the backyard.
I can’t breathe. My stomach churns. My clothes feel too tight.
Sabrina grabs my hand. “Hey. Let’s go back inside.”
I shake her off. “No.”
“Lon, come on. He’s just a jerk, okay? Let’s go sneak another wine cooler.”
How could he?
I don’t understand. He lied to me. He said he loved me and now he’s touching another girl? After everything we had last night and this morning? I want to scream. Cry. Throw something.
But instead of any of those things, I march over to where he’s standing with a pretty blonde wearing tiny denim shorts and a red bikini top. She fills it out in a way I never could.
I feel like pushing her into the pool. Him, too.
“Ian, can I talk to you for a minute?” I’m surprised at how calm I sound. Inside, I’m falling apart.
He looks at me with zero emotion on his face. Like last night didn’t even happen. “Oh, hey London. This is Heidi. She goes to UNLV with me.”
Heidi gives me a bored look. “Hi.”
Ignoring her, I skewer Ian with my eyes. “You brought a date?”
He shrugs heartlessly. “I guess you could call it that.”
My heart is racing, and I think I might pass out. I’ve never felt this before. Is it normal for your chest to physically ache? Because each breath I take hurts.
“Wait a minute.” I hold up my hands, my eyes filling with tears. “What is this? I thought you meant what you said last night. And this morning.”
Heidi giggles, which makes me want to throat punch her, and I’m not even sure what throat punching is. “God, Ian, what did you say to this poor girl?”
Ian looks me right in the eye and breaks my heart in three words. “It was nothing.”
All at once it’s clear I’ve been a total idiot. How could I have thought he was really interested in me? I’m a pathetic little kid with a crush. He doesn’t love me. I gave him exactly what he wanted, and now I’m worthless.
I hate him. I hate myself for believing him and thinking I should throw my life away.
“Fuck you,” I whisper. Then I turn around and run, vowing I will never, ever let anyone hurt me this way again.
Especially him.
As I stumble around the side of the house, I thank God I didn’t tell my father I wanted to turn down the offer from Northwestern. All I want now is to get the hell away from Ian Chase.
The farther the better.

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 23 September 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Sep 102019
 

Indefinite (Salvation #6) by Corinne Michaels

New York Times Bestseller Corinne Michaels brings you an emotional second chance love story.
Book 1 of 2 in the Indefinite Duet

The day he said he’d never love me is when I vowed Quinn Miller would never break my heart again.

I wanted a family—but he wouldn’t give me that. As one of the top embryologists in the country, I’ve spent years creating babies in the lab for other people as my own dreams of motherhood fade.

I’m done waiting. I decide to start the journey to parenthood alone.

Then Quinn strolls back into my life, with all the finesse of a hurricane. I’m a fool to think I don’t want him anymore, and one reckless night of passion ends with me pregnant by the man I swore I’d never love again.

Now he doesn’t just want my heart, he wants it all. The baby. Love. A life where we’re happy.

But even as he promises me the future I always desired, I can’t help but fear that something will rip him away from me again.

This time . . . indefinitely.

This is a part of the Salvation series but can be read as a standalone duet.

Excerpt Indefinite (Salvation #6) by Corinne Michaels

“What do you want from me?” I ask Ashton as she’s tossing her clothes into her bag. “Apparently, I can’t figure out what it is! I’m trying, but it still is not good enough! Don’t you see that?”
“Trying? How are you trying?”
We stand in my bedroom, back at square one. “I’m not doing a full four years—just the one!”
My team is deploying, and they’re down a few bodies. I can’t be the asshole who decides that now is the time to turn in my gear. I know that was the plan, but things change. Plus, I’m not ready to walk away. I need to be there, need to command and lead my team. There aren’t many snipers with my experience, and I can’t handle the thought of someone dying because I’m not there.
Her anger is palpable as she uses more force than necessary to pack. “And then what? After that, what excuse will it be then?”
“I don’t know.”
I don’t even bother trying to lie because there will be another one. The truth is that being a SEAL is who I am. I’m not ready to hang up my boots.
“Right. Because you’re not going to walk away, and you’re not going to keep your promises to me. Because it’s not about us or me. It’s about you and your career.”
I groan and start to pace. “What would you rather me do? Let the team be vulnerable?”
She shakes her head. “That isn’t the point, Quinn. It’s that you have had me in this waiting game for years! Years of you saying that once you were out of the navy, we’d start a family. We’d have everything. You were the one who put this on a timeline, not me.” Ashton takes a few steps closer. “I would’ve married you two years ago and been pregnant already, but you said you wanted to wait.”
Here we go. Right back to how I’m the one who’s wasting her time, and maybe I am, but I’m sick and tired of it all falling on me. “I always let you down, right? I’m the bad guy because I didn’t want to start a life when, at any moment, you could deal with the knock on the door. God for-fucking-bid I protect you from that level of pain. I’m the reason, right? Not that you can’t understand why I’m not ready to give it up or that I will never get married while I’m active. I’ve seen that side, and it’ll destroy us.”
She turns, laughs once, and then goes back to packing. “I knew this would happen. I trust you, let you back in, and think that things are finally going to change, only to be reminded that it’s not possible! You act like you’re protecting me, but we both know that’s a lie. It’s you! You are who you’re protecting! Not me. And don’t worry about the destruction, Quinn, the navy didn’t have a hand in that.”
I’m tired. I’m so fucking tired of this. I’ve done just about everything she’s asked except put a ring on her finger. Why? Because I’m not good enough for her. I will never be. She is smart, funny, drop-dead gorgeous, and everything I’ve ever wanted, but I can’t give her what she wants. I’ve been living on borrowed time with her from the moment we met.
Looking at her in front me, knowing she’s so close but her heart is already a million miles away, breaks something inside me.
I may not be worthy of her, but I damn sure want to keep her.
How selfish am I?
“If you think that, then this is why we always fall apart . . .” I nearly choke on the words as I wrap my arms around her because I can’t stop myself. I have to touch her. “If you believe that,” I say in a whisper, “then you don’t know me at all. I’m giving you what you want by walking away. You want a family, and I can’t do that while my family is my team.”
My heart is beating hard against my chest walls as her body starts to tremble. This is what we do. We fight, we make each other crazy, we push each other away, and then we crash back together.
Like a never-ending war that we keep fighting because we can’t stop. She and I will always be on opposite sides, unable to create a treaty.
“Can’t or won’t?” she asks.
“Does it matter?”
She wants to be my world. She wants me not to reenlist, move to New York, and marry her like I promised I would. It just is not who I am. I thought I could, but then those papers were in front of me and I saw the guys. If I got out next week, it would be the biggest mistake I made, bigger than even letting her walk away from me. I am a navy SEAL. I’m a frogman. I’m a goddamn warrior, and I can’t give that up.
“I guess it doesn’t.” Her voice splinters and so does my heart. After a few seconds, she sniffs as her shoulders fall. “It could be so simple for us.”
I bury my face in her dark red hair and brush my nose against the back of her neck. “I can’t do it. I can’t give up this life.” In her heart, I think she knows this. “Not even for you, fragolina.”
I hope that the term of endearment softens her, makes her see. She hates that I call her little strawberry, but that’s what she is. She’s fire on the outside and sweet in the center. She tries to guard herself, tries not to bruise or break, but she’s delicate.
“So, that’s it? You’re going to extend due to this deployment and then reenlist? No matter what? Regardless of the fact that you told me you wouldn’t? That I’ve been waiting for this so we could start our life?”
“I’m signing the papers for an extension when we get overseas. I don’t know if I’ll reenlist or ride out the deployment. I just need time, Ashton.”
I won’t lie to her about this. I lie about other things—like how I feel about her or what I want . . . really want in my heart—but I won’t make her think there’s a life I can offer her that I can’t give.
“I love you, Quinn. Against my better judgment, I love you, and you will never love me back.” Ashton’s quiet sobs break me apart. “I can’t keep going like this. You promised me that the last deployment was it and then we’d start a family together. I can’t spend the rest of my life hoping you’ll see that I’m right in front of you, waiting for you to share your heart with me, waiting for you to choose me.”
I love her more than she can ever know. I just can’t tell her. I have to protect her from loving a man like me. My heart isn’t mine to give—it belongs to my teammates. I fight against emotion because not having anything to lose makes the idea of dying easier to handle.
I’ve lost too many men on missions. Held too many widows as they stood in front of that flag-covered casket.
Loving Ashton gives me something to come home for, and that makes me weak. I can’t be that when I’m gone. I have to be smart and keep my head in the game so I can make sure everyone is safe.
I hold her close, needing to feel her body against mine for just a while longer. Each second that passes is one I’ll keep forever. Her head rests against my chest. “You shouldn’t love me,” I say against her neck, closing my eyes and breathing her in. “You shouldn’t because I don’t deserve it.”
“I know. Yet, here I am, waiting for you to say the words that will cause me to walk out that door like you always do.”
And here is where I fail her. Time and time again. I delude myself into thinking that, if I can keep her at arm’s length while still giving her what she needs, we can find a way through our issues, but we can’t. Ashton doesn’t love in half measures, and she sure as fuck doesn’t deserve that from me.
However, hurting her on purpose feels like torture. “I can’t say them this time.” I inhale her floral scent, committing it to memory because I’m sure this will be the last time I see her.
It has to end here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t steal a little of the fire and life she’s brimming with.
“Tell me that you’ll come back,” she pleads. “Tell me you’ll come home and that we can finally have this life together. If you can give me that, I’ll wait for you.”
I leave tomorrow for seven months, and I don’t know if I can walk away from this life. “That’s a promise I can’t make.” Her hand’s lift, wiping away a tear, and that’s my breaking point. I release her. “You should go back to New York.”
When Ashton turns, her blue eyes are filled with unshed tears and a mixture of love and hate. Her lips tremble as she struggles for control of her emotions. I’m completely stoic. I won’t let her see my hurt. I won’t give her the one thing she wants and needs from me. If I’m going to give her up, it’ll be so much easier if she hates me.
When she thinks of me, she’ll remember anger and bitter disappointment. She’ll only see the version of me standing in front of her right now, the one who couldn’t give a shit less about her feelings. That man is easier to walk away from and move on.
“Tell me, Quinn, say you don’t love me.”
“I don’t love you,” I lie.
I’m dying. My heart is being ripped from my chest. This is the worst kind of pain. It’s deep in my bones, shattering each one in slow snaps because I know it’s going to cause her pain.
“You’re lying.”
She knows me better than I’ve tried to allow.
“No, I’m not. I don’t love you, Ashton. I don’t love anyone or anything other than this life. You should go.”
Her hand rests on my chest, right over my heart. “You can lie to me all you want . . .” She pauses, eyes locked on mine. “But you can’t lie to yourself. You may not want to love me, but you do. The saddest part of all of this is that, when you realize it . . . when you’re home from this deployment and all the guys are hugging their wives and kids, it’ll be too late. I’ll be gone. Maybe I’ll be with someone else. Maybe I’ll be happy with someone else, living the life you promised me, but no matter what I’m doing, it’ll be without you.” Ashton leans forward, pressing her lips to mine.
In my head, I’m screaming, beating the shit out of myself to wake up and stop her. Everything wants to fight for her, tell her she’s right and I love her. Marry her today. Give her the kids, family, and life she wants.
It’s all right there.
I could have it.
I could have her, but I’m a coward.
She waits for a beat, watching to see if I’ll say something, but I know that we’ll be back here again. So I don’t move.
Her eyes close and then she turns, grabs her bag, and walks to the door.
This is the last chance. I clench my fists so tight I’m sure I’ll draw blood.
“Goodbye, Quinn. I hope it all works out for you.”
The door shuts as Ashton walks away. I never understood the term heartbreak until now. Too many emotions flood me at one time, and I start to go after her, but when I get to the front door, I can’t do it. I slam my fist into the solid wood and welcome the physical pain because it’s nothing compared to what is going on inside me.
Fuck love.
Fuck this.
Fuck it all.
Now I’m ready to deploy.

Book #1 Beloved

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Book #2 Beholden

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#3 Consolation

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#4 Conviction

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#5 Defenseless

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Book #6 Indefinite

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Book #7 Infinite

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 10 September 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Sep 082019
 

Evermore (The Salvation #5.5) by Corinne Michaels

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a new story in her Salvation series…

I was poised to become partner at my law firm even before I became secretly engaged to my boss. After being humiliated by him on my wedding day, I can’t face working for him any longer. So I quit, waving my middle finger on my way out.

Now the only things I’m poised for are unemployment and loneliness.

When an opportunity with Cole Security arises, it seems like the perfect way to run, all the way to Virginia Beach. I wasn’t expecting my childhood sweetheart to be there. I definitely wasn’t prepared that when we saw each other again, Benjamin Pryce would be so grown-up. So gorgeous. So Navy SEAL-ish.

And still the same guy who broke my heart when I was fifteen–and could do it again.

They say if you’re fooled once, shame on them. The second time, it’s on you. The third time, it’s going to be me that runs… unless he can convince me to stay forevermore.

**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.**

Excerpt Evermore (The Salvation #5.5) by Corinne Michaels

For the first time in my adult life, I don’t know what to write.
I don’t have a plan or an idea on where to go. There are no rules right now. I can do anything, live anywhere and choose something other than what I always thought.
Some might feel very liberated. I feel like I can’t breathe. The lack of order isn’t welcome.
A year ago, my list was solid and workable. Now, there’s too much uncertainty. Is marriage even what I want? Then there’s the fact that all I keep thinking about is Ben. Each time I go to write, he is the first thing I want to put down, which is fucking insane.
Harold never made my list. He was just who was going to fill in that slot.
A knock at the door causes me to jump.
“Shit,” I mutter, pushing the book under some papers so he doesn’t see it, and I try to collect myself as I walk to the door.
I close my eyes, hand on the door handle, release a deep breath, and smile. “Hey,” I say as I open it.
“Hello, gorgeous.” Ben’s deep voice washes over me. “These are for you.”
In his hand is a beautiful bouquet of daisies.
Daisies. “How did you…?”
“Are they not your favorite anymore?”
“They are, but I can’t believe you remembered.”
Ben looks at me like I’m a wounded animal. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Because it’s been so long. Because my stupid fiancé didn’t even know daisies were my favorite. Each year, I’d get lilies or roses as he’d tell me he knew how much I loved them—which I didn’t. I hate lilies. They’re too strong in fragrance and give me headaches. Roses are pretty, but that’s what you put on a casket. Morbid, I know, but after my Nana passed away, roses became associated with death.
Daisies, though, they’re bright and airy. They’re what little girls pick petals from and dream of love. They make me smile.
“It’s just…very sweet. Thank you, Ben.” I lean up on my very tippy toes and press a kiss to his cheek. “Come in, I made food.”
He looks as though he wants to say more, but he nods and enters the house.
Jackson and Catherine’s place is cute and quaint. It’s a little beach bungalow a few blocks off the beach. They bought it a year ago when Catherine was visiting on one of their walks to the lighthouse. She said it was fate and needed it. Jackson, not being able to ever resist his wife, bought it immediately and spent two weeks fixing it up.
While the size isn’t anything great, it has the most spectacular view of the lighthouse where she fell in love with Jackson Cole.
“I haven’t been here since I got my place,” Ben says as he looks around.
“What do you mean?”
Ben’s smile makes my stomach clench. “I lived here before I found my place. Jackson and Cat sort of use this for the Virginia Beach crew as temporary lodging when we’re not sure we’re staying.”
“But you did.”
He takes a step closer and nods. “I did. Are you planning to?”
My initial though is, yes. Yes. I want to stay. I feel more alive since being here than I have in my whole life. More than that, I want him. I want to know why he was the first thing I kept thinking of when I was going to make my list.
“Do you want me to?”
“Yes.”

Book #1 Beloved

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Book #2 Beholden

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#3 Consolation

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#4 Conviction

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#5 Defenseless

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#5.5 Evermore

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Book #6 Indefinite

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Book #7 Infinite

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 8 September 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Sep 062019
 

Defenseless (Salvation #5) by Corinne Michaels

**This book is a STANDALONE!**

My life is a secret.
His life is dangerous.
We’re both stubborn, calculating, and controlling.
Mark Dixon doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He doesn’t know his games could cost us our lives. I have to do what is necessary to keep us alive, and that means guarding my heart.
But I know I’m defenseless against him, and in the end, he’ll force me to surrender.

** This is book 5 in The Salvation Series and can be read as a standalone, although for maximum enjoyment, it’s advised to read Beloved, Beholden, Consolation & Conviction first as all the characters appear throughout. **

Excerpt Defenseless (Salvation #5) by Corinne Michaels

Chapter One

Mark

“Everyone locked and loaded?” Liam Dempsey draws our attention. There’s a part of me that wants to slap him, but then I remember: I’m the guest. It would probably be frowned upon.

“Ready,” Jackson says and bangs the magazine into the rifle. “What’s the plan?”

“We have the location where Aaron’s being held captive. We’ll split into two teams, surround the building, and get him out. The helo will be on standby for extract. Muffin, Twilight, you guys will handle meeting with the CIA agent.” Liam lets us know how this will go down.

He’s the big cheese of our small team. Commander was fine with allowing Muff and me to go on the rescue. First, we know what the hell we’re doing; I could be the damn commander at this point. Second, if it isn’t Aaron, we have the best chance of knowing quickly. I know it is, though. The code word that the CIA agent communicated was the one we’ve used for years. She relayed his area and the best way possible to enter the compound. Of course, deciphering her instructions was difficult, and it left us to make plans for the plans.

“Let’s get this shit done and get back in one piece this time, okay Muff?” There’s no hiding the sarcasm in my voice.

“Fuck off, Dixon.”

“So touchy.” I grin and double-check my gear. As funny as it is, it’s also not funny at all. Jackson Cole was once the leader of our SEAL team when the mission we were tasked with went really wrong. We lost three teammates that day, and all of us suffered injuries both mental and physical. Then we sent Aaron to deal with a lost shipment of weapons and he was killed. Well, possibly not, but still. Each time one of our asses touches down in this fucking place, someone ends up shot or killed. I’d love to be able to forget, but the truth is, I never will. The guys I’ve lost reside in my heart. The memories take hold in all of us, and for some, they torment us. The wondering if we could’ve done something different, remembering their last moments—it’s a heavy burden to carry.

I’ve lost too many friends and too much blood to this hellhole.

“Okay,” Liam says through our earpieces. “Two minutes out.”

Everyone stands, heads toward the back of the plane, and readies for the ride. We’re parachuting in, and there’s a part of me that’s alive for the first time in a while. I live for this shit. The command of the sky, the adventure, the danger—I love it. It’s a part of who I am, and while I don’t regret leaving the Navy, I miss the fun. Being a SEAL was everything to me. I was damn good at it, too. While Aaron and Jackson had no problem getting out and starting Cole Security Forces, I would’ve been buried in my uniform. However, my arm had other ideas and made the choice for me.

Jackson slaps my shoulder. “Ready to be badass again?”

“I never lost it. Unlike you other pussy whipped assholes.”

“At least I get pussy, unlike some shithead who talks a lot of crap,” he mutters under his breath.

“Keep it up, fat boy. You’re starting to earn your call sign again, Muffin.” I pull my goggles down and watch for the light to turn green. There’s no hesitation as I jump out the hatch. The plane fades away as I plummet to, once again, do what I live for.

We all reach the ground safely a few miles from the IED site where this whole mess started.

Liam gives the hand commands as we split into teams of two. If I ever felt like a piece of shit before, it was nothing compared to now. Aaron is possibly still alive and nearby. We didn’t search before, partly because Muff got shot, but I never even considered coming back. They claimed there were no survivors, and we listened.

If it were me, would I be pissed? Fuck yeah, I would. We should’ve looked.

“See that, up on the building?” Dempsey’s voice cuts through the silence.

My eyes dart to where his hand is pointing. I can’t see it clearly, but hanging from the antenna is a red scarf, the go-ahead signal from our contact.

“Charlie better not be fucking us around,” I grumble. I’ve missed the way my body feels right now. Everything inside me is awakened. My mind knows there’s danger and my muscles are tense so I do my best to relax. I can’t be on edge or someone could get hurt. I remember how it felt to lose our teammates on that mission. I remember carrying Brian, Devon, and Fernando’s bodies out. I remember watching the life fade from their eyes. Then to think of all the other drama we’ve dealt with being in the sandbox—this place gives me anxiety.

“She’s on our side. Head in the game,” Jackson snaps as he creeps forward. He’s in the zone. I need to get there before we kick in the door.

As we approach the entrance, Liam comes through with the green light. “Petunia.” His tone is clear. This time we’re using flowers for code names. I liked it better when we used liquor or tobacco . . . more manly. Shows just how much the Navy is breeding pussies now.

Jackson braces his hand against the door, ready to push through, but someone pulls it open first. All of our guns raise, and my gaze locks on the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

The woman’s hands slowly raise, and she casually removes the hijab that covers her mouth and hair. “Check out the garden, boys. Petunia.” Her accent is clearly American. “He’s down the hall and knows you’re coming. There are three on guard by his cell. The others are out doing errands. I’m leaving with you, so don’t fuck this up.”

I stand there, staring, unable to form a fucking coherent thought. This is the CIA op? This five-foot-four, drop-dead gorgeous woman? No wonder she gets information. I’d sell my soul if she asked. Her hair is almost black and hangs straight, her eyes are ice blue, and don’t get me started on what I imagine her plump lips doing. I’ve never seen anyone like her. I’ve never reacted to anyone like this before. I want her—any man would—but I want to own her. Every part of my body, especially one in particular, yearns for her. I want to see if her skin is as soft as it looks, if her hair feels like silk, and her voice—I’m done for.

Jackson lowers his gun and then addresses her. “Which door, Charlie?”

“Second on the left. I need a gun.” She puts her hand out.

The need to protect her calls from deep within. “Maybe you should stay out here.”

“And watch you guys get lost? I don’t think so. Gun. Now.” She doesn’t look my way when she replies. She just waits for Jackson to hand her his pistol.

I don’t like this. She may be trained by the CIA, but that’s not saying she can handle combat. “Are you sure you know how to use it, princess?” I ask.

Her eyes meet mine and narrow. Oh, that got her attention. A storm’s raging in those baby blues. She recovers quickly, though, when Jackson places his nine mil in her delicate palm. “Thanks. I’ll let that slide since you obviously aren’t aware of who I am,” she says without taking her eyes off me. “We don’t have a lot of time. Where’s the rest of your team?”

“We are the team,” I reply. Who is this girl? Maybe the CIA needs ten people, but Jackson, Liam, and I could handle this entire thing on our own—the six-guy team we brought is more than enough.

Jackson smirks. “They’re approaching from a different entrance. Let’s go.”

“I’ll lead,” Charlie says and lifts the hijab over her hair.

“We know what we’re doing.” I speak just so she’ll look at me again.

“Wouldn’t want you to get lost or hurt. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” Her voice drips with sarcasm. My cock hardens. It fucking hardens on a goddamn mission. I am so fucked.

She opens the door and I push Muffin out of the way. No way is he going to be behind her. Charlie turns to relay a message, and notices he’s not the one following. Her eyes roll, she holds up two fingers, and then she points to the room. The way her ass sways is hypnotic. I lock down the sexual urges flowing through me and focus. The two men trailing me let off two silent shots and then return to following us. We slink through the dirty hallway and come face to face with another guard.

I don’t have a moment to take the sight. Charlie doesn’t hesitate. No more than a breath passes before she raises the nine and shoots him in the head.

I’m in love. It’s official. I’m going to blow my fucking load right here.

This woman is going to be mine.

She turns her head to face me and lifts her lips. The words that come from her mouth go straight to my groin. “Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger next time, princess.” Charlie’s eyes glimmer, and I know right then that this woman will not be owned, but she sure as shit will own me.

Book #1 Beloved

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Book #2 Beholden

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audio (1)

#3 Consolation

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#4 Conviction

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#5 Defenseless

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#5.5 Evermore

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Book #6 Indefinite

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Book #7 Infinite

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Newsletter

 6 September 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Sep 042019
 

Consolation (Salvation #3) by Corinne Michaels

Book 1 of 2 in the Consolation Duet

Liam wasn’t supposed to be my happily ever after.
He wasn’t even on my radar.
He was my husband’s best friend—forbidden.

But my husband is dead and I’m alone. I ache for him and I reach for Liam.

One night with Liam changed everything. Now I have to decide if I truly love him or if he’s just the consolation prize.

Excerpt Consolation (Salvation #3) by Corinne Michaels
Copyright © 2015 Corinne Michaels

I lift my head and press my lips against his. His hand cradles my cheek and he holds me as we kiss. I grab his neck and feel the weightlessness from letting a little part of myself go. He kisses me adoringly and cautiously, allowing me to lead but still commanding me. I lose myself a little more as I moan when his hand presses against the small of my back.

“Let go,” he says against my mouth. “Let me take it for you.”

Before I can say anything, his mouth is on mine again. Our tongues thrash against each other as the kiss becomes hungry. He pulls me close so there’s no space between us. The low sound resonates through his chest, sending shivers down my spine. It’s sexy, and before I know it, my hands are traveling to his chest. I pull his shirt out and my fingers trail up his chest. I want to feel his skin.

Liam breaks the kiss. “Natalie,” my name is both a plea and a request.

“Shhh,” I instruct him as I unbutton his shirt. “I want to feel your heart.”

My hands glide up and he trembles beneath my touch. We stand here with my fingers resting on his chest, feeling his heart beat beneath me. He’s alive and here with me. His hands stay at his sides as he once again lets me decide where I’m going with this.

“I want to touch you so bad,” he admits and his hand lifts then drops. “I’m fighting every muscle in my body right now.”

“Stop fighting,” I say without thinking.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.

Book #1 Beloved

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Book #2 Beholden

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audio (1)

#3 Consolation

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#4 Conviction

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#5 Defenseless

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#5.5 Evermore

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Book #6 Indefinite

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Book #7 Infinite

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Newsletter

 4 September 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Sep 022019
 

Beholden (Salvation #2) by Corinne Michaels

Catherine Pope got a second chance at love, only to have it ripped away—again. She should’ve known better.

But she dared to hope.

She refuses to let fate take the reins this time. Catherine decides she’s going to fight.

Jackson Cole risked it all.

He thought this time would be different.

With his loyalties pulling him in two directions—it’s time to make a choice…his past or his future.

Will they be beholden to their fears or will they both fight against their demons and finally find the love they both long for?

Excerpt Beholden (Salvation #2) by Corinne Michaels
Copyright © 2014 Corinne Michaels

PROLOGUE
I stand before the mirror in my knee-length, black dress. My hair is pin straight and I’ve opted against eye makeup. Not even waterproof mascara can withstand the torrent of tears I’ve shed lately.

I’ll see him today.

I’ll somehow handle looking at the man who’s no longer mine. The one who forced me to love again, give my heart to him—then forced me to be alone. He’s gone and I won’t get him back.

I’ll need a miracle to get through this.

Giving myself another once-over, I’m as content as I’ll ever be. What does it matter anyway? Who gives a shit what I look like in the grand scheme of things? I’ll be wrecked by the end of today—again. There will be no coming back. I’m in hell—no, purgatory. I walk around living, but feeling dead inside.

“You ready?” Ashton whispers behind me, placing her cool hand on my shoulder.

“Yeah, sure. It’s not getting any better than this,” I reply without any emotion.

I feel hollow.

He took everything from me.

“Okay …” she trails off and leaves the room to let me finish up.

Once I’m done, I head out to the living room. We gather our belongings in silence and head to the car. Ashton drives without the music on, giving me time to do nothing but sit and think of Jackson. I see his face, hear his voice, feel his hands on me, but it’s not real anymore. Phantom feelings for a man that isn’t real. None of it was real. I sometimes wonder if I just made it all up in my head. Made it into something it wasn’t.

As we pull into the metal gates of the cemetery, I stare out the window wishing I were anywhere but here. I don’t know how I’ll make it through this.

The car stops and Ashton places her hand on mine. “Cat, we don’t have to do this. If you can’t be here …” She stops and bites her lip. “No one would judge you.” The empathy swimming in her eyes rips through my heart, tearing me apart.

I glance at the tent set up at the gravesite. The people starting to filter around to bid their final goodbye to a man they loved. I sit here—frozen. Trying to piece together the parts of my heart that are no longer beating. I hear the remnants thumping erratically in my chest, but I feel nothing.

“I promised I’d be here, Ashton,” I say with an air of finality.

I may not want to, but the bottom line is, I love him. I gave my heart to him and I made promises—no matter what, I won’t break them.

We exit the car and start to make our way to the sea of black. The dark hearts in pain and sorrow surround the area. My heels puncture the soft grass while the gaps in my heart grow larger with each step. The smell of fresh grass fills the air. I can feel his presence. Every part of my body is tingling in awareness. The tears pool in my eyes blurring my sight and I stumble, but Ashton keeps me from falling.

“Ash …” My voice quivers as I will myself to keep from falling apart.

“I won’t leave your side.” Her deep, blue eyes are filled with her vow.

I nod and draw my strength from her.

She’s here and won’t let me fall.

Keeping my head lowered, I continue moving while she holds on to my arm. I don’t want to see faces. I focus on the beads of dew hanging on the blades of grass. I take in each one as if they’re tears from God. Tears because none of this is okay. If I can keep my eyes down, I won’t have to see the urn that sits on top of the tombstone. I won’t see the friends and family with tear-filled eyes. I can pretend this is an awful dream and none of this is happening. I don’t want to hear the words telling us we should be thankful for the time we had, because there’s never enough time.

“I’m right here with you,” Ashton whispers and wraps her arms around me.

I nod, not trusting my ability to speak. I’m barely hanging on.

Silence falls upon the crowd as the preacher speaks, talking about heroism and sacrifice. Opening my eyes, I take in the scene before me. The four sailors stand off to the side dressed in their dark blue uniforms. Ribbons and medals hang from their chests. I glance at the American flag folded next to the urn, the gift for his ultimate sacrifice. I listen to the words and the quiet sobs of people in pain.

When the reverend stops speaking, the sailor moves and the bugle blares playing “Taps.” Each note shreds through my body, penetrates my bones, and shatters my heart. Tears stream down my face unabashed. The uniformed sailor walks over to the front row placing the folded flag in delicate hands. He kneels before her speaking as she nods and trembles. The sounds of her loud cries break through my fragile façade.

“Shhh, Cat,” Ashton murmurs in my ear. “You’re shaking.” She rubs her hands up and down my arm trying to warm me.

If only I was shaking because I’m cold.

I turn into her when a hand ghosts up my shoulder, “Catherine.” His deep voice echoes in the eerie quiet.

The sound of his voice is my undoing. A sob breaks through my chest as Ashton catches me while I fall apart.

Book #1 Beloved

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Book #2 Beholden

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audio (1)

#3 Consolation

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#4 Conviction

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#5 Defenseless

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#5.5 Evermore

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