Jun 232019
 
 23 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

The Bitterroot Inn (Jamison Valley Book 5) 
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Her past. His secrets. They have more in common than she knows.

Maisy is happily content with the life she’s built for herself and her young son in small-town Prescott, Montana. Her child is thriving, her business is growing, and her family is as close as they’ve ever been. But when a handsome stranger walks into the lobby of her motel, her simple life is swept up in a wave of affection for his gentle heart. None of those feelings can be trusted, though. She made that mistake before with another man. The man she murdered.

Hunter was a different man when he first saw Maisy Holt from afar. He took one look at her and ran in the opposite direction. But years later, he’s back in Montana and unable to keep his distance. He shouldn’t have tried to find her but he never was good at rejecting temptation. The promise of the good she could bring into his life is too hard to resist. Maybe if he can disguise the lies and hide the deceit, he can keep her from learning the truth. Because his only chance at a future with her is by burying his past.

Exclusive Excerpt The Bitterroot Inn by Devney Perry:
Prologue

Hunter

“Is this seat taken, ma’am?”

The elderly woman abandoned the book she’d been reading and looked up. The wrinkles around her eyes deepened with her warm smile. “Not at all, dear. Please sit.”

“Thanks.” I stopped spinning my car keys around my index finger and tucked them into my jeans pocket before sinking into the leather couch and surveying the room.

For a hospital waiting room, the space was especially nice. The chairs across from the leather couch were oversized and upholstered in a high-end woven fabric. The oil paintings on the walls were framed with a mahogany that matched the end tables. The magazines on the center table were current editions and wrinkle-free. This was the nicest waiting room I’d ever seen, which was saying something, because I’d spent my fair share of time in hospitals—though not in maternity wards. Expectant grandparents, aunts and uncles could be trusted with leather and glass-top coffee tables. Unlike the emergency room I’d been in three days ago, waiting rooms in this Bozeman maternity ward probably didn’t see gushing wounds or projectile vomiting.

“What brings you here?” the elderly woman asked.

An innocent question. Would she take back her seat invitation if I told her the truth?

Probably.

I smiled and went with a vague response. “Oh, just waiting around for good news like everyone else. What about you?”

“My granddaughter is having her first baby. My first great-grandbaby.” Her eyes sparkled as she turned them down the hall, where her granddaughter was likely knees up with a doctor perched between her legs.

“Congratulations. Is she having a girl or a boy?”

“A girl.” She smiled but shook her head. “You young people these days leave nothing up to chance with your ultrasounds. I had four babies and each one was a surprise.”

“Well, I don’t have children but I happen to agree with you. I’d want it to be a surprise.”

She patted my forearm. “Good for you.”

At the elevator’s ding, our conversation stopped and we both looked to the silver doors, waiting for them to split open. I tensed and held my breath, hoping that the reason for my hospital visit wasn’t about to walk right in and let me ruin her special day.

My fists dug into my thighs as the elevator doors started to part. What the fuck was I even doing here? How had I let myself get dragged into doing this? I hated my goddamn life right now.

A man came out of the elevator first, ducking his head as he stepped onto the floor. His baseball cap and dark beard did little to hide his furrowed eyebrows and the worry around his mouth.

For a second I relaxed my hands, thinking he was alone, until one of his arms swung back to help a woman out of the elevator. His wide mass had hidden her from me.

Was that her?

No. It couldn’t be her. Not her. Please don’t let that be her.

Because this woman was a dream. An angel standing in the hallway of a hospital.

Her bright-blond hair framed her delicate and flawless face like a halo. Her smile was full of straight white teeth underneath soft pink lips. Her eyes would be too big on most faces, but because they were so perfectly placed atop her high cheekbones, they were her best feature.

“Beau,” the woman said, pulling back on the man’s arm. “Will you relax and slow down?”

He didn’t stop moving toward the nurses’ desk, tugging her along. “This is not the time to slow down, Maisy.”

Fuck me. It was her. The breath I’d been holding rushed out so fast my chest caved.

“Look.” Maisy wriggled her fingers out of Beau’s meaty grip and stopped by the doorway to the waiting room. “This is where we part ways. This is your room.” She pointed to an open chair across from my couch. “And I’ll go get checked into mine. I’ll text you in a bit.”

He frowned. “You’re having a baby. I’m not staying in the waiting room.”

“Well, you’re not coming into my room. I love you, but there are things you are not going to see. That includes me in a hospital gown with my feet in stirrups.”

“You’re not doing this alone, Maze.”

“Mom will be here soon and—ooh. Owie!” She bent over her pregnant belly and hissed out a long breath through clamped teeth.

My legs started to push off the floor but I stopped before I could rise from my seat. It wasn’t my job to comfort her through a contraction. She had her brother and her family for that. I was just a stranger.

Still, I wanted the job. I wanted to be the man rubbing her back and kissing her hair. I wanted to hold her hand and let her squeeze it with all her might. I wanted to tell her how beautiful she was as her baby made its way into the world.

How fucked up was that?

I’d seen her for the first time just a minute ago, but one look and all I could think about was making her mine. Two minutes ago, I would have told you that shit didn’t happen in real life. Men like me didn’t believe in love at first sight.

Two minutes ago, I was a chump.

“Are you okay?” Beau asked when Maisy stood straight.

She looked down at her belly, rubbing the sides as a smile lit up her entire face. “I’m okay. It doesn’t feel great but it just means he’ll be here soon.”

“Let me come with you to get checked in. Please?” Beau asked, and when she nodded, he led her toward the nurses’ desk and out of my sight.

My jaw tightened as realization set in.

I was here on a fool’s errand.

That woman loved her unborn child and would never give him up.

The elderly woman at my side said something I didn’t catch. So caught up with Maisy, I’d forgotten I wasn’t alone on this couch.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I said I don’t envy her,” she repeated. “If that baby takes after its father at all, she’s in for a rough delivery. He’s as big as a mountain. For her sake, I hope she gets the drugs.”

I shook my head and mumbled, “He’s not the father.”

“Pardon?”

I didn’t repeat myself. Instead, I stood and walked out of the waiting room as quickly as I could, going straight for the stairs so I wouldn’t have to wait for the elevator. The second the stairwell door slammed tight behind me, I pulled out my phone from my pocket. I pressed the most recent name in the call log and held the phone tight to my ear as I bounded down the steps two at a time.

“She’s keeping the baby. Leave her be.”

Excerpt #2

I was so lost in my sketching I flinched when the lobby door opened, and my pencil skidded off the page, leaving a deep mark even the eraser wouldn’t undo. I frowned for a split second before looking up, ready to greet my visitor with a megawatt smile.
The smile fell, along with my chin.
My visitor was straight out of a magazine. His light brown hair was tied back in a neat man bun. His strong jaw was covered in an expertly manicured beard. His caramel-brown eyes, framed with long, dark lashes, were aimed at me with such intensity they nearly knocked me off my stool.
When he turned to close the door, I was suddenly very aware of the fact I was wearing no makeup and my clothes were about as dull as an economics lecture. But hey! At least you washed your hair today. Thank god I wasn’t in my normal blue baseball cap.
I wouldn’t look like a complete slouch in front of this man.
This man was all the good things about my Chrises rolled into one. This man should be in the middle of a photo shoot for a fifty-foot billboard, not standing inside my motel lobby.
This man was about to get the mumbling, fumbling version of Maisy Holt the likes of which no one had never seen.
Super.

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Jun 222019
 
 22 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

The Lucky Heart (Jamison Valley Book 3)
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Life on his ranch could be their future. If they can overcome their past.

Felicity’s life story reads like the script to a bad soap opera. Girl’s high-school boyfriend becomes a drug addict. Girl falls for boyfriend’s best friend. Girl leaves them both behind only to return home years later for murdered ex-boyfriend’s funeral. Now she’s back home in Montana, ready to start fresh. She’s got a long list of amends to make and relationships to rebuild, including one with the man who has owned her heart for sixteen years.

Silas doesn’t need much. He’s got a great horse, close friends and the Lucky Heart ranch, but something has always been missing. He’s not an idiot. He knows the missing piece is Felicity. And now that she’s returned to Prescott, he’s got a second chance to win her heart. This time, the only thing standing in his way is history. Drudging up the past is going to be about as painful as playing tug of war with barbed wire. But if they can heal old wounds, he’ll get the girl he should have had all along.

Exclusive Excerpt The Lucky Heart by Devney Perry:

CHAPTER 1
“Uh, thanks.”

“Thanks?” I asked. He said it like I’d just opened the door for him or let him cut in front of me at the bank.

“Yeah, thanks. That was, uh, nice.” Silas was buttoning up his shirt like he couldn’t get out of here fast enough.

Nice? How could he say that? It had been incredible. Phenomenal even. It ranked in my top five best sexual experiences, even beating our hookup after Wes’s funeral two years ago. Top five was not nice. And I knew that he’d enjoyed it. He couldn’t fake that level of satisfaction to save his horse’s life.

I slid out of bed and pulled the sheet around my naked body. Moments ago, I had been enjoying some post-coital relaxation. Now I was getting angry.

The last thing I wanted was for any man, especially this man, to think that I was an easy lay. Is that why he’d come over? Had he been expecting me to put out?

I certainly hadn’t planned on having sex with him tonight, but when I’d opened the door, one thing had led to another and, well, Silas Grant was hard to resist. That chiseled jaw. Those brown eyes the color of warm maple syrup. A body perfectly sculpted from honest work. What had started as an awkward hug had soon turned electric and neither one of us had been able to stop after that first kiss.

“Is that why you came over tonight? For something ‘nice’?”

Please say no.

“No,” he said, buckling his belt. My shoulders sagged for the briefest second until he kept talking. “Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not sure why I came over but it was a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Every muscle in my face tightened.

“Yeah. A mistake.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re leaving.”

He shook his head. “There she is.”

“What does that mean?”

He sat on the bed and pulled on his brown cowboy boots. “Just surprised it took over an hour for that attitude of yours to finally show.”

My lip curled. “Get. Out.”

He stood from the bed and pulled on his baseball hat, trapping his dark blond hair beneath. Just minutes ago, I’d been running my fingers through those silky strands. Now I wanted to yank some of them out.

“Welcome home, Felicity,” he clipped before walking out the door and slamming it behind him.

I let the sheet fall from my body as I snagged a pillow from the floor. With all the force I could summon, I threw it at the closed door. My breath was coming in angry pants as I stomped to my suitcase and tugged on a sleep shirt and panties.

“That man!” I pulled my long, honey-blond hair into a ponytail.

Silas could ignite my fiery spirit like no one else. In bed, it was amazing. Elsewhere, things could get dicey. We were either perfectly in sync or at each other’s throats.

I picked up the sheet off the floor and shook it out over the bed. Then I did the same with the white down comforter. The clock on the nightstand read 12:09 a.m. I’d been in town less than twelve hours and had already managed to piss someone off.

I had hoped that by moving home I could repair some of the relationships I had broken when I’d left sixteen years ago. That I could get to know my niece and nephew better and strengthen my relationships with my family. That maybe, just maybe, Silas and I could put the past behind us and start over.

“If you wanted to start over, maybe you shouldn’t have had sex with him. Brilliant move as ever, Felicity. Next time, keep your damn clothes on.”

The empty room didn’t have a response.

Felicity’s Journey Home, as I had deemed this new chapter in my life, wasn’t just about relocating back to my small hometown of Prescott, Montana. It was about making amends. It was about setting aside my mask and revealing the real me. For too long, I had hidden behind layers of false confidence and snide comments. I had disguised my vulnerabilities and insecurities with “attitude.”

It was time to do better. Be nicer. It was time to show people that I had changed.

I wasn’t the immature girl that had left Prescott after high school. Time and age had softened my rough edges. So had the love of my best friend, Sabrina. She had always seen through my sharp exterior, and thanks to her encouragement over the last sixteen years, my forked tongue came out less and less.

This new journey was about finding the courage to let others discover the version of myself that she had always seen. The version of myself that might, for once, be able to have a healthy long-term relationship.

I let out a dry laugh. “So far, you’re off to a great start.”

I walked to the door and picked up my pillow. Pressing it against my face, I let it muffle a frustrated scream.

Why had I snapped at Silas and told him to get out? He hadn’t meant to be a jerk, it wasn’t his style. He was probably just as confused about me as I was about him and hadn’t known what to say. But instead of being honest about my feelings, I’d let my armor snap back in place and released the snark.

I tossed the pillow against the headboard before curling into a ball beneath my covers. With my nose pressed into the sheet, I inhaled a deep breath. Silas’s rich and soothing scent still lingered on the cotton.

God, that smell. I drew in a few more breaths, memorizing the new leather smell, because I doubted I’d ever have it on my sheets again.
Okay. New rule. No more sex with Silas.
In the last two years, Silas and I had hooked up each time I’d visited Prescott. First, at Wes’s funeral, then again at my brother’s wedding, and every time after that except for last summer because I’d been dating someone in Seattle.

The casual sex had worked because, after each tryst, I could run back to Washington and hide. But now that I was living here, we couldn’t continue with the hookups. Here, I couldn’t have secret sex with Silas and pretend I didn’t want more.

Decision made. “No more sex with Silas.”

And no more attitude.

The next time I saw him, I would apologize for my behavior and tell him I’d like to build a friendship. We could put tonight, and all the other nights, behind us and move forward.

As friends.

Because this crazy idea that he’d ever love me back was just that.

Crazy.

Excerpt #2

What a fucking horrible day.
Wes’s funeral had been about as much fun as shoveling horse shit. I’d gone home to the ranch afterward and gotten straight to work, hoping it would distract me, but after three hours, I knew nothing was going to take my mind off Felicity.
Fourteen years. I hadn’t seen her in fourteen years, and today was the day she’d come back to Prescott. For Wes. She’d stayed away from her family, from me, for fourteen years, but she’d come back for Wes?
That stung.
Then on top of it all, she’d acted like an ice queen. It made the fact that she was still the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen even harder to stomach. I just couldn’t believe the harsh and rude woman at Wes’s funeral had been my Felicity.
So here I was, standing outside her hotel room door in the freezing cold, needing to see for myself if she had really changed that much. Because if she had, then maybe I could finally let her go.
I raised my fist and banged on the door, taking out some of my frustration on its wooden face.
“Coming,” Felicity called. She must not have checked the peephole because when she opened the door, she sucked in a sharp breath.
Fuck. Why did she have to be so beautifully sad? All I wanted was to pull her into my arms. Her eyes had been covered at the funeral, hidden behind huge black sunglasses, but now I saw they were red and puffy. She’d cried for losing Wes. Had she ever cried that much over me?
Without a word, she stepped back and swung an arm out for me to come in. I stepped inside and crossed the room but didn’t sit.
“How are you?” she asked after closing the door.
“Fine. You?”
She shrugged. “I’ve had better days.”
“So since you’re in a bad place, it gives you the right to treat people like shit?” The words flew out of my mouth without thought and I regretted them the second she winced.
She took a calming breath. “I know I didn’t handle myself the right way at the funeral. I’m sorry for being rude to you and I’ll be apologizing to my family on Christmas.”
I scoffed. “Did you apologize to your mom and brother for not visiting for fourteen fucking years?”
She winced again.
Fuck. What was wrong with me? I had always tried to keep a hold on my temper where Felicity was concerned but again I was blurting out attacks.
This time, she didn’t keep that calm composure. Her spine stiffened and her lip curled. “That’s none of your business,” she snapped. “I apologize for being rude to you at the funeral, but if all you’re here to do is yell at me, get out.”
I closed the gap between us, standing right in her space and glaring down at her. Most people, men and women, would have cowered. I usually intimidated people with this glare, but not Felicity. Time hadn’t dulled her feisty spirit in the slightest. She didn’t move an inch, just glared right back.
“You’d like that,” I sneered, “wouldn’t you?”
“Like what?” she asked through gritted teeth.
“For me to leave so you can go back to pretending that avoiding this place and the people here wasn’t totally fucking selfish.” I was being a complete and total asshole. I knew it, I just couldn’t stop. All the pain I’d buried for years had bubbled up to the surface and was spewing out of my mouth.
Felicity’s eyes welled but she didn’t lose her edge. “What else? Obviously, you came here to pick a fight. To hurt me back. So, keep going. If that’s what it will take to make you feel better, then please, keep going.”
Another thing that hadn’t changed: she called me on my shit. My anger deflated and I shook my head. “It’s not making me feel better.”
“Then what will?”
Not fighting with her would make me feel better. Having her explain what had happened all those years ago would make me feel better. Hearing why she’d stayed away for so long would make me feel better.
But I didn’t tell her any of that. Instead, I crushed my mouth to hers and hugged her tight so she couldn’t push me away. Not that she tried. Her arms wrapped around my waist and she fisted my shirt in her hands.
I poured all of the pain and anger she had caused me into our kiss. She gave me all of her grief and heartache. Neither of us stopped until we were both exhausted from hot and angry sex.
While she slept on my side, I stared at the ceiling, wishing tonight had gone a whole lot differently. I wished I weren’t still drawn to her. I wished that she had come back for me, not Wes. I wished that I weren’t such a damned fool, always waiting on the sidelines, ready to pick her up when he broke her heart.
All tonight did was prove one thing.
History really does repeat itself.

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Jun 212019
 
 21 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

The Outpost (Jamison Valley Book 4)
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Trapped in his tiny mountain cabin, she didn’t expect to fall for his big heart.

Exposing a prominent criminal family with an investigative news report didn’t exactly work out the way Sabrina had hoped. Instead of basking in the glory of her article’s success, she’s on the run from a powerful man who wants her dead. To stay safe, she’s forced to trade one bad situation for another. Stuck in the Montana wilderness, she’s secluded from anything resembling civilization or the modern-day world. The only good thing about her situation is the gorgeous mountain man assigned to protect her. Too bad he isn’t the slightest bit interested in a city girl like her.

Beau likes his life quiet and simple. Give him a peaceful day hiking in the woods with his dog, and he’s a happy man. He has no use for large crowds, noisy cities or dramatic women. So when a hotshot reporter rolls into town, dragging her big-time problems with her, he should have run for the hills. Instead, he volunteered to keep her safe. Bringing her into his world won’t be easy, but if he can convince her that Montana isn’t as terrifying as she believes, they might just be the perfect match.

Exclusive Excerpts The Outpost by Devney Perry:

PROLOGUE
“Ms. MacKenzie? They’re ready for you.”

I nodded at the woman who had come to fetch me from my dressing room, then slid off my tall director’s chair. As I followed the woman through the labyrinth of hallways in the studio, I studied her clothes. Her all-black ensemble made me jealous and even more irritated with my colorless outfit. With my stark-white blouse and beige pencil skirt, the only color I had on was the fire-engine-red soles of my patent white Louboutin heels.

My stylist was getting an email the second I was done for the day. No more light colors for public outings. Or anything, really. The bright clothing contrasted too much with my mood.

Black.

We needed to incorporate more black.

“Can I get you anything?” my escort asked over her shoulder.

“Water, please.”

She smiled before taking a sharp right turn, leading me out onto the television set where I’d be spending the next two hours taping an interview. I winced and held up a hand to shade my eyes as they adjusted to the beaming spotlights overhead. Why did they always keep these sets so hot? Ten seconds and sweat was already dripping down my sides.

My escort left me with another woman, a pretty brunette, as she went to fetch my water.

“Sabrina MacKenzie,” the brunette said. “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Bryce Ryan.”

“Oh, uh, hi,” I stammered, reaching out to shake my interviewer’s hand.

She grinned. “You were expecting a man, weren’t you?”

“Guilty.” My exaggerated frown made her laugh.

She turned, and I followed her to a pair of seats staged opposite one another and sat down. “It happens all the time. I’ve grown to enjoy the shock on people’s faces when they realize I’m a woman.”

That was a bit twisted, but I just smiled and left that comment hanging. My escort returned with my water and I sipped it while Bryce thumbed through her interview cards. I was reserving judgment on Bryce’s journalistic skills until after the interview, but I had a feeling those cards contained nothing but predictable questions.

How does it feel to have taken down a criminal empire?

Were you surprised when you were nominated for the award?

Are you actually considering giving up your career as an investigative journalist to keep writing smut?

Eleven interviews and no one had bothered asking me anything unique. I’d been praised for my investigative journalism and judged for my fiction. Heaven forbid I author something that women might actually enjoy reading. And to include descriptive sex scenes? Scandalous.

“Romance novels?” Bryce asked.

Oh, boy. Here we go.

I smiled sweetly. “I do love a good romance novel. Especially if there’s a little erotica mixed in too.”

She grinned. “Sounds like I’ll be buying your novel tonight.”

Maybe being interviewed by Bryce wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Bryce,” the producer called from behind the row of cameras. “We’re all set.”

“Thanks.” She waved over the hair and makeup team. My blond hair got fluffed and placed while her skin was dusted and blushed. With both of our lips recolored, we settled in for the interview. The cameraman gave us his countdown and then Bryce did her introduction before turning to me.

“You’ve had quite the year, Sabrina. Just a little over one year ago, you wrote an article for The Seattle Timesthat shut down the biggest gun-smuggling operation on the upper West Coast. Then you disappeared for six months, only to reemerge as a best-selling romance novelist. You’ve just won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and I’ve heard that there are talks of making your book into a blockbuster. How does it feel to have reached such success in your career?”

“Thank you. It’s been wonderful, albeit very busy.” I smiled and glanced at my lap to hide the flash of pain that crashed through my heart. Nothing about my successes gave me joy. Talking about my accomplishments just reminded me of how much I had lost.

“You’ve made some major achievements since you came back to Seattle,” Bryce said. “Most journalists, including this one, would kill to be in your position. How does it feel?”

I gave her my rehearsed answer. “It’s been incredible. Surreal, really. I’m still in shock at how much has happened over the last year.”

“I can imagine.” She flipped to a new note card. “Let’s talk more about the article.”

My cheerful face belied my true feelings. I was miserable on this television set. I was exhausted from talking about that damn article. I was done having people fuss over its success.

Everyone thought it was the article that had changed my life.

It wasn’t.

It had been the six months I’d spent in Montana.

It had been the six months I’d spent with him.

Excerpt #2

“Bryce,” the producer called from behind the row of cameras. “We’re all set.”
“Thanks.” She waved over the hair and makeup team. My blond hair got fluffed and placed while her skin was dusted and blushed. With both of our lips recolored, we settled in for the interview. The cameraman gave us his countdown and then Bryce did her introduction before turning to me.
“You’ve had quite the year, Sabrina. Just a little over one year ago, you wrote an article for The Seattle Times that shut down the biggest gun-smuggling operation on the upper West Coast. Then you disappeared for six months, only to reemerge as a best-selling romance novelist. You’ve just won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and I’ve heard that there are talks of making your book into a blockbuster. How does it feel to have reached such success in your career?”
“Thank you. It’s been wonderful, albeit very busy.” I smiled and glanced at my lap to hide the flash of pain that crashed through my heart. Nothing about my successes gave me joy. Talking about my accomplishments just reminded me of how much I had lost.
“You’ve made some major achievements since you came back to Seattle,” Bryce said. “Most journalists, including this one, would kill to be in your position. How does it feel?”
I gave her my rehearsed answer. “It’s been incredible. Surreal, really. I’m still in shock at how much has happened over the last year.”
“I can imagine.” She flipped to a new note card. “Let’s talk more about the article.”
My cheerful face belied my true feelings. I was miserable on this television set. I was exhausted from talking about that damn article. I was done having people fuss over its success.
Everyone thought it was the article that had changed my life.
It wasn’t.
It had been the six months I’d spent in Montana.
It had been the six months I’d spent with him.

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Jun 212019
 
 21 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Tinsel (Lark Cove Book 4) 
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Sofia Kendrick has always cherished her tiara. As the youngest daughter of a wealthy New York family, she’s lived the life of an American princess. But after two scandalous divorces and a breakup smear her name across the society rags, the shine from her crown has dulled. People call her superficial, even gaudy.

She’s nothing more than tinsel.

Desperate for escape and starving for peace, Sofia heads to Montana for a holiday weekend with her brother. But she doesn’t get the relaxing vacation she planned. Instead, she’s put to work in a bar alongside Dakota Magee—a man who does not want her help. A man who is set on teaching her a few lessons about real life and hard work. But Sofia has a couple of life lessons of her own to teach. Like how to fall in love.

Excerpt Tinsel by Devney Perry

Tinsel is the fourth and final standalone in the Lark Cove series. This is Sofia and Dakota’s story

***

Dakota

“Did I do something to piss you off?” I crossed my arms over my chest as Thea walked into her office behind me.

“I know you’re not happy.” She held up her hands. “I wouldn’t be either, and I’m sorry. But just . . . go with me here. Okay?”

“I don’t need help doing my job.”

“You’ve worked here for five years, Dakota. I know you don’t need help doing your job.”

“Just checking.”

We hadn’t worked a shift together in ages. I didn’t want her thinking I couldn’t handle this place on my own, even for an event.

While her business partner, Jackson Page, and I worked the bar, Thea was in charge of managing the business. She still bartended a weeknight here and there, and she covered every third weekend. But mostly, she spent her days in this office.

Jackson had cut back on night and weekend shifts too these past couple of years. He and Thea both had young families. They didn’t need to be working until two in the morning when I had nothing else to do and wanted the money. So I’d spent a lot of hours in this bar alone, and I’d learned quickly how to handle a large crowd.

In the summers, we’d often get a rush of people who’d just come off the lake looking for beer and pizza. Even with every table full, I had no problem making sure the bar was packed with only happy customers. The same was true in the fall when we’d get a crush of hunters looking to unwind after a long day in the mountains.

In five years, not once had someone complained to me or my bosses that I took too long to pour them a drink. I worked my ass off for each and every quarter in my tip jar. And I might not be the smartest guy in the room, but I sure as hell knew how to hustle.

New Year’s Eve did get crazy. People would pack themselves inside the bar like sardines in an aluminum can. But it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Alone. Something Thea knew.

So since that speech she’d just given in the other room was complete and utter bullshit, I was curious why she’d made me her sister-in-law’s babysitter.

“Do you want to tell me what this is really about?” I asked.

“Her.”

My eyes narrowed. “What about her?”

“She needs to find some purpose.”

“And she’s going to find it at the Lark Cove Bar?”

Thea shrugged. “Maybe. It’s worth a try. It worked for me.”

Logan walked into the office, shaking his head as he closed the door behind him and turned to his wife. “Well, that was interesting. You know I try and stay out of things at the bar unless you ask for my input, but do you think this is a good idea?”

“It’s a great idea,” she said.

Logan frowned. “She’s never worked a day in her life.”

“I know that. But she’s smart and can learn. More importantly, she’s trying. These last few years, she’s been trying. Remember she helped your mom with that charity auction last Christmas? And she volunteered for the committee to put together the foundation’s donor gift bags. This could give her another experience and show her we trust her. And even though I know you don’t need it,” she looked my way, “Sofia can help while we’re gone.”

“I don’t have time to babysit her.” I scowled. “If she’s never done this before, it’ll take me longer to teach her than to just do it myself.”

We’d be busy on New Year’s Eve, and I couldn’t afford to spend the night mopping up her fuck-ups.

“Think of it as a promotion then. You’re now the official trainer of new employees. She’s your first student.”

“Do I get a raise?”

She grinned. “Only if she can make a decent margarita by the time I get back.”

“Then I’m fucked,” I grumbled.

Logan gave me a sympathetic look.

At least he was on my side. I didn’t want to get into an argument with my boss, but maybe he’d be able to convince Thea that having Sofia underfoot was a giant clusterfuck waiting to happen.

“Baby, she’s no bartender.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “If you are trying to teach her some kind of life lesson, let’s not put your business at risk. She’ll flake out.”

Thea rolled her eyes as she walked behind her desk and unplugged her laptop. “Give her some credit. It’s not like she’s going to burn the place down. She’ll probably mess up on some drinks. Maybe she’ll break a bottle or a couple glasses. My budget can withstand a few mistakes.”

“But—”

“Logan, she’s your sister.”

“That’s my point.”

“I need you to trust me here.” Thea rolled up the power cord to her laptop, then with both items tucked inside her purse, she came and stood in front of her husband. “Sofia just got a very public, very harsh reality check. This could be good for her. I know your sister and I got off on the wrong foot, but she’s family. I really do want the best for her.”

“I want that too. She’s my sister, and I love her. But none of what was written in that magazine article should have been a surprise. We’ve all tried to talk to her, but she chose not to do anything with her life.”

“I hear you.” Thea nodded. “But maybe she’s done more than we’ve all recognized. Maybe that’s the reason she’s taking this article so hard. Whatever it is, that magazine hit hard.”

I had no idea what magazine article they were talking about, but I didn’t need to read it to get the gist. Sofia had probably gotten slaughtered by some reporter and she was here in Montana to hide and lick her wounds.

“She’s questioning everything about her lifestyle right now,” Thea said. “And personally, I think it would be good for her. Maybe she’ll get a tiny dose of reality.”

“And you expect me to deliver it,” I huffed. “Gee, thanks. I don’t think this is going to work, Thea. I just met the woman.”

“It’s not you but the setting. This is as far out of her comfort zone as it gets. Maybe hard work in a new environment will give her some perspective. It could motivate her to make more significant changes in her life.”

“All while you and Jackson are gone,” I muttered. I was going to be the unlucky bastard to teach Sofia this life lesson Thea was so hell-bent on delivering simply because I was here and not on vacation. “Where are you going anyway?”

“Paris.”

“Paris, France?”

She nodded. “I’ve always dreamed of going. When I was in third or fourth grade, my teacher taught us all about countries in Europe. She gave us all these postcards of the Eiffel Tower. It seemed so magical and far away that I kept it. Logan found it in my art workshop a few months ago and promised me a trip to Paris for my Christmas present.”

Well, shit. I had my own desires to see the far-off places in the world. I didn’t want to deal with Sofia, but I wouldn’t object and keep Thea from her dream trip.

One afternoon after I’d been working here for about two years, Thea told me how she’d grown up. She hadn’t lived like the Kendricks, who had money coming out of their ears. As a kid, she’d known more hungry days than full. She’d worn more secondhand clothes than new. And she’d lived through most of her childhood alone in a New York City orphanage without any family to rely upon.

That was, until a woman had started working as a cook at the orphanage. Her name was Hazel.

Hazel had claimed Thea as her own all those years ago. And when she’d come across Jackson attempting to shoplift a candy bar, Hazel had done the same for him.

Eventually, all three had migrated to Lark Cove, Hazel leading the way back to her childhood hometown. She took over this bar after her parents had passed, and when she was ready to retire, Thea and Jackson took over for her.

The three of them had their own makeshift kind of family. When Hazel had married my uncle Xavier, it’d brought me into the mix too.

They’d all supported me through a lot these last five years.

Whenever I went home to visit the reservation and came back angry that my family members still held a grudge over me leaving, Xavier would have me over for dinner and let me unload my frustrations over beer and Hazel’s famous goulash.

When I’d told Thea and Jackson I was starting my own side business buying and managing rental properties in Kalispell, Thea had spent hours teaching me some accounting basics for my new company.

And when I’d bought my first place, a complete dump with the right price tag, Jackson and Logan had spent a weekend with me and my uncle cleaning the place out.

I owed them.

If dealing with Logan’s younger sister for a few days would help them out, I’d put up with the princess.

“So what exactly am I supposed to do with her while you’re gone?”

Thea grinned. “Start with the basics. Fill the cooler with ice. Empty the dishwasher. Whatever you want. And then give her more responsibility from there. I have faith in her, and I bet she’ll surprise you. In ten days, she might even have graduated to mixing drinks.”

“Okay—wait. Ten days?”

“Well, we’re closed New Year’s Day, so it’s technically only nine. And Jackson will be back to help cover while I’m gone, unless you want the extra hours.”

“You know I do.”

I never turned down extra hours. Not once in the years I’d worked here. I’d work every single day if they’d let me because I needed the money.

My paychecks and tips went straight into the three properties I’d bought over the last five years. And if those were breaking even, I put everything else into savings for a down payment on the next opportunity.

If Thea wanted to take a ten-day vacation with her husband, I’d be more than happy to take on her hours. There was a property I’d had my eye on for a couple of weeks, and I was worried that someone might come in and buy it if I didn’t get an offer in soon. But I was still two thousand dollars short.

“Do I have to split my tips with her?” I asked.

Logan chuckled. “She’s not an employee. She’s more of an unpaid intern.”

“But don’t let her quit.” Thea shoved her finger in my face. “I mean it. Make her come to work. She, um, doesn’t have a car either so you’ll have to pick her up and drop her off.”

“Christ,” I grumbled. “Fine.” Babysitter. Chauffeur. Was I going to be her chef too?

“I owe you for this,” Thea said.

“It’s all good. Have a fun vacation. Send me a postcard of the Eiffel Tower.”

“You got it.”

I’d never been to Paris—I’d never been out of the country. But one day, I was going to travel the world. Maybe I’d start keeping postcards myself of the places I wanted to see.

“I think I have everything I need from here,” Thea told Logan, taking one last glance around the office.

“Happy New Year.” Logan shook my hand.

“You too.” I followed him and Thea out of the office and down the hallway back into the bar.

To my surprise, Sofia hadn’t run away and wasn’t still hovering by the door. She’d gone to get the broom out of the supply closet and was attempting to sweep up the peanut shells around one of the tables. She’d created a decent pile of them in the time we’d been talking in the back.

Maybe she wasn’t hopeless.

Charlie, Collin and Camila raced around her legs as she stood guard over her pile. The look on her face was sheer terror as she shuffled around, trying to protect the peanut shells from the kids.

Her outfit was ridiculous for the freezing Montana winter. We’d gotten five inches of fresh snow over the last few weeks, but Sofia was dressed for a warm autumn afternoon of boutique shopping.

Her shiny, leather pants hugged her long, fit thighs all the way to her calves like a second skin. There was no way those were warm. Her olive sweater wasn’t much better. It was loose, draping over one shoulder to show off her smooth, tanned skin. The material was no doubt cashmere or something else expensive, but it was too flimsy and completely impractical for below-zero temperatures. One tug at the collar and I could split the thing in half.

Fuck my life.

My brain might have categorized her as a hassle for the next ten days, but my body saw her without any filters. She was sexy, head to toe.

I schooled my features, making sure the flash of attraction was hidden. I didn’t need Thea and Logan concerned I was going to make a move on my new charge.

In all the years I’d worked here, I’d never seen Sofia before. I’d met her older sister, Aubrey, a couple of times when she’d been out to visit. But Sofia hadn’t come into the bar while I’d been working.

Sofia was different than her older siblings. They were all good looking, with the same straight nose and deep-brown eyes, but Sofia’s hair was a shade darker than everyone else’s in the family. She must have dyed it nearly black. But as she shifted underneath one of the overhead lights, a shimmer of Logan’s brown snuck through.

But more than just some minor physical differences set her apart from her brother and sister. Sofia had a different kind of presence.

She was missing the power and command that shrouded both Logan and Aubrey. She didn’t have the confident air that typically preceded them into a room.

They all screamed money. But she took it to the extreme.

Enormous diamond studs decorated her delicate earlobes. Her perfume permeated the bleach I’d used on the bar earlier. The floral tones were strong but not overpowering, which meant it was damn expensive. Add to that her clothes, and she was the odd one out with the rest of us in jeans.

Just like her snow boots.

Though, snow boots was a loose term for the things on her feet. The leather only came up past her ankles, and the wedge heels were at least four inches. Who wore high-heeled snow boots?

High-maintenance women. Rich women.

Even Logan, with all his millions, was dressed similarly to me in jeans and a thermal. Though, he probably hadn’t bought his clothes at Boot Barn.

For the most part, Logan had become just another guy around Lark Cove. If you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t suspect he could buy the whole town with one swipe of his credit card. He coached Charlie’s soccer team with Jackson. He worked here at the bar with Thea on her weekends. He actually made one hell of a good old-fashioned.

I bet his sister only let the finest champagne touch her supple red lips.

In a different time and place, I’d be up for the challenge of chasing her around this bar to try and steal a taste of my own.

Except in this situation, thoughts of winning Sofia’s attention were ridiculous.

“Okay. We’d better get going.” Thea had pulled on her winter jacket while I’d been watching her sister-in-law guard a pile of peanut shells. “I’ve got everything I need on my laptop to place this week’s supply order, but I won’t do it until after New Year’s, so just email me if you run out of anything.”

I nodded. “’Kay.”

“Let’s go, guys!” Logan announced and the kids scrambled toward the pile of coats and hats and gloves they’d left by the door.

Thea went over to Sofia and hugged her good-bye. “Thanks again. And have fun.”

“Fun?” Sofia gaped. “I, um . . . this is not what I had in mind.”

“Trust me. Working here isn’t so bad.”

“Best job ever,” I muttered. Normally it was.

“Dakota will pick you up and drive you home,” Thea told Sofia. “Spare key to the side door is under the mat. And you can always call Hazel if you need anything.”

Sofia nodded, her eyes wide and unblinking.

“Thanks.” Thea waved at me and joined her family by the door. “Call me if you need anything.”

“I won’t.” I waved back. “Enjoy your trip.”

“I will.” The excitement she had for her Paris vacation filled the bar. “Bye!”

Logan came over to give a stunned Sofia a hug and kiss on the cheek, then he walked his family to the door.

With every one of his steps, Sofia’s face went a shade whiter. The light from outside flashed bright as Logan opened the door and ushered the kids outside. When it slammed shut behind them, Sofia’s entire body flinched.

Her eyes stayed fixed on the door. Her hands clutched the handle of the broom like it was a security blanket.

Sympathy and annoyance swirled in my gut. I was irritated to be stuck with her for ten days. But I had the overwhelming urge to pull her into my arms and promise this wouldn’t be the worst experience of her life.

I shoved those feelings away, keeping my face impassive. The best thing for both of us was to get back to work. The quicker we did that, the sooner this would all be over.

“You can finish up there.”

Sofia’s head whipped around at my voice.

My chest tightened at the tears welling in her eyes. If she was going to cry through the next ten days, I was fucked. Crying women were a weakness of mine, along with beautiful women with dark hair and full lips.

So yeah, fuck my life.

I strode down the length of the bar to the cutting board I’d left out earlier. I had a couple more limes to slice up before we opened, so I placed the fruit on the board and picked up my knife.

Sofia was still standing with the damn broomstick in her white-knuckled grip. She didn’t move an inch in the time it took me to finish one lime.

“Get to work.” It came out harsher than I’d meant, and she flinched again. I glanced up, narrowing my gaze at the peanut-shell heap by her feet.

“O-okay.” She propped the broom against a stool. Two seconds later, it slid off the rounded edge and smacked into the floor.

Christ. Maybe she hadn’t been the one to sweep earlier. Maybe one of the kids had done it for her.

“Sorry,” Sofia muttered, dropping down to her knees. Then with both hands, she scooped up some shells.

My chin dropped as she stood and carefully walked them to a garbage can at the end of the bar, losing a couple as she went. She tossed the pile in and then scurried back to the pile, bending to pick up more.

I don’t know how to sweep.

That’s what she’d told Thea, and it hadn’t been a lie.

I put down my knife, wiping the lime juice on my jeans as I walked over to the supply closet. I opened the door and grabbed the dustpan and small brush, then took them over to Sofia.

She was still kneeling on the floor, picking up shells one by one and putting them into her palm.

“Here.” I bent down, setting the edge of the dustpan next to the remaining pile. Then I used the brush to demonstrate what to do.

She dropped the shells in her hand in the pan and hung her head. “I’m such an idiot.”

“Don’t say that,” I snapped, again harsher than I’d meant. Hearing her run herself down was worse than seeing her cry.

“Sorry.”

“Forget it,” I muttered, sweeping the shells into the pan.

“I’ve never done this before. Any of this. Unless it involves shopping or makeup or my hair, I’m basically useless.”

I huffed and positioned the dustpan. Sofia’s eyes were on the floor, her chin dropped to her chest, so I hooked my finger under it and tipped her head back.

The minute her doe eyes met mine, my heart squeezed.

Those crying eyes.

They were going to ruin me.

Sofia’s eyes were a kaleidoscope. Every piece of happiness or shred of pain, she spun for the world to see in those chocolate pools. She didn’t keep anything for herself, no secrets or hidden agendas.

Her eyes were so full of hopelessness at the moment, I’d do anything to make that look go away.

Letting go of her chin, I slid my palm up her face. Her breath hitched as a firestorm ran up my arm.

Why was I touching her?

I didn’t drop my hand.

The heat from my touch colored her cheeks, and her chest heaved underneath that flimsy sweater. Her pink tongue darted out between her lips, wetting the bottom one as her eyes held mine.

The hopelessness was gone—I’d accomplished one thing at least. Except the lust in her gaze was exponentially more dangerous.

She was attracted to me. I knew it just like I knew how to mentally tally up three beers, a vodka soda and a shot of Jack. She was attracted to me, and I was attracted to her.

Panic sent my hand flying away from her face. I stood in a flash, staggering back a few steps and crunching a peanut shell under my boot. Then I turned and put the bar, my cutting board and knife between us.

“When you finish with the floors, you can take a bar rag and wipe off all the tables.”

“All right.” Sofia nodded and went back to work.

It took her three times as long as it would have taken me to finish sweeping the floors. I used up every shred of patience by not ripping the broom out of her hand and finishing the job myself. We hadn’t even opened yet, but my mood was shot by the time she walked over to the rag, pinching it between her thumb and index finger.

Her nose scrunched up at the scent of bleach on the white terry cloth. Holding it as far away from her clothing as possible, she walked over to a booth against the far wall and started wiping.

What the hell was taking her so long? Couldn’t she hustle it up? The last thing I needed was her taking an hour to clean the tables, not only because we were opening in ten minutes, but because as she bent over, the hem of her sweater rose up, giving me the perfect view of her ass encased in those hot-as-fuck leather pants.

I concentrated on the neon sign in the window as she cleaned, but my eyes kept drifting down to her backside.

When she left that booth for the next, she’d missed all four corners of the booth’s table and left a puddle in its center.

I frowned. I’d have to either redo it myself or teach her the right way to clean a damn table. My cock, which was begging to become Sofia’s babysitter, loved the idea of bending over her, covering my hand with hers and using long, sure strokes to clean that table.

“Shit,” I muttered, making an adjustment to my dick as I went around the bar. I walked to the booth, swiped the rag from Sofia’s hand and nudged her out of the way with my hip. “Like this.”

After cleaning the booth’s table and another one, I handed back the rag.

“Sorry.” Her eyes were full of tears again.

I didn’t comfort her this time. Instead, I strode out of the bar, down the hallway and straight into Thea’s office, where I took a red marker and circled January eighth.

Ten days.

It might as well have been a year.

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Jun 192019
 
 19 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

The Birthday List (Maysen Jar Book 1)
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Poppy Maysen carries a journal in her purse. Its pages were filled long ago by a man who craved adventure, lived life to the fullest and never failed to make her laugh. The journal is his birthday list—one she vows to complete.

She’ll do the things he wanted to do most. Because maybe, just maybe, if she can finish his list, she can start to live again.

Poppy expects going through the birthday list will be hard. She expects it to hurt. But what she doesn’t expect is Cole. Could the man who watched her heart shatter be the one to put it back together again?

EXCERPT: The Birthday List
Enjoy this excerpt from The Birthday List.

***

My kitchen, something I’d designed to be large and spacious, was suddenly too small. The air conditioning that I kept running on high must have just quit working because my entire body was on fire. And I had forgotten how to make a grilled cheese sandwich as the knife sat motionless in my hand.

“What did you think of karate last night?” Cole asked, breaking the silence.

Dinner. This is just dinner. Breathe.

I forced some air into my lungs, then pushed away from the table to turn on the flat-iron grill. “It was interesting but I’m already getting sore. Especially my arms. I imagine by tomorrow my entire body will be on strike.”

He chuckled. “Yeah. It’s a tough workout. Are you sure you won’t try it again?”

“I’m sure.” I went back to the table and brushed four slices of bread with some olive oil, then spread on a thin layer of homemade pesto before adding the cheese and tomato. “To be honest, I only came for a one-time deal. I hope that doesn’t offend your instructor.”

“Nah, he doesn’t care. But why only the one time? Was it a dare or something?”

“It’s, um . . . from this list.”

“A list?”

Explaining Jamie’s birthday list was so personal that only a few people knew about it. Even fewer knew I was going through it myself. Yet, for some reason, I wanted to tell Cole. “My husband, Jamie, he put together this birthday list. It was like his bucket list, except he separated out everything to do by year before certain birthdays. Taking a karate class was something he wanted to do before he turned twenty-six.”

Cole nodded. “And you’re going through his list.”

“I am.” I was ready to defend the list and why I was going through it, but his eyes weren’t full of concern or judgment or questions. They just . . . understood.

He understood without a word.

“Interesting idea. What else is on this list, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all.” I resumed sandwich assembly. “Jamie put twenty-two things on the list. Most of them are silly, but totally him. He added some things he found on the internet he thought sounded cool. Others were goofy things he dreamed up or things he didn’t get to do as a kid. Jump in green Jell-O. Have a paint fight. Things like that. Some were more serious, like buying me this restaurant.”

Cole leaned over to pluck three oranges out of the fruit bowl on the table. “Have you done many of them yet?”

“No, not even close.” I smiled as he started juggling the oranges. “I’ve only marked off three. The restaurant. The karate class. And skydiving.”

Cole dropped an orange and it rolled across the table. “Skydiving?”

I laughed at the shock on his face. “You’re not the only one surprised I did it. But yeah. I went last month.”

While Cole picked up the fallen orange and resumed juggling, I took the sandwiches to the grill, setting them down on the hot metal. Then I rushed out of the kitchen and into the dining room, where all of the lights were off and the sign on the door had been flipped to Closed. With two sets of silverware and a couple of plates, I hustled back into the kitchen to set down the place settings and flip the sandwiches. Then I went to the fridge and got out a jar of salad.

“Here.” I handed the jar to Cole. “Use those muscles and shake this up.”

He grinned and put back his oranges before he started shaking. “Okay. Back to skydiving. You left me with a cliffhanger.”

I smiled. “It was the one item on the list that scared me, so I decided to just get it over with before I chickened out.”

He slid the salad jar across the table. The dressing that had been underneath a layer of vegetables and lettuce was now coating the glass. “And what did you think?”

“I actually loved it. The pilot said something before I jumped that really clicked. He said, ‘If you want to go swimming, you get out of the boat. Same is true with flying. You have to get out of the plane.’ So I did. I was strapped to this hippy with dreadlocks and bad breath, but he was so cool. The whole crew made it fun.”

“Would you ever go again?”

“Nope.” I popped the p to emphasize my point.

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Jun 192019
 
 19 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Tragic (Lark Cove Book 3) 
by Devney Perry
BLURB:
Kaine Reynolds wants nothing more than solitude. After an unthinkable tragedy destroys his family, he’s cut off all ties to his former life so he can battle his grief the only way he knows how.

Alone.

So when Piper Campbell knocks on his door, rambling on about being his new neighbor, he slams the door in her face.

But Kaine’s gruff demeanor doesn’t scare her. She’s set on living in Montana and starting over after a terrible divorce. And she wouldn’t mind having a fling to chase away the pain of her husband’s betrayal. Her handsome, albeit rude, neighbor is the perfect candidate.

Yet what neither of them suspect is that their no-strings affair will result in the surprise of Piper’s lifetime—and Kaine’s worst fear.

Excerpt Tragic by Devney Perry
Tragic is the third standalone in the Lark Cove series. If you’ve read Tattered, you met Piper, Logan’s sarcastic and lovable assistant. This is her story.

Prologue
Kaine

One or two.

“Kaine?” Mom’s voice echoed off the cement walls as she stepped outside. The glass door swished as it closed behind her.

I didn’t look at her as she stepped up to my side. My eyes were aimed blankly ahead as I wrestled with my decision.

One or two.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked. “We’ve been looking all over the hospital for you.”

I wasn’t sure how long I’d been standing out here. I’d told Mom that I was going to the bathroom and that I’d be back soon to talk with the doctors. But when I’d passed this exit door, hidden on the bottom floor in the back wing of the hospital, it had beckoned me through.

I’d needed a few moments away from the red-rimmed eyes and sniffling noses. I’d needed just a few seconds to pass without a single person asking me if I was okay.

I needed some quiet to decide.

One or two.

The parking lot ahead of me was shrouded in darkness. The night itself was pitch-black. There were no stars shining. There was no moon glowing. A thick fog had settled in, dulling the light of the streetlamps so their beams barely illuminated the few cars parked on the asphalt. The air should have been cold on my bare arms, but I couldn’t feel it.

I was numb.

I’d felt this way for hours, ever since they took her from my arms.

One or two.

It was an impossible choice, one I shouldn’t have to make. But because of him, it was inevitable.

“Kaine, I’m so sorry. What can I do?”

“I can’t decide.” My voice was rough as I spoke, the burn of rage and sorrow and pain making it nearly impossible to speak.

“Decide what?” she whispered. I didn’t need to look to know that Mom’s eyes were full of tears. Her dark hair had gotten a dozen new grays tonight. Her normally cheery and bright hazel eyes held their own fog of grief.

“One or two.”

“One or two what?”

I swallowed the fire in my throat. “Graves.”

One or two.

“Oh, Kaine.” Mom began to weep and her hand reached for my arm, but I shied away. “Please come inside, sweetheart. Please. We need to talk about this. He needs to talk to you. Give him a chance to explain.”

“I have nothing to say to him.” He’d done this. He was the reason I had to decide.

“Kaine, it was an accident. A tragic accident.” She hiccupped. “He—”

I walked away before she could finish. I walked right into the dark, wishing this blackness would swallow me whole.

Mom’s voice rang across the parking lot as she called out, but I simply walked, my boots carrying me into the black.

One or two.

An impossible choice.

As if the heavens sensed my despair, the clouds opened. Rain poured down, soaking my dark hair. It dripped over my eyes and coated my cheeks. The water soaked my jeans, making them cling to my legs.

But I couldn’t feel the water droplets as they streamed down the bridge of my nose. I couldn’t feel the locks of hair that were stuck to my forehead. I couldn’t feel the wet denim on my thighs as it rubbed my skin raw.

I was numb. There was nothing.

Nothing except the weight of four pounds, two ounces wrapped in a pink blanket resting in my arms as I said good-bye.

One or two.

What would Shannon want?

One. She’d choose one.

So I’d bury them together.

Then surrender to the black.

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Jun 182019
 
 18 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Timid (Lark Cove Book 2)
by Devney Perry
BLURB:
Willa Doon has always been shy. Her quiet demeanor was something she’s always embraced. That is, until Jackson Page moves to town. The one man she desperately wants to take notice struggles to remember her name.

Year after year, Willa stands by, watching as the bartender slash playboy drowns his demons in beer and sex. Then one night, he shows up at her door, suddenly aware that the girl he’s seen around Lark Cove is now a beautiful woman.

Except what he doesn’t remember is that this visit isn’t his first. They spent a night together once before. A night he’s forgotten, thanks to a bottle of tequila.

A night that crushed a timid girl’s heart, and set a broken man on the path to heal them both.

Excerpt Timid by Devney Perry

Excerpt #1
Prologue
“Dad, is it okay if I get two—”

The Snickers bar in my hand slipped out of my grasp and dropped to the floor. My jaw was down there too, thanks to one glimpse at the man walking through the gas station door.

He was, without contest, the most beautiful man in the world. No, the universe. He’d stepped straight out of my Seventeen magazine and into the Lark Cove Gas ’N’ Go.

His golden-blond hair was buzzed short to his scalp, a cut seen regularly in the hallways of my high school because most boys in Lark Cove had their moms whip out the bathroom clippers once a month. Except nothing about this man’s haircut was boyish. On him, it was rugged. A little dangerous even. This guy couldn’t be bothered to style his hair. He had more important things to do, like bench-press cars or battle zombies or rescue kittens from treetops.

Hidden in the candy aisle, I peered around a display of Doritos as he grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler by the register. He set it on the counter and dug out a wallet from his back jeans pocket.

“Just the water?” the clerk asked.

The man nodded. “And the gas on pump two.”

A shiver ran down my spine at his low, rumbling voice. He made the words gas and pump sound hot.

The clerk punched in some numbers on the till. “Anything else?”

The man leaned back from the counter, eyeing the row of candy bars placed below for impulse buys, then grabbed a Snickers.

We liked the same candy. That had to mean something. Like . . . fate.

He handed the bar to the clerk before casually leaning an elbow on the counter. His shoulders pivoted my way, enough so I could get a better look at his face but not enough he could see me spying. With a smile, he nodded to the lottery ticket machine. “I’ll take a Powerball too. Maybe it’s my lucky day.”

My knees wobbled at that smile. Wowzah. His soft lips stretched over straight, white teeth. His sky-blue eyes brightened. The smile softened his square jaw just enough that he became a whole different kind of dangerous. It was the kind that made me want to do stupid, embarrassing things just to get a fraction of his attention. It was a smile that vaporized the two-year crush I’d had on Brendon Jacoby, my lab partner in biology.

I couldn’t like a boy now that I’d seen this man.

Who was he? He had to be a tourist passing through town. I’d lived in Lark Cove my entire life and never seen this guy before, which meant I’d probably never see him again.

My stomach dropped. Doing the only thing I could think of, I closed my eyes and said a prayer that we’d get a freak July snowstorm and the man would be trapped here for at least a week, preferably without a place to stay other than my house.

“Hey there, Jackson.” My eyes popped open as Dad walked up to the register with his hand extended. “Nice to see you again.”

“You too.” A frenzy of excitement shot through my veins as the two shook hands. “It’s Nate, right?”

“That’s right.” Dad smiled. “My wife, Betty, and I were down at the bar last week.”

“For your anniversary.” Jackson snapped his fingers as he put it together.

“Right again. Are you getting all settled into town?”

“I am. I didn’t have much to move so it made unpacking easy.”

Jackson said something else to Dad, but my heart was beating so hard I couldn’t focus on their conversation.

Jackson. His name was Jackson. And he lived in Lark Cove.

“Willa.”

Jackson and Willa. Willa and Jackson. Our names went together like peanut butter and jelly.

“Willa.”

Maybe people in town would merge us into a nickname. Will-son. Jack-illa. Both were terrible, but I’d think of something better tonight.

“Earth to Willa!”

I flinched, my eyes whipping up. “Huh?”

Dad shook his head and laughed. “Lost in outer space again?”

“Yeah.” Heat crept up my cheeks as I bent to pick up my fallen Snickers. With it in hand, I came out from behind the aisle.

“Jackson, meet my daughter.” Before Dad could finish his introduction, the clerk stole his attention, asking if he wanted his weekly scratch ticket too.

“Hey.” Jackson waved. “I’m Jackson.”

“I’m Willa,” I mumbled. Articulating words was impossible standing in front of him.

“Nice to meet you, Willow.”

“It’s, um . . . Willa.”

But Jackson had already turned away. The clerk had his attention again, joking with both Jackson and Dad that if either won the lottery, he wanted a kickback.

With his purchases in hand, Jackson said good-bye to Dad and went right for the door and pushed outside.

“Ready to go?” Dad asked.

I nodded and handed him my Snickers.

As the clerk rang up my candy bar, Dad’s ticket, a bag of M&M’s and two cans of Coke, I peered outside, hoping to get one last glimpse of Jackson. But with the front windows stacked full of beer boxes and a rotating rack of maps blocking the only other free space, I couldn’t see anything past our car parked right outside the door.

I drummed my fingers on the counter, willing the clerk to make change faster. Finally, he handed Dad a dollar and some coins, and I bolted for the door, stepping into the bright, summer sunshine just in time to see Jackson slide into an old Chevy truck.

“Did you forget something, honey?” Dad appeared at my side, handing me my Snickers and Coke.

“Whoopsie. Sorry, Dad.”

He just laughed. “It’s okay.”

I took my things, then slowly walked toward our car, keeping one eye on Jackson’s truck as it pulled onto the highway. When it disappeared behind a patch of trees, I sighed and resumed normal speed, opening the passenger door and sliding inside.

Luckily for me, Dad didn’t comment on my strange behavior. He just popped the top on his Coke, took a sip and backed us out of the parking lot to go home.

“Um, Dad? Who was that?”

He pulled onto the highway, going the opposite direction of where Jackson had turned. “Who was who?”

“That guy you introduced me to in the gas station. I haven’t seen him around before.” I added that last part hoping I sounded more curious than desperate for information.

“That’s Jackson Page. He just moved to town to work with Hazel down at the bar. I think he’s from New York or New Jersey. I can’t remember.”

“That’s good.” More like freaking fantastic.

Dad gave me a sideways glance. “Is it?”

Uh-oh. Maybe I hadn’t hidden my crush as well as I’d hoped. “Totally!” It came out too loud as I scrambled for a recovery. “It’s, um, good that Hazel has some help. Don’t you think she’s kind of old to be working at the bar all by herself?”

Dad frowned as he turned down the street toward our house. “Old? Hazel isn’t all that much older than me and your mom. But I guess teenagers think anyone past thirty is old.”

I giggled. “Ancient. You’re practically fossils.”

“Ouch.” He clutched his heart, pretending to be hurt as he pulled into our driveway.

“Just kidding.”

Dad smiled. “Try to save part of your candy bar until after dinner.”

“Deal.” I hopped out of the car, escaping inside while Dad went to check on Mom’s progress in her vegetable garden.

I yanked my diary out from underneath my mattress and got comfortable on my bed. Then I tore into my Snickers bar, chewing as I opened to a blank page. My pen flew across the paper, leaving a trail of purple ink as I recounted every second at the gas station. When I was done, I closed the book and clutched it to my chest, smiling at the last line I’d written.

One day, I am going to marry Jackson Page.

I just had to get him to notice me first.

Excerpt #2

“Oh.” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “What, um . . .” Her fingers fiddled with the clip on the board. “What’s up?”
“You read my note?”
She nodded. “I did.”
“Good.” That meant we could move on from the whole me-calling-her-by-the-wrong-name thing and get to the days where she wasn’t slamming doors in my face. “Come to the bar and have dinner with me tonight.”
“Was that an invitation or a command?”
I shrugged. “Does it matter?”
She frowned and I knew immediately that wasn’t the right thing to say. Without a word, she marched toward the building between the bunkhouses marked SHOWERS.
“Hey, wait!” I ran after her, but she was walking fast. “What about dinner?”
She didn’t answer. She just kept on marching all the way to the women’s side, disappearing inside without hesitation.
Well, fuck.
I guess my note hadn’t worked after all.
I debated going inside the showers but didn’t want to terrify a young girl if Willa wasn’t alone. So with a grumble and a kick at the dirt, I went back toward the parking lot.
I didn’t miss Hazel watching from a window in the lodge, laughing her ass off. At least I was entertaining her.
She’d be in for another show soon, because I’d be back again tomorrow.

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Jun 182019
 
 18 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Letters to Molly (Maysen Jar Book 2) 
by Devney Perry
BLURB:

Molly Alcott didn’t expect to open her mailbox one summer morning and find an old letter stuffed between bills and a supermarket flyer. Penned in familiar handwriting, dated over fifteen years ago, the letter was written to Molly after her first date with the man she’ll never forget.

Week after week, new letters appear. Each marks an event in the history of their epic love affair. Each heals a wound. Each holds the confession of the man who still owns Molly’s heart.

The letters are full of promise, hope and love, but truth be told, Molly wishes she could unread them all.

Because the man who wrote these letters is not the one sending them.

Title: Letters to Molly (Maysen Jar #2)
Author: Devney Perry
Publication Date: June 18th, 2019
Shelves: Contemporary; Romance;
Format: Kindle (386 pages)
Rating: 10/10

We have known Molly Alcott while reading The Birthday List and we know how she and Poppy’s brother, Finn have fallen apart and are now divorced and living for their kids.

If you are not a fan on cheating, let me tell you that Molly does not cheat on Finn, at least not from my point of view, because at that time they were separated, and he has decided to divorce her.

After 6 years of being divorced, they find themselves in bed after having too much wine. I am a sucker for second chances and this book had it all. I loved how Finn sees Molly in a new light.

“What are we doing?” Molly whispered as she stood up. Her hand went to her lips, wiping them dry as she paced the office.
“It was just a kiss.”
She stopped pacing. “Why are we kissing?”
Because I couldn’t stop. Kissing her was as natural as breathing.”

Their story is as real as it gets. Heartbreak and longing to hoping for something that will heal all their problems away. I have always known that love is not the answer to everything, and this book proves how communication between couples is a golden rule.

Molly and Finn will find themselves unable to break apart, having off the chart chemistry. Finn’s letters will give Molly a prospective on his thoughts and feelings. The only catch is that these letters are not all shiny and bright, they are raw and deep.


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Jun 182019
 
 18 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »

The Birthday List BLURB:

Poppy Maysen carries a journal in her purse. Its pages were filled long ago by a man who craved adventure, lived life to the fullest and never failed to make her laugh. The journal is his birthday list—one she vows to complete.

She’ll do the things he wanted to do most. Because maybe, just maybe, if she can finish his list, she can start to live again.

Poppy expects going through the birthday list will be hard. She expects it to hurt. But what she doesn’t expect is Cole. Could the man who watched her heart shatter be the one to put it back together again?

Title: The Birthday List (Maysen Jar #1)
Author: Devney Perry
Publication Date: January 24th, 2019
Shelves: Contemporary; Romance;
Format: Kindle (402 pages)
Rating: 10/10

The Birthday List was a really good book to read this year! Devney Perry writes really good series, and I always finish them as soon as they release.

Poppy Maysen lost her husband at 25, after only 1 year of marriage. Jamie Maysen is killed on a robbery and his killer was never found. After 5 years of grieving, finally she starts to live again. Jamie was doing a birthday list and not Poppy wants to finish it. So far, she has gone skydiving and opened The Maysen Restaurant.

Every check on this list is so hard for her, especially when she attends a karate class and discovers that her Sensei is none other than Cole Goodman, the cop that came to deliver the news on her husband’s death.
This book will be good for everyone that has dealt will loss, and it teaches us how to move on and live. While completing this list, Cole is by her side, waiting for her to heal and give him a chance. It was beautiful watching how they fall in love.

Cole will help her with the guilt by discovering her husband’s murderer.

To keep it short, this book had my emotions all over the place and it also prepared me for Molly, Devney Perry’s next character in the book Letters to Molly. Can’t wait to read it.


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Jun 162019
 
 16 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Tattered (Lark Cove Book 1)
by Devney Perry

BLURB:
Thea Landry has always known her place in modern-day society. It’s somewhere just above the trash can her mother dumped her in as a newborn but below the class where much comes easy. With her tattered shoes and bargain-bin clothes, her life has never been full of glamour.

So when a rich and charismatic man takes interest, she doesn’t fool herself into thinking their encounter is anything more than a one-night stand. Months later, she’s kicking herself for not getting his phone number. Or his last name. She’s given up hope of seeing him ever again.

Until one day, years later, Logan Kendrick waltzes into her life once more and turns everything she’s built upside down. This time around, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s going to fight to keep him in her life—not for herself.

But for their daughter.

Excerpt Tattered by Devney Perry:

Prologue

“What can I get for you?” I asked the man across the bar.

He flashed me a straight, white smile. “Macallan 18, if you’ve got it. Double. Neat.”

I nodded and turned to the shelves at my back, glad for the task. I needed a distraction from the heat. He’d turned the hotel bar where I worked into a sauna.

For the last three years, I would have argued that this room was always cold, even at the peak of summer. Even with the heat blasting through the vents, like it was now. But here I stood, sweating like I’d just run to catch the late train.

From the moment this handsome stranger had walked through the door, my heartrate had spiked. Not because of the way his dark hair fell in a soft wave around a part above his left eyebrow. Not because of the expensive suit that hugged his broad shoulders and draped down his long legs.

My heart was thundering because of the air.

He charged the atmosphere with his confident stride. His deep-brown eyes had taken me in with no more than a blink. He exuded class and power and heat.

He’d walked into my bar and claimed it as his.

And I was drawn to him, like shivering bones to a warm blanket.

I guess that was natural. People always wanted what was out of their reach. And this man was so far out of my reach, he might as well be standing on the moon.

He drank whisky that cost twice my hourly wage, while I splurged on cab rides every Saturday night instead of walking home at two in the morning. If my tip jar allowed it, I ate lunch on Wednesdays at the corner diner instead of nuking ramen noodles in my cramped apartment. I was just a bartender, surviving life one lick at a time.

He was probably a corporate raider with the world at his feet.

Still, I couldn’t resist pulling in a deep breath of his Armani cologne as I reached for his whisky on the top shelf.

Even in my mandated heels, it was a stretch to grab the bottle that I’d just cleaned yesterday. It wasn’t uncommon for rich men to stroll in and order our most expensive whisky, but it didn’t happen often enough to avoid a weekly dusting.

“Quiet night?” he asked as I came back to the bar with the bottle.

“Mondays are always slow.” I set out a glass on a black square napkin, then poured him two jiggers.

“Lucky me.” He took the glass. “I get your undivided attention.”

“Yes, you do.” I set the bottle aside, doing my best not to blush. Hopefully I wasn’t sweating through my cheap shirt.

Everything about this man was smooth. Sexy. Even his voice. Definitely the way he licked his lips after taking a sip.

But despite him being my only customer, I stayed quiet as he swirled the amber liquid in its glass. I’d been bartending since I turned twenty-one, and I’d learned these last three years to let the patrons do the talking. No one wanted a bartender who couldn’t shut her mouth—especially in a classy hotel like this. Especially when I was as far from classy as you could get.

My black slacks and white button-up shirt didn’t have a stitch of natural fiber—just a synthetic blend that was uncomfortably affordable. My tattered heels had gotten a new scuff tonight, one I’d have to cover with a Sharpie later.

He swirled his whisky a few more times, his gold cufflink peeking out from underneath his suit jacket. “I’m sure you get this question a lot in your line of work. What’s your drink of choice?”

I smiled. “I do get that question a lot. Normally, I answer with whatever was the first drink I served that day.”

The corner of his mouth curved up. “And today’s?”

“A local IPA.”

His mouth split into a full-blown grin. “What’s the real answer?”

That smile made my heart beat wildly again, sending my temperature up another notch.

“It depends.” I pushed off the bar and walked down to my gun, filling a glass with mostly ice, then water. “I’ve always believed in pairing drinks with the occasion.”

“I’m intrigued.”

I took a sip of my water. “Weddings, obviously champagne.”

“Obviously.” He nodded. “What else?”

“Bachelorette parties require anything fruity. Beer always goes with pizza—it’s one of my drinking laws. Margaritas on Tuesday nights because I don’t work on Wednesdays. And tequila shots if anyone says, ‘We need to talk.’ ”

He chuckled. “What about whisky?”

“I don’t drink whisky.”

“Hmm.” He took a long, slow sip from his glass, then set it down. “That’s a shame. A beautiful woman drinking whisky is my weakness.”

The water glass in my hand bobbled and I nearly spilled it on my apron. I’d heard a lot of pickup lines standing behind this bar, and I’d mastered the art of turning down a man without bruising his ego—or losing his tip. But I’d be a fool to dodge that line.

“Then maybe I’ll give it another try.”

“I’d like that.” He smiled wider as he reached across the bar, his long fingers leading the way. “I’m Logan.”

I placed my hand in his, already lost in the fairy tale. “Thea.”

Chapter 1

Logan

Six years later . . .

“I hate Montana.”

Nolan rolled his eyes. “How can you say that when you’re standing in front of that view?”

I gazed past the tree trunks to the lake on the other side of the forest. I hated to admit it, but the view was rather stunning. The deep blue water had a glassy sheen. The summer sunlight bounced off its gentle, rolling waves. In the distance, the mountains still had white snowcaps. There was even a bald eagle circling the shoreline across the bay.

But I wouldn’t give Nolan the satisfaction of admitting the truth.

“What is that smell?” My nostrils flared as I sucked in a long breath.

Nolan chuckled. “That would be earth. Dirt. Trees. Wind. Also known as clean air. It’s what air is supposed to smell like without all the carbon emissions.”

“Always with the sarcasm.”

“I save it all for you.” Nolan Fennessy, my friend and the CEO of my family’s charitable foundation, loved to give me shit.

“Lucky me,” I deadpanned, turning away from Flathead Lake so he wouldn’t see my grin. Then I scanned the camp, giving it a more thorough inspection than the cursory glance I’d taken when we’d arrived ten minutes ago.

Beneath the evergreens, six small log cabins were scattered throughout the forest. Next to them was a building marked SHOWERS with a separate wing for boys and girls. The main lodge sat at the back, closest to the road and the gravel parking area. And as it was the hub for most camp activities, the lodge was as big as the six cabins combined.

It was a child’s paradise.

In Nowhere, Montana.

Personal experience had tainted the state for me, but I couldn’t deny this camp had a certain appeal. And it would be a perfect addition to the Kendrick Foundation.

“Five million?” I asked Nolan, confirming the purchase price.

“Yes.” He turned away from the lake, stepping to my side. “The price includes everything. Buildings. Furniture. Appliances. Though the bulk of the value is in the land.”

“Okay.” I nodded. “I’ve seen enough. Let’s go.”

“Logan, we can’t go until we meet with the director and hear her pitch.”

At the mention of the director, a flash of long, blond hair caught my eye. She came scurrying out of the lodge with a handful of pamphlets and a manila folder tucked under her arm. I knew without seeing that it contained the proposal she’d sent into the foundation three months ago.

“I don’t need to hear her pitch. I’ll approve the purchase and kick in another fifty thousand for improvements.” I glanced at my Bulgari watch. “It’s only two. Let’s say our hellos, give her the good news and head back to the airport.” We’d be back in New York tonight.

Nolan chuckled. “As much as I’d like to sleep in my own bed tonight, we can’t leave.”

“Why?”

He stepped past me—hand extended—ready to greet the director, then smirked over his shoulder. “It’s rude.”

Damn. “Well played, Fennessy,” I muttered.

Nolan knew I’d never let my personal hang-up about being in Montana impede my reputation as a philanthropist. As my father had taught me years ago, just as his father had taught him, the Kendricks—above all else—took the utmost care to preserve our appearance.

Which meant I was in Montana for the night.

I sloughed off my mood and gave the camp director, Willa Doon, a pleasant smile.

“Mr. Fennessy.” Willa’s smile widened as she shook Nolan’s hand. “Thank you so, so much for coming out here. I couldn’t believe it when you called. I’m just . . . it’s so awesome you even read my proposal in the first place.”

“The pleasure was mine. Your proposal was one of the best I’ve read in months.” Nolan released her hand and gestured toward me. “Let me introduce you to the chairman of the board for the Kendrick Foundation. This is Logan Kendrick.”

“Ms. Doon.” I extended my hand. “Nice to meet you.”

She blushed scarlet as our hands connected. “Mr. Kendrick.”

“Please, call me Logan. We’re looking forward to learning more about your camp.”

“Thank you.” Her smile was confident but her fingers were trembling with nerves. “I’m not sure, um . . . should I just go through the proposal again?” She fumbled the brochures in one hand as she went for the file folder. “I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read it or have questions. I, um—shoot.” A pamphlet dropped to the dirt.

“How about a tour?” Nolan bent to retrieve the paper for her. “We’ve both read your proposal, so if it’s all right with you, we’ll keep this informal and just ask you any questions as we walk.”

Willa nodded. “That sounds great.”

Five minutes into the tour, the nerves began to leave her voice. Once she began telling us stories from past camps and the children who’d spent countless summers here, her confidence rallied.

While Willa’s stories were endearing, they didn’t keep my mind from wandering back to my last visit to Montana. The visit where I’d come to surprise my then girlfriend—the one I’d proposed to twice without a yes in return.

I’d come to Montana to surprise Emmeline for a Thanksgiving weekend. The ring I’d bought for her had been in my coat pocket. My plan had been to propose and convince her to move home after she finished a year teaching kindergarten. Instead, I ended a five-year relationship when I learned she was still in love with a man from her past.

Her husband.

After our breakup, I’d gotten the hell out of Montana, flying back to New York without delay. The second the plane’s wheels had touched down, I’d ordered a courier to return Emmeline’s ring to the jewelry store.

It had been over six months since we’d broken up, and I’d spent that time working my ass off. Not only was I more involved than ever in the Kendrick Foundation, but I was also overseeing a large clientele as a managing partner at my law firm, Stone, Richards and Abergel.

I didn’t think of Emmeline much these days—there just wasn’t time. But being back in Montana dredged up a slew of unwelcome memories. Memories of what I’d lost.

And I hated losing.

“Have you ever been to a camp like this?” Willa asked me as we stood outside one of the smaller cabins.

“No, I haven’t.” I peered through the cabin door, taking in the wooden bunks inside. “Where are all the kids?” Sleeping bags were laid out neatly on the beds, backpacks on the floors, but no campers.

“Oh, they’re all on a hike today. We bussed them out early this morning. They’ll have a picnic lunch and then be back before the dinner bell.”

“I see.” I stepped away from the cabin and gestured toward the lodge. “Can we see the main building next?”

“Of course.”

I took a step to follow Willa just as a streak of dark hair and skinny limbs went flying past the cabin.

The young girl didn’t slow down a bit as she sprinted for the lodge. She looked over her shoulder, giving Willa a huge smile, but kept on running.

Willa waved. “Hey, Charlie!”

“Did she miss the bus?” Nolan teased.

“No, that’s Charlie.” Willa laughed. “Her grandmother volunteers in the kitchen so she spends her mornings and afternoons here.”

Charlie’s long hair streamed behind her as she ran, only trapped by the backward baseball cap on her head. Her sneakers were covered in dirt, just like the seat of her shorts. “Cute kid.”

“She’s adorable.” Willa smiled. “Should we continue the tour?”

“Actually,” I said, “I think I’ve seen enough.”

Willa’s feet stilled and her shoulders fell. “Oh. I see.”

“From what I’ve seen and read in your proposal, this camp would make a wonderful addition to the Kendrick Foundation.”

Willa blinked twice before her entire face lit up. “Really?”

I nodded. “Really.”

“Gosh.” Her hands flew to her cheeks. Pamphlets and her manila envelope dropped to the ground. “I can’t believe it. I just—oh my goodness.”

Nolan grinned at me as we gave Willa a moment to let it all sink in.

She was young, likely in her midtwenties, with a delicate face. Her wavy blond hair fell nearly to her waist. Her hands were constantly fiddling with something—the tie on her simple navy sundress or her papers. But despite her timid demeanor, it was clear that Willa loved this camp.

A camp we’d just saved from closure.

The local church that currently owned the camp was letting it go due to increased overhead and maintenance costs. Luckily for us, the church wasn’t looking to make a payday on the property; otherwise they’d be selling it off for private development. Instead, they just wanted to recoup their investment and find new owners who would continue it as a children’s summer camp. The only problem was, they hadn’t had any offers in a year and were looking at closing it down permanently.

Now it would be part of the Kendrick Foundation.

We’d keep the original charter intact but come in with fresh eyes and a bigger wallet. The foundation would make a few overdue improvements and teach Willa how to better manage expenses while increasing attendance. We’d ensure this children’s paradise would be around for many more years to come.

“Thank you,” Willa whispered as tears filled her eyes. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.” I looked to Nolan. “Anything you want to add?”

“I think you covered it all,” the corners of his mouth turned up, “boss.”

Smug bastard. As CEO, he had just as much authority to approve this purchase as I did. He just liked to toss that word around to remind me who was really in charge here.

“I’ll have the attorneys contact the church and start drafting a contract,” he said. “We’ll get everything transferred over to the foundation as soon as possible. And Ms. Doon, we’ll expect you to stay on as director.”

Willa gasped. “You don’t have to do that. I mean, I’m grateful, but it wasn’t about keeping my job.”

Nolan smiled. “We know. That’s why you’re the best choice for our camp director. And as long as things are going well, the job is yours.”

“I just—I can’t believe this is happening. It was a long shot, sending that proposal. I never . . .” She pressed her hands to her cheeks again. “Thank you.”

“Congratulations. Let’s celebrate.” Nolan clapped me on the shoulder. “Willa, now that we’ve got business out of the way, would you mind giving us the rest of the tour?”

She nodded, composing herself once again. “I’d love to.”

“And afterward, would you mind showing us around town a bit?” I asked. “We’d love a recommendation for dinner and drinks.”

Willa nodded again, her face beaming. “I know just the place.”

“Then lead the way.” Nolan waved her on, then leaned close as we followed. “Now aren’t you glad we stayed?”

Days like today were the reason I stayed so in tune with the foundation’s activities. Outside of the countless hours I put in at the firm, I didn’t have hobbies like my friends did. I didn’t golf or own a yacht.

I worked.

Hard.

Nolan didn’t need me along for these foundation trips, but the truth was, I didn’t want to miss out. I didn’t want to miss the chance to make someone’s dream come true. Or the opportunity to put my family’s fortune to a better use than buying my mother diamonds or my sister divorces.

“Fine. I’ll admit, this place isn’t so bad. Once you get past the smell.”

***

An hour later—after we’d finished touring the camp and Willa had driven us around town—Nolan and I followed her through the steel door of the Lark Cove Bar.

“This is . . . quaint,” I muttered. Were those peanut shells all over the floor?

“They have the best drinks in the area and their pizzas are amazing.” Willa smiled over her shoulder but it fell when she took in my grimace. “But there’s a fancier place up the road in Kalispell. It’s about forty-five minutes, but we can go there. I’m sorry, I didn’t—”

“This place is perfect.” Nolan placed his hand on my shoulder, his dark skin a stark contrast to my white shirt. “We don’t need fancy.”

“Okay. Good.” Willa relaxed and walked over to a table.

“We don’t need fancy,” I whispered to Nolan. “Just sanitary.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re fired.”

He chuckled and looked at his Rolex. “That’s the first time you’ve fired me today, and it’s past four. Usually you fire me before noon on these trips. Maybe the Montana air agrees with you.”

I huffed. “I can’t wait to say ‘I told you so’ after we get food poisoning.”

“Let’s get you a drink.”

“Finally, he says something intelligent.”

We were both grinning as we joined Willa at a tall, square table in the middle of the bar.

“Is this okay?” she asked.

“Great.” I smiled as the wooden stool creaked under my weight. With my back to the door, I studied the room.

The ceiling was high, with exposed iron beams running from one side to the other. Much like the floors, the walls were paneled with battered wood. Though instead of being covered in peanut shells, they were filled with signs and pictures. It reminded me of those chain restaurants—the ones all ending in an apostrophe s. Applebee’s. Chili’s. Bennigan’s. Except this decor hadn’t been staged but pieced together naturally over the years.

The L-shaped bar was long, running across both of the back walls. There had to be at least twenty stools along its path, and judging by the wear and tear on the foot rail, it was the place most people chose to sit.

Including the five patrons seated near the bartender.

“Welcome, folks. Be right there.”

Willa looked over her shoulder, giving the guy a shy wave. As she spun back to the table, her fingers tugged at her hair in an attempt to hide her red cheeks.

Nolan and I shared a grin, then each continued silently scrutinizing the bar as we waited to place our order.

Neon signs advertising various beers and liquors littered the windows facing the parking lot. Next to a large flat-screen on one wall, a set of antlers was adorned with a bunch of hats. Wait. Is that a bra?

The Fourth of July was over a week ago, but the decorations were still up. A red, white and blue banner hung above the jukebox, and a handful of tiny flags sat in a cup on the bar.

This place was as far removed from my favorite bar in the city as you could get, but at least they had alcohol. Though, I doubted the Lark Cove Bar carried my preference.

“Gentlemen. Willow.” The bartender appeared at our table, depositing three cardboard coasters and a paper boat of peanuts.

“It’s Willa. Actually.” She tucked her hair behind an ear, sitting taller. “With an a.”

“Damn. Sorry.” He shrugged off his mistake—one I had a feeling he’d make again. “What can I get for you?”

“I don’t suppose you have Macallan 18,” I said.

It had been a long day, flying out early this morning and then being assaulted with reminders of Emmeline once my feet had touched the Montana soil. Today called for whisky.

The bartender grinned, then ran a hand over his blond buzz-cut hair. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Nice.” The Lark Cove Bar might not be pretty, but whoever stocked their shelves had good taste. “I’ll have a double. Neat.”

“I’ll have the same,” Nolan said.

“You got it.” The bartender smiled at Willa. “And for you?”

“Just, um, a beer. Anything is fine,” she stuttered, blushing again as she stared at the stubble on his jaw. “Thanks, Jackson.”

“Be back.” He tapped his knuckles on the table, then ambled back behind the bar.

“How long do you think that bottle has been up there?” Nolan leaned over and asked as Jackson stretched to pull down the Macallan from the highest shelf.

I opened my mouth to comment on the cobwebs in the upper corner, but stopped when a swish of dark hair caught my eye.

From out of a back room, a woman emerged and smiled at Jackson, then at one of the regulars as she set down a pizza pan.

Her simple black tank molded to her breasts and flat stomach, leaving her tanned arms bare. Her jeans sat low on her hips, cinched tight with a black leather belt that was just a shade darker than her long, thick hair. Her white smile was full of straight teeth, except for one in the middle of the bottom row that sat slightly off-center.

It had been over six years—nearly seven—since I’d spent the night with my hands wrapped up in that hair. Since I’d memorized that smile while I’d held Thea in my arms.

Years, and she looked exactly the same.

“Logan, do you want pizza?”

I shook my head, sliding off my creaking stool. “Excuse me for a moment.”

At my movement, Thea’s dark eyes—nearly black, like her hair—swept the room. She smiled at me for a second, but the expression fell away and the color in her face drained as recognition dawned.

She remembers me. Thank god, she remembered me. I was man enough to admit that it would have crushed my ego if she hadn’t remembered me. Remembered that night.

I still thought about it now and then—whenever I was in the neighborhood of that hotel. Did she ever think about it? About me?

I’d gone back to her hotel bar once, months after we’d hooked up. But she hadn’t been there. The staff had told me that Thea had quit and moved out of the city. I’d been disappointed and pissed at myself for waiting too long—I’d been busy with work. Then life had moved on. Not long after I’d tried to find Thea again, I’d met Emmeline.

Still, I’d never forgotten Thea, even after all these years.

I’d never forgotten how those dark eyes had lulled me under her spell. How her amazing body—the perfect balance of toned, lean muscle to soft, feminine curves—had felt beneath mine.

As I crossed the room, I held her wide, unblinking stare. “Thea.”

Her body jolted at my voice. “Lo-Logan.”

“It’s been a long time. How are you?”

She opened her mouth, then closed it without a word.

“Hey, Thea,” Jackson called. “We’re finally cracking that bottle of Macallan you insisted on buying.”

I grinned. That was why the Lark Cove Bar carried Macallan. She’d bought my favorite whisky for her bar, even if it had never been served.

“I . . .” Thea took a long breath, shaking her head and closing her eyes. When she opened them, the shock of seeing my face was gone.

But instead of the confident, sexy woman I’d expected to see once the surprise had faded, I saw fear.

Why would Thea be afraid of me? I’d treated her with nothing but respect during the night we’d shared. Hadn’t I?

Before I could say anything else, she sprang into action, grabbing a shot glass and slamming it on the bar. Then she reached behind her, swiping a bottle of tequila from a middle shelf. With a flick of her wrist, she poured the shot, not spilling a drop.

“Drink that,” she ordered. “We need to talk.”

Excerpt #2

“Yes!” My arms shot in the air. I punched the air a couple of times before clapping and shouting, “Way to go, Charlie! Nice save!”
I was so damn proud. I hoped she could hear me yelling. Her success felt better than any I’d ever had personally, and I’d known her for just a couple days.
Parental pride was incredible.
And I wasn’t alone in my feelings. When I stopped cheering for my daughter, I looked to my side to see that Thea had gotten off the blanket and was cheering too. Her smile was beaming, brighter than any I’d seen before.
“Couldn’t stay seated?” I nudged her elbow with mine.
“Quiet, gorgeous.”
Gorgeous.
I’d been given nicknames in the past by women. My girlfriend in high school had called me Lo-Lo. Emmeline used to call me darling. Alice had annoyed the fuck out of me by whispering stud in my ear. I hadn’t really liked any of them, not even Emmeline’s.
But Thea’s gorgeous was hot as hell.
Mostly because she said it with that smile.
She could call me an asshole or a douchebag with that smile and I wouldn’t care.

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Jun 122019
 
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The Coppersmith Farmhouse (Jamison Valley Book 1) BLURB:

One old farmhouse brought them together. It could also tear them apart.

Gigi has just uprooted her whole world to start a new life. The unexpected gift of a farmhouse in small-town Montana is just what she and her daughter need to escape big-city loneliness. The last thing she needs is attitude from the town’s sheriff, the most perfectly attractive and ruggedly handsome man she’s ever laid eyes on—and a complete jerk.

Jess knows all about women like Gigi. Beautiful. Sexy. Scheming. She’s stolen his sanctuary, the farmhouse that should have been his. But along with a face full of freckles, she’s got a sharp wit and a backbone of steel—something he doesn’t discover until after making a complete fool of himself. If he can earn back her trust and win her heart, he might just find the home he’s always needed.

Exclusive Excerpt The Coppersmith Farmhouse (Jamison Valley Book 1)

PROLOGUE
Gigi,

The lawyer should have told you by now that you’ll be getting my estate. It includes a farmhouse in Prescott, Montana, that I lived in years ago. I loved that house and never could let it go. I was happy there.

I want you to move there. Be happy there too.

I know it’s a big ask but it’s time for you to start a new life. For you and Roe. Spokane has nothing left for you but memories and tombstones.

A man named Brick has been watching over the farmhouse for me since I moved. Nineteen years, he’s taken care of it. I’d like you to give him $50,000 from the estate proceeds. He’s always taken good care of the place. My guess, it’s in better condition today than it was when I left. If it wasn’t for him, I would have had to sell that house and then my girls wouldn’t have a place to start their new life. So, Georgia, you get him to take the money. It will give me peace to know I’ve made it right by him.

Love you, my Gigi girl. Love my Roe too. With all my heart. Thank God every day you came into my hospital room.

See you on the other side,

Ben

CHAPTER 1
New town. New house. New car. New job.

New life.

That’s what Ben had asked me to do. To start a new life for my four-year-old daughter, Rowen, and a new life for me.

And as much as I would have liked to explain that a major life change was completely unnecessary, it was tough to argue with a dead man.

So here we were in Prescott, Montana. Starting a new life.

Rowen and I had made the trip from Spokane to Prescott today, pulling into town late in the hot summer evening.

I had no clue what to expect, having just uprooted our life to move to a town where I had never been and knew not one person. As we passed a sign reading, “Welcome to Prescott! Population 823,” my anxiety peaked.

Prescott wasn’t a town, it was a small town.

Correction. It was a very small town.

Prescott was close to Yellowstone National Park and located in the southwestern corner of Montana. Bordered by mountain ranges, the town sat at the base of the Jamison River Valley.

Buildings started popping up along the highway as I drove toward Prescott. At the farthest edge was the hospital where I’d be working, followed by an auto parts store, a taxidermist and a police station. I doubted I’d ever set foot in one of the latter buildings. I did make a mental note when I spotted the grocery store though. Past the motel, the road veered to the left and the speed limit dropped.

I crept down Main Street to take in as much as I could. Shops and offices filled the downtown street from one end to the other. Interspersed between them were two bars, a bank, a handful of restaurants and the hardware store. Overflowing flower baskets hung from old-fashioned lampposts. Clean and tidy windows featured Western apparel and paraphernalia.

I was looking forward to spending a day wandering the street and exploring the shops. I dreamed of how it would feel to walk into a store and have the owner greet me by name. I longed to be a part of this small community. To feel like I was a part of something, not just on my own and left behind.

“Mommy, look! Ice cream!” Rowen screeched from the back seat, kicking her legs wildly.

“Uh-huh,” I muttered automatically.

After we passed the ice cream store and a community fishing pond, I stopped looking around and focused on the directions in my hand, trying to navigate to our new house that was so country I couldn’t use GPS to find it.

“Can we stop? Please?” she begged.

I glanced quickly over my shoulder. “Sorry, Roe. Not today. But we’ll stop a different day. Sometime soon, I promise. I really just want to get to Ben’s farmhouse and get settled for the night. The moving truck gets here in the morning and we need to be ready.”

She let out a frustrated “humph,” the first grumble she’d given me all day. She’d been a trooper on the seven-hour trip, keeping me company while I drove and quietly watching a couple of movies. But I knew she was totally over this long drive. Way over it. So was I.

“When we get to the farmhouse, you get to pick out your new room,” I said into the rearview mirror. “Won’t that be fun? And if you want, we can set the air mattress up in there tonight. Okay?”

“Okay,” she muttered. She wasn’t overly excited but it was better than another grunt.

I drove my new gray Ford Explorer down two roughly paved county roads before turning onto a long gravel drive. The farmhouse itself was situated in the foothills outside of Prescott. The land to the front of the house, toward town, was covered in golden prairie grasses. Behind the farmhouse was an evergreen forest.

I double-checked the address with the number by the front door. Wow, this was really it. My heart fluttered.

Paradise. My new house was in the middle of a mountain paradise.

After parking in the circular gravel driveway, I hopped out of the car and jogged around to unbuckle Rowen from her booster seat.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked.

“It looks cool!” Her big smile beamed brightly.

“It sure does,” I agreed, touching her freckled-covered nose with mine.

The farmhouse had a simple square footprint. Windows on both levels were framed with black shutters and faced the open land across the driveway. The exterior was painted a clean, classic off-white. Perpendicular to the house was an old wooden barn. Between it and the house, two enormous trees shaded the yard.

I grabbed the bare essentials from the car, anxious to get settled for the night. I was exhausted from the long drive and late nights spent packing.

“Let’s go in!” I said, swinging Roe’s hand in mine.

We climbed the five front steps and walked across the wide wraparound porch with its chocolate wood posts. I unlocked the heavy wooden door so Rowen could push her way inside.

The front door opened to a tiled entryway and a long staircase that split the house in half. To the left was the living room and dining room. On the right was the office and kitchen. A short hallway connected the dining room and the kitchen at the back of the house.

My dark leather furniture and cozy toss pillows would go perfectly with the main floor’s honey-colored hardwood. And I couldn’t wait to put my old reading chair in front of the brick fireplace in the office.

With the exception of a small powder room underneath the stairs, the bedrooms and bathrooms were all upstairs. I let out a loud “Woo-hoo!” at the walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

Rowen picked out her room, and after blowing up an air mattress, we settled in for our first night in the farmhouse.

I cuddled my girl closer and stared up at the ceiling. We’re here. I actually did this.

I just effing moved to Montana!

Though it was terrifying to be in a whole new place, it felt amazing to be starting over. Starting an adventure. Replacing the loneliness I had felt in Spokane with excitement. Leaving all of the bad memories from the past behind.

Settling deeper into the mattress, I gave my girl a long hug. “Do you like Ben’s farmhouse, sweetie?”

“I love it,” she sighed.

“Me too.”

During the drive over today, I had guessed at what shape the house would be in, how well the caretaker had done his job over the last two decades. I had mentally prepared myself to find the house infested with mice and bugs, but the house was like a dream. Clean and varmint-free.

Like the rest of Prescott, the farmhouse had a quaint and unique character you couldn’t find in a large, commercialized city. I would get to enjoy my morning coffee while staring at the beautiful Rocky Mountain range instead of the shopping center that had been across from my house in Spokane. There weren’t neighbors to block my driveway or glare at me when my grass was overdue for mowing. When I walked down the street, people would actually say hello, not just look at their feet and avoid eye contact.

I had space. I had privacy.

It was perfect.

“I love you, Roe,” I said into her hair.

She yawned her “Love you too, Mommy.”

And with that, we both promptly passed out, getting as much sleep as we could before a busy day of officially moving into our new life.

***

After a week of unpacking boxes and painting Roe’s room (because she’d declared that she “simply couldn’t imagine trying to sleep in a room without pink walls”), I had our home put together. Even so, we were heading into our first “regular” Monday morning a bit frayed and slightly nervous.

Rowen was at her preschool, Quail Hollow, and I was rushing into Jamison Valley Hospital.

The long, two-story building was much smaller than the towering Spokane hospitals I was used to. The ER was situated at one end and the main entrance at the other. I would be forgoing some of the luxuries of a big hospital, but I would gladly trade efficiency for the chance to get to know all of my coworkers, to feel that I was part of the small-town hospital team with its three doctors and ten nurses.

After meeting my nursing manager and doing the standard HR orientation, I set off to start my training.

“Hi!” I called to the nurse sitting at the ER desk. “I’m Gigi. You’re Maisy, right? I think you’re going to be hanging with me the rest of the week and showing me the ropes.”

“Hey!” she said, shaking my hand and flashing me a million-megawatt smile. “Yep, I’m Maisy Holt. I’m super, super excited you’re here! Usually we have to work the ER by ourselves because Prescott doesn’t have many emergencies and it is so, so boring,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve actually looked forward to being down here. And we have the whole week to gab. Oh . . . and I’ve never gotten to train anyone before so I am, like, stoked I get to.”

Maisy was adorable, with white-blond hair cut into a short bob. Her big, doe eyes were a light grayish blue.

I couldn’t help smiling back. “Well, I’m excited to be the first to experience your amazing training skills.”

“Thanks! So how long have you been a nurse?”

“Almost ten years,” I said, taking a seat. “I worked at a big hospital in Spokane before coming here.”

“Well, I’ve only been a nurse for three years and only ever worked here. I came right back home after college. Ida—she’s the senior nurse here. She’s taught me so much. But now I can learn from you too!”

We spent the next two hours going over the computer system and getting to know each other, though I learned much more about her than she did about me. For the first hour, she switched between showing me the patient chart procedure and telling me about the town. I didn’t utter more than ten words in that hour, mostly just variations of “Yep,” “Okay,” or “Gotcha” when I could sneak them in.

She must have finally realized she’d been dominating the conversation (or she’d gotten light-headed from her nonstop chatter) and started asking me about myself. When I told her where I was living, she got so excited she shot out of her chair and flailed her arms above her head.

“You live at the Coppersmith Farmhouse? Sweet! That place is, like, amazing! Total shame it’s been empty for so long but how cool that you get to live there. If you need any help getting moved in or decorating, I’ll totally come help. I’ll volunteer my brothers to pitch in too if you need some muscle. We’ll bribe them with beer and pizza.”

This girl was a total sweetheart. She had energy. She was spunky. She didn’t say anything without a smile. She used the word “like” way too much. And I loved her immediately.

A few hours later, almost lunchtime, Maisy and I had our heads together gossiping. She was telling me about the “hotter than Hades” new doctor. She had yet to learn much about Dr. Everett Carlson other than he’d started at the hospital about four months ago, he wore no wedding ring, he drove a sporty black BMW, and he’d bought a house in town where he kept mostly to himself.

A man clearing his throat scared us both out of our huddle. Heads and hair went flying up to see none other than the hot doctor smirking at us. At least I assumed he was the hot doctor.

He had brown eyes and chocolate-brown hair trimmed and styled neatly. He was good-looking, likely in his mid to late thirties, though not really my type. His look was a bit too put together for my tastes, but I could see why Maisy was interested.

And he definitely knew we were talking about him.

Maisy’s face turned a brilliant shade of red. Luckily, she was saved from the impending awkward conversation when the phone rang and she ducked away.

“Uh . . . hi. I’m Gigi Ellars.” My own cheeks were turning pink. This was how I made my first impression on one of Prescott’s few doctors?

One corner of his mouth twitched as he shook my hand. “Everett Carlson. Nice to meet you.”

Before I had to think of something else to say, Maisy called out to us in a loud, panicked voice.

“The EMT crew is on their way. They’ll be here in about three minutes. A man was nearly beaten to death last night! They’ve revived him twice on the way here but he’s got a very weak pulse and has lost a lot of blood.” Her face started to pale.

Dr. Carlson started issuing orders. “I’ll meet the ambulance outside and get the report from the EMTs. If he needs surgery, I’ll be the doctor in the operating room. You two will need to get him prepped while I get scrubbed.”

“Okay,” I said.

Maisy didn’t move or say a word.

“Maisy, get ahold of Dr. Peterson and tell him to come in and cover my other patients. Ida is here today. Make sure she’s the one in the OR with me if we need to do surgery,” he said before jogging to the ER doors.

Maisy was standing still, frozen in her spot. Normally I would let her take the lead because she had tenure at the hospital, but we didn’t have time for her to freak out and from the looks of it, she wasn’t going to be taking that lead anytime soon. We needed to get going.

“Maisy, do you want to meet the ambulance with Dr. Carlson?”

She shook her head as her eyes widened.

“Okay, how about you get the cart ready? Then get ahold of Dr. Peterson and Ida.”

After she nodded, I turned and followed Dr. Carlson outside to wait for the ambulance.

The next hour went by in a hurried blur.

After doing a quick scan of the patient’s internal injuries, Dr. Carlson decided he would indeed need surgery. Maisy managed to pull herself together and we worked side by side to prep the patient for surgery.

The man had been so badly beaten I could barely make out his facial features. His swollen body was covered in cuts and bruises, and there were glass shards in one leg from what appeared to be a broken beer bottle. Maisy and I cut off his bloody clothes and removed the dried blood caked on his body. When the bulk of the blood was cleaned away, we rushed him to the operating room.

I said a silent prayer that my first patient in Prescott would make it through.

Standing in the ER bay, I was in the middle of bagging what was left of the patient’s bloody clothes when I glanced over at Maisy. She was supposed to be disposing of the bloody bedding before the cleaning crew came in to sanitize the room, but instead, she was just standing by the bed, clutching a white pillow streaked with dark red stains.

“Maisy, are you okay?” I asked softly.

When she didn’t answer, I walked to her side.

“Maisy? I asked if you were okay.” I touched her shoulder.

She flinched and then turned to me, her beautiful eyes flooded with tears. The next thing I knew, she was sobbing into my shoulder while I hugged her.

My heart went out to her. She’d probably never seen such a violent case before. It had taken me years of working in the ER to build up a strong enough stomach to handle seeing such things on a regular basis.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” She sniffled.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’ve just never seen anything like that. Someone did that to him, tried to kill him. Who would do something like that?”

“I don’t know, sweetie, but unfortunately, not everyone has a good heart.”

She wiped her eyes and sniffled again. “I’m really glad you were here.”

“Me too,” I said, gently rubbing her arm.

“Excuse me?”

A newcomer poked his head around the bay’s curtain. He was wearing a long sleeve, tan button-up shirt with dark jeans and cowboy boots. A badge shone brightly on one side of his belt, a gun on the other.

“Hi . . . ah, Officer?”

“Deputy,” he corrected. A blood-soaked wrap was wound around his right hand, and blood smeared the front of his clothes.

“Deputy. Are you—” I started.

“Milo!” Maisy shrieked from behind me, then ran to his side. “Oh my god! What happened to you?”

“Maisy, calm down,” he said. “I’m okay. Got a cut on my hand that’s small but pretty deep, so I need to get a couple of stitches.”

“How’d you get that cut?” she asked.

“I cut it on some glass.”

“Where? How? Weren’t you in your patrol car all morning? What were you doing today where you had to be touching broken glass?” she asked, examining his wounded arm.

He opened his mouth to respond but she cut him off.

“Oh my god! You found the beaten man, didn’t you? He had glass in one of his legs!” She was shrieking again.

“You know I can’t answer that question or talk about work,” he said.

“Well, today you will. Tell me what happened.”

“I. Cut. It. On. Glass. End of story, Maisy.”

“Where. Was. The. Glass. Milo?”

Since Milo was bleeding and neither one of them gave any indication of backing down, I decided to interrupt their standoff.

“How about we get Milo admitted before he wrecks the floor? Then you two can continue your conversation.” I pointed to the blood spots at our feet.

They both immediately dropped their eyes, then nodded. The ER bay where we put Milo was surrounded by a long curved curtain. Closing it behind her, Maisy left me with Milo to go and call Dr. Peterson for the stitches. I pulled up a stool and snapped on some latex gloves, preparing to remove the bloody wrap from Milo’s hand and clean his wound.

“You’re new here,” Milo said.

“Yep, just started today. My name is Gigi.”

“Sorry about that scene with Maisy. Our moms are best friends so we grew up spending a lot of time together. She’s like my little sister.” Milo sighed.

I smiled. “Ah . . . hence the squabble.”

“Milo Phillips. Glad to meet you.” He smiled back.

We sat quietly for a few moments while I worked.

“Sure has been a crazy day, huh?” he said into the silence. His lean shoulders slumped and his head drooped, giving me a close-up view of his buzz cut.

“You could say that. It sure wasn’t the quiet and relaxed work environment I was promised,” I joked.

“Ha. Yeah, I bet. I’m sure that in two weeks, you’ll get quiet and relaxed. Today has been . . . different. This is the craziest thing to happen to me in my two years as a deputy here.”

Milo was attempting to mask it with a brave face, but his shaking hands betrayed his shock.

Just as I was about to ask Milo more about himself, a deep, rumbling voice from outside the curtains interrupted.

Milo’s hand jerked in mine and I turned as the curtains surrounding the bed flew to the side.

I opened my mouth to ask what was going on but the words got stuck in the back of my throat. My brain short-circuited. All of my attention was focused on the man standing right in front of me.

Seated on my stool, I had to tip my head way back to examine his face. I blinked a few times because this man was so ruggedly handsome I had to be imagining him.

He had light brown hair, long and messy at the top. It was styled in the I-just-showered-and-ran-my-hands-through-it look. What would it feel like if my hands were the ones to give it that style?

He had defined cheekbones and a strong jaw dusted with a bit of stubble. Along with the matching gun and badge, he wore the same tan shirt as Milo. But instead of the draping and boxy shape it had on my patient, the tight fit hinted at strong muscle and broad shoulders.

My mind wandered from the lines of the starched cotton shirt tucked into the jeans at his narrow hips to his rippled abs and how hard they would feel underneath my fingertips.

From his large thighs to his square-toed boots, his faded jeans fit his long legs so well they looked custom-made for him and only him.

I couldn’t be sure, but based on the rest of his physique, he probably had a great ass. There was no way a man could have those powerful thighs, that flat stomach and those strong arms without an ass sculpted perfectly with rounded muscle.

And I loved a man with a great ass. An ass that just begged to be squeezed while he was on top of you.

But what catapulted him beyond any good-looking man I’d ever seen before were his eyes, light blue eyes flecked with white. Bright, like the color of ice. I had never seen such a hue before. Did they melt when he kissed someone, or did the ice become even brighter?

Shaking my head a little, I blinked rapidly. I was sitting here, fantasizing and ogling this guy. I needed to stop staring and turn back into a professional. Maybe try and breathe again?

Thankfully, the perfect man wasn’t paying me the slightest bit of attention. His focus was solely on Milo. Had he even registered my presence? No, but at the moment, that was probably a good thing because he was not happy.

He firmly planted his hands on his hips and leaned into Milo’s face, firing question after question.

“Milo, you want to tell me why it’s taken nearly two hours after you arrived at the Silver Dollar this morning for me learn about the situation?”

He didn’t wait for Milo’s response.

“Why it wasn’t called into the station? Why you chose to call Sam from your cell? So while I’ve been doing paperwork at my desk, Sam’s been standing around the crime scene wondering where the fuck I was. Or while you’ve been sitting in the hospital, waiting to get stitched up, I’ve been doing fucking paperwork?”

Milo’s face paled at the verbal assault and he looked to his boots, muttering, “I’m sorry, Sheriff. I’m wigging out. That scene was fucked. I don’t even remember calling Sam or driving up here. I swear I thought I was in the waiting room for just a few minutes.”

The sheriff calmed down marginally, in that he was no longer yelling, and let out an audible breath. Then he reached out and placed a large hand on Milo’s shoulder.

“You wig out, Milo, you call me. I’ll help you sort it.”

Milo nodded.

Scowling, the sheriff turned to me and looked me over from head to toe. He actually appeared to be angrier at me than he had been at Milo.

What was that about?

“Are you about done drooling over me so you can finish patching him up?” he snapped.

My cheeks instantly flushed. My tongue swelled to about three times its normal size and I couldn’t find the right words to respond.

Damn. He had noticed me staring.

Which made sense. He was a cop. Being observant was probably in the job description. Regardless, he didn’t need to be so rude. Or to call me on it. He could have just ignored it and been nice.

When I didn’t respond, he cocked his eyebrows, waiting for me to answer his question.

“Can you speak?” he grumbled.

Jackass!

All previous thoughts of his perfection were pushed way, way back in my mind. You could be seriously hot on the outside but if you were nasty on the inside, all the exterior goodness disappeared.

I’d known a man like that once. Nate Fletcher. He’d been hot, cocky and confident. He’d taught me that lesson. And the way he’d taught it made sure I never forgot. Never.

I inhaled a deep breath and clamped my mouth shut. Because the words that wanted to come spewing out of my mouth were not good ones. I really wanted to call him an asshole and tell him to go to hell. But verbally accosting the town sheriff wasn’t on my list of things to do today so I mustered all of the mental fortitude I had and swallowed my insults.

“The doctor hasn’t been to see him yet,” I said, my smile saccharine. “I’m almost finished cleaning him up but Dr. Peterson will want to do the stitches.”

The sheriff stared at me for a moment, his jaw clenched.

“Fine. Make it fast,” he muttered, giving me one last glare. “When you’re done here, head to the station,” he told Milo. “I’ll meet you there after I talk to Sam.”

Turning on his boot heel, he stormed out of the room, grabbing the curtains and jerking them closed. They flew in the air and fell quickly but not before I caught a glimpse of him from behind.

I was right. He had a great ass.

Damn.

Excerpt #1:

“You see him again, you head the other direction. He’s into some bad shit. I don’t want you around him.”
“Uh . . . okay.”
What in the hell had I just stumbled into?
Jess sensed my unease. “Don’t stress about it. Just want you to be careful, okay? Word gets around town that we’re dating, he’ll know folks will be looking out for you and he’ll back off. It’s not about you. He’s just trying to get to me.”
I was more than a little nervous that someone into “bad shit” was interested in using me to piss off Jess. But on top of that, I was now freaked that Jess thought we were dating. Even though we’d had a nice dinner, I hadn’t decided if I even liked him yet.
“Okay. I’ll avoid Wes. No problem. But one thing . . . I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell people we’re an item. It was nice of you to take me to dinner and I had a good time, but I don’t think we’ll be dating.”
“Do you find me attractive?”
“Uh . . .”
“I thought so,” he said. “Already told you tonight you were beautiful. So since we’ve got some major fucking chemistry and we get along, how about we cut the bullshit and see where this goes?”
I took a moment to collect my thoughts and formulate a response. “Physical attraction is not a great foundation for a relationship. Again, thank you for dinner. But with the exception of tonight, so far you have spent more time insulting me than treating me nicely. Surely you can understand why I don’t think we’d be a good pair. Let’s call it quits after you drop me off.”
“I apologized and I meant it. I was an asshole this week. Now fucking get over it.”
“Are you trying to piss me off, Sheriff?” I said. “I don’t like your tone. You don’t get to order me around and make the decision we’re dating without my agreement. That’s absurd. It doesn’t work like that.”
“It does. And we are. Exclusively, Georgia,” he said, glancing over at me as he stressed his last point.
“Wait a minute. Let me get this straight,” I said, the hold on my temper loosening. “Not only did you just ignore me but you also felt the need to emphasize that our nonexistent relationship is exclusive. Something that if you knew me at all, you would never have had to emphasize because in any relationship, I have never been nor will ever be a cheater.”
Jess pulled in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Not saying you’re a cheater. Jesus, Georgia, relax. Just saying we’re exclusively together. Don’t want people around town thinking we’re just friends or we’re just fooling around. We’re gonna see where this goes.”
“We’ve had one kind-of date, Jess. And I wouldn’t call us friends.”
“Because we’re not just friends.”
“I’m not dating you. I don’t even like you. Find someone else to keep you company at the café.”
“You like me. Can see it in your eyes when you look at me.”
“Physically, yes. But personally, you’re a jackass.”
He yanked the truck to the side of the road.
“What are you—” I started but Jess reached across the cab, grabbed me at the back of the neck and slammed his mouth down on mine.
I wanted to protest, I really did. To push him away and assert myself so he knew that he couldn’t just dazzle me with his looks and muddle me with his kisses.
But he totally could.

Exclusive Excerpt The Coppersmith Farmhouse (Jamison Valley Book 1) #2:

“Coffee’s getting cold, Georgia.” He leaned on the counter with his forearms.
Forearms that were tanned and sinuous. Forearms that I really wanted to touch, with veins I really wanted to trace as they snaked their way across the muscle.
Forearms I should not be thinking about.
I needed to focus. My mission? Get Jess away from my ER counter.
“Did you poison it, Sheriff?” I asked, grabbing my cup.
He chuckled but didn’t answer.
The sheriff probably wouldn’t poison me and more caffeine was a necessity, so I took a healthy pull.
Bliss.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
I had no desire to feel indebted to Jess but also didn’t want to be rude. I wasn’t a rude person, normally. Something about him brought it out in me.
“So why the coffee, Sheriff? And how did you know what I liked?” My curiosity was piqued.
He smirked and took a drink from his own cup. What he didn’t do was answer me.
“You do realize a smirk is not an answer.”
Still no response.
“Seriously, what’s going on?”
He sighed. For once, his beautiful eyes weren’t glaring at me. They were kind and gentle. He could melt me with those eyes.
Damn.
“I made some wrong assumptions about your relationship with Ben. Been an asshole this week. Sorry.”
Yep. Hell had frozen over. Why wasn’t it on the news?
In less than twenty-four hours, Jess had changed personalities. He’d been utterly mean to me last night, and now here he was being nice, buying me coffee and making apologies.
I appreciated his admission but I wasn’t going to let down my guard. One apology wasn’t enough to erase the way he’d treated me. To make me think he was as wonderful as everyone professed him to be.
“Would you mind expanding a bit on these assumptions? I’m interested to know what type of relationship you thought I had with an eighty-one-year-old man.”
His answer was a wide smile filled with perfect, straight white teeth.
Eff.
During our previous and rather unpleasant encounters, I hadn’t seen Jess smile. So far, I’d only gotten scowls, glares and smirks.
But damn if his smile wasn’t perfect.
Shivers erupted across my skin. My cheeks flushed and there was a throbbing sensation between my thighs. My core temperature skyrocketed a couple hundred degrees.
I was hot for the town sheriff. I was hot for a man who I absolutely did not like one bit.

Exclusive Excerpt The Coppersmith Farmhouse (Jamison Valley Book 1) #3:

I was stepping through the front door, wine in hand, when the sheriff’s truck drove up with none other than the sheriff himself.
Just what I didn’t need right now. A confrontation with Jackass Jess right before I needed to meet with Brick.
My breath hitched as he took long strides toward me. His jeans accentuated his long, muscled legs and that white T-shirt was just a tad too tight across his chest. His face had a little stubble on his jaw from the day.
He looked good, of course.
Damn.
Why did he have to be so perfect? Couldn’t he have gotten uglier these last few days?
But I wasn’t going to let him fluster me. He was just a hot guy and I needed to keep my cool and get him the hell out of here. Because even though he was hot, he was a complete jerk.
I didn’t want to be verbally sparring with him when Brick came by. I needed to make a good impression so he would agree to take Ben’s fifty thousand dollars.
Jess stopped at the bottom of the stairs and crossed his arms over his chest, pulling his T-shirt tightly at the biceps. My breath hitched again at the sight of his bulky arms and I forced my eyes away from his bulging muscles. His signature scowl was aimed my way.
Would a smile kill him?
It was his glare that brought out my inner smart-ass. That, and the two point five glasses of wine I’d already had.
“Good evening, Sheriff. Is there something I can help you with? Here to write me another ticket? I was at the grocery store earlier. Maybe I was pushing my cart down the wrong side of the aisle?”
“I’m here, Ms. Ellars, because you asked to meet me.”
What was he talking about? “I’m certain I would have remembered asking to meet with you. You see, Mr. Cleary, I’m not your biggest fan. And I’m not in the habit of inviting people I don’t like to my home. Ever.”
He narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to speak but I lifted a hand, palm out, and talked right over him.
“It’s not lost on me that for some reason you do not like me. Fine. Whatever. I’ll happily avoid you for the rest of my life. So how about you kindly state your purpose for wrecking my evening and get on your way? I’m expecting someone any minute now and I’d like to get this over with before he arrives,” I said.
He started up the stairs, coming right into my space when he reached the landing. As he tilted his glare down at me, I craned my neck to watch his face.
Heat radiated off his chest and he towered over me in my bare feet. He had to be at least six three. Maybe six four. And even bigger than I had originally noticed.
His body was like a magnet to mine. His tight chest, just a couple inches away from my face, tempted me to lean in, just a little, and run my fingers over his T-shirt. To feel each muscle’s rise and fall as he breathed.
I was completely attracted to him and it was making me dizzy. I didn’t even know how that was possible given his personality. He was a jerk. But unfortunately, he was a jerk that made my hands itch to touch.
“You texted me, Ms. Ellars,” he said, forcing my thoughts away from touching him. “Got something for me from Ben?” He waved his phone in my face. “I don’t know how much of that wine you’ve had, but if you can’t remember sending me a text not ten minutes ago, maybe you should call it quits for the night. Get some professional help.”
Did he just say that I texted him? Was he Brick?
Yes. Yes, he was.

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 6 June 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Title The Clover Chapel
Author: Devney Perry
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Day: May 30th

The Clover Chapel BLURB:

She took a dare and fell in love. Truth would have been the smarter choice.

After years of living under her father’s thumb, Emmeline is ready to break free. She’s abandoned her life as a New York socialite to follow her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher in a small, wholesome town. Seeing the man that nearly broke her was absolutely not what she had hoped to find in Prescott, Montana.

Nick hasn’t seen his Emmy in nine years, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten a thing about the woman he loves. After just one blissful night as man and wife, he gave her up, sacrificing his own happiness to keep her safe—far away from him. But the moment she walks back into his lonely life is the moment he decides never to let her go again. He won’t waste his second chance. All he has to do is win back Emmeline’s heart, keep her safe from the shadows in his past and prove to her that taking a wager on him is a sure bet.

Exclusive Excerpt – The Clover Chapel:

Read the Prologue from The Clover Chapel, book two in the Jamison Valley series. This is Nick and Emmeline’s story.

“I am not a spoiled brat!”

The man sitting next to me huffed. “You’re sitting in the corner glaring at the rest of us. You haven’t said a word until now. Every time someone mentions doing something fun, you roll your eyes. Yeah. You’re a spoiled brat.”

He was right. I was glaring at everyone and hadn’t said a word for over an hour and I may have rolled my eyes a time or two. I definitely had at the mention of going to a male stripper show.

But this weekend was not going at all as I had planned and, thus, my grumpy mood.

“I am not a brat. I’m just not having any fun.”

My friends and I had planned this big spring break trip to Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday tomorrow and our upcoming graduation from Yale. Since all of our previous spring breaks had been spent studying or doing internships, we had decided that for our last, something adventurous and crazy was long overdue.

I was supposed to be having an amazing time with my girlfriends, making memories that would last a lifetime.

Instead, I was miserable.

The last thing I wanted was to be sitting in our stretch limo, crammed into the back corner because now there were four guys crowded in with us.

My friends, unlike me, were overjoyed to be hanging with this group of strangers. Steffie was sandwiched between two of the men, both of whom were staring at the ample cleavage pouring out of her barely there silver dress. Marian and Alice were hanging off the bad boy, a man wearing a sleeveless shirt to showcase his enormous muscles and plethora of tattoos.

That left me in the corner, next to a guy who clearly had no issue insulting a stranger.

“It’s your own fault if you’re not having fun,” he rumbled. “Your friends aren’t afraid to have a good time. It’s not like it’s hard to find. We’re in Vegas.”

“I’m aware of our location.”

He was right again. The girls were genuinely having a good time, making the most of this night in Sin City, letting themselves go wild. Why couldn’t I? Sad and defeated, I slumped further into the seat.

“This was supposed to be our last adventure,” I said. “A crazy weekend together that we’d remember for the rest of our lives. This trip was for us to spend time with each other, but last night, they all found different guys to hook up with and ditched me. And since I didn’t want to have a one-night stand or get plastered by myself at some skeezy bar, I watched TV in our hotel room.”

“If you want to have a crazy night, you’re going to have to fucking relax. You’re uptight.”

“I am n—” I started, ready to defend myself again, but stopped. Instead, I turned to the window and muttered the truth. “I know.”

I expected him to ignore me now and leave me in my corner alone, eventually trying to steal Marian’s or Alice’s attentions away from his bulky friend. So when he wrapped his arm around the back of my shoulders and turned me away from the window, I gasped, surprised both by his touch and his closeness.

And then I froze.

When the men had climbed into the limo, I’d been so busy glaring at Steffie for inviting them along that I hadn’t really looked at him. And because he’d sat next to me, I’d only glimpsed his profile.

Wow, had I missed out. He was striking.

The vision made my heart pound so hard, its rhythm echoed through my whole body. His hazel eyes were framed with thick, dark lashes. His jaw was covered with a short, dark brown beard. I bet it was soft and would tickle if he kissed the side of my neck—or other places.

His nose was straight with a small bump at the bridge. His hair was shaggy and overly long, but the messy look didn’t make him look sloppy. It was sexy and carefree. He didn’t give a shit if his hair was a mess.

I gripped the hem of my dress to keep my hands from reaching up and threading my fingers through the thick strands. Then I forced myself to inhale. His gorgeous face alone had made me dizzy. He was by far the most handsome man in his group, which was saying something because my friends were not fawning over the other guys for no reason.

“I can help with that,” he said, his mouth turning up at one side in a crooked grin that made my belly dip.

“What?” I was so taken by his magnificent features, I’d forgotten what I’d said.

At my question, his mouth widened into a full-blown smile. Beneath his full lips were perfectly straight, white teeth. I wanted to kiss that mouth. I’d never kissed a man with such a beautiful smile before.

“If you keep looking at my mouth, I’m going to kiss you,” he said.

I studied his lips as he formed the words, unable to pull my eyes away from his mouth. I wanted that. I wanted him to kiss me so badly, my body started trembling. The attraction I felt for him was the strongest, most intense feeling I’d ever had.

“Not yet,” he whispered.

I tore my gaze from his mouth and looked into his beautiful eyes. Rimmed with a circle of dark gray, the centers were sage green flecked with golden brown. Even in the muted limousine light, the colors were vibrant and bold.

“Do you still want an adventure?”

I blinked a couple of times, forcing myself out of my trance. “Yes,” I whispered, surprised at both my answer and that I was actually able to get the word out.

His smile got bigger. “I can do that.”

He might be a stranger, but I felt safe by his side. No matter what we did tonight, it would be amazing just because it was with him.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Emmeline Austin.”

“Emmy. I’m Nick Slater.”

***

“Have you ever been on a roller coaster?” Nick asked as the limo sped away from the curb.

“Once, when I was younger. It scared me though and I didn’t like it.” I hadn’t been scared of the heights, but the insane speed and violent spins had brought me near to tears.

“Roller coaster it is then.”

“Did you not just hear me tell you that it scared me?”

“Sure.” He shrugged. “But this is an adventure. And any adventure worth having is a little scary.”

“How about drinks instead? Or we could catch a show?”

He grabbed my hand. “Come on, Emmy. We’re going for a ride.”

I didn’t miss his cheesy innuendo so I gave him my best eye roll while trudging along behind him.

With a hard tug, he pulled me to his side. Never letting go of my hand, we walked side by side along the crowded sidewalk. My small hand fit in his large grip perfectly and my fingers naturally laced through his.

“Up there. That’s our ride,” he said, raising our linked hands to point out the Stratosphere hotel.

I looked way, way up. A roller coaster car circled the top of the skyscraper. “No. No way. Roller coasters that start at ground level are scary enough. I don’t need to experience one thirty stories up.”

“I dare you to do it.”

“A dare? We’re not in middle school, Nick.”

He stopped walking and stepped right into my space, his minty breath hit my cheek. “A dare’s a dare, Emmy. No matter how old you are. You can tell a lot about a person by their reaction to a dare.”

A flush of warmth spread through my cheeks at his intimate tone and closeness. My heart started to race again. His vibrant eyes were looking down at me with such intensity, my worries and reservations all disappeared. As long as I could look into those eyes, everything would be okay.

***

“Fun?” Nick asked, helping me out of the roller coaster car.

“Yes.” The second the ride had ended, a huge smile had broken across my face.

“Good. Up next we’re going to a strip club.”

“Absolutely not. I have no desire to watch you ogle perfectly plasticized, naked women as they dance around in front of you.”

A crooked grin stretched across his mouth. “Dare you.”

“Oh for the love . . .” I muttered and stomped past him, dragging him along behind me. “Let’s go.”

Nick took the lead when we hit the sidewalk and maneuvered us to our show. I was so happy to be with him, still on a high from the roller coaster, I blanked out the world around us and stuck tightly to his side. When we got close, he asked me to close my eyes and to trust him.

“Okay. Open your eyes, Emmy,” he said against my ear, sending a shiver down my neck.

The smile on my face vanished when I opened my eyes. Somehow he had managed to shield me from the casino signs because, had I seen where he was taking me, I would have vehemently protested.

“What?” My feet refused to step further into the room. We had just walked through the doors to Thunder From Down Under. “I thought you said we were going to a strip club.”

“We are. You just assumed I meant female strippers.”

“I am not watching greased-up men dressed like the Village People gyrate on stage.”

“Too late. Show starts in three minutes. Let’s grab a quick drink and then go to our seats,” he said, dragging me to the bar.

Nick lifted his chin, summoning the female bartender, who ignored the masses of women surrounding us and came directly to him. She was probably glad to have a break from the estrogen and serve the one and only man at this ridiculous show. It didn’t hurt that Nick was smoking hot.

“Four lemon drops. Two shots of Jack straight up,” Nick ordered. One minute later, all six shots were lined up in front of us.

“Here you go, Emmy. Get to it.” He pointed to the lemon drops.

“I can’t take four shots! I’ll puke!” That comment got me strange looks from the horde of women close by.

“Hurry up,” he said, drumming his fingers on the bar. “You’re going to want those.”

“What about you?”

He answered by taking the whiskey shots and throwing them back, one right after the other.

If I didn’t “get to it,” he would just dare me again, so I reluctantly picked up one glass and set the sugar-covered rim on my lips.

After a fortifying breath, I tipped my head back and let the sweet liquid roll straight down my throat, burning all the way to my belly. I grimaced but managed to repeat the process with the other three shots.

“I didn’t even have to dare you that time. You’re relaxing, Emmy.” Nick grinned, leading me away from the bar and to our VIP section seats.

I sank into a moderately cushioned, straight-backed chair, then leaned over to whisper in Nick’s ear. “No judgment if you are, maybe I’ve been misreading things between us, but is this your way of telling me that you’re gay?”

He threw his head back and laughed into the air above us. His laugh was amazing. Rich. Deep. Honest.

And long.

He kept at it until the show started and his sound was masked by the thumping music and the audience’s catcalls. When he finally stopped laughing, he turned and placed both hands on my jaw. His large hands framed my face completely.

I stared at his mouth, waiting to see what he was going to say, but instead of speaking, he licked his lips, sending tingles straight to my center. Then his mouth came crashing down on mine, his soft lips taking over, coaxing my mouth open so he could dip his tongue inside for a taste.

Before I could kiss him back, he pulled back an inch.

“Does that answer your question?” His hands were still framing my face but I managed a nod. He leaned in and kissed the tip of my nose before turning back to the stage.

I stared, unblinking, at his profile, only seeing the show peripherally. A half-naked man had just stripped off his shirt and was parading around in a fireman’s hat and baggy pants.

I barely heard the screams when the stripper started unbuttoning his pants. The beat of my own heart and the rush of blood in my ears were deafening. I was in shock. The way Nick’s lips had moved on mine and the gentle caress of his tongue had been like no other kiss I’d ever had.

So preoccupied, I jumped when a hand landed on the back of my chair. I turned to see what was happening a millisecond before a man’s arm pulled me from my seat and out of the VIP section.

“Have fun!” Nick called before I was whisked up on stage by a stripper dressed as a police officer.

“No way!” I shouted, pulling away from the fake cop. My feet were pointed toward the exit, but I didn’t get two steps into my escape before the nearly naked fireman and the now-shirtless police officer pushed me down into a chair, center stage.

I sat, mortified, as both of them started shaking their manly bits in my face and dry humping my legs. The laughter and the shouts from the audience rang loudly in my ears as my face turned violently red. And above all of the female noise was Nick’s booming male laugh.

Squinting through the bright stage lights, I searched for him in the audience. I lost sight when a third stripper joined the show, this one dressed in a cowboy hat and brown briefs printed with horseshoes.

Nick had been right. I had needed those four shots.

After an eternity, I was released from that torturous chair but I didn’t go back to Nick. I marched straight to the now-deserted bar, where I promptly ordered another two shots.

“You did good, Emmy,” Nick said when he reached my side. “But I think that’s enough crazy for a while. Feel like gambling?”

“If that means we get to leave here, then absolutely, yes.”

He bent down and placed a short, sweet kiss on my forehead. “Let’s go.”

Hand in hand, we walked out of my first and, hopefully, only male strip show to continue our Vegas adventure.

The desert night air had cooled but it was still warm enough that walking in my little black dress was comfortable. I’d bought this dress special for the trip, hoping it would be sexy enough that I wouldn’t look like a librarian compared to Steffie’s wardrobe of slinky dresses and midriff-baring halter tops. It had capped sleeves and a plunging neckline that framed what little cleavage I had. Its short and tight fit gave my petite frame the illusion of curves.

Most of the men around us were dressed in full suits. Just the type of men my father would have expected to see me walking with. If he saw me now, strolling along with Nick, his face would give me that look of disapproval I was all too familiar with.

Nick was dressed in a solid black T-shirt that was strung tightly across his broad chest. When he crossed his arms, it cinched around his large biceps, displaying all the contours of his chiseled frame. He wore a pair of faded jeans that sat perfectly on his hips and muscled thighs. Not to mention the wondrous things they did for his ass.

He looked better than any of the suit-clad men we passed.

Wanting to know more about my handsome new acquaintance, I asked, “Where do you live?”

“Colorado.”

“Oh.” I frowned. Colorado and Connecticut were on opposite sides of the country.

“What are you studying?” he asked.

“Marketing and public relations.”

“That’s what you want to do?”

Taking a deep breath, I told him something that only Steffie knew. “No. But my father is expecting me to go work for his political fundraising company. I hate it, actually. It feels like I’m learning how to be fake and talk people out of their money. I always wanted to be a teacher. I really love kids, but that just isn’t a possibility for me.”

“Life’s short, Emmy. Do what makes you happy.”

My father’s acceptance would make me happy and the only way I’d get it was by obeying his wishes.

Not wanting to dive into that depressing topic, I changed the subject. “What about you, Nick? Do you do something that makes you happy?”

His body tensed and he took a moment before answering. “Kind of.” His tone was final and there would be no further explanation.

The rest of our walk to the casino was in silence, but Nick never once let go of my hand. The more we walked, the firmer his grip became, and by the time we sat down at a blackjack table, both of us had shrugged off our moods and were back to smiling and laughing. Three hundred dollars later, I had a vague sense of the rules and could add “very, very bad at blackjack” to my resume.

Gambling turned into more drinking and then more strolling along the strip. We came to a stop in front of Treasure Island, where Nick and I watched renegade pirates battle each other amidst pyrotechnic explosions.

Standing in the middle of the crowd, Nick wrapped both his arms around me, pulling me securely into his chest. My hands held onto his muscled forearms. Even though we’d shared a kiss, this felt more intimate. It wasn’t as electric as when our lips had touched, but with our bodies resting against each other, I felt a connection to Nick I never wanted to cut.

We fit together perfectly. His big body cradled my small frame, like his arms were made to be wrapped around me and only me.

My cheeks ached from smiling. Nick had made me laugh more in one night than I could remember doing in years. Maybe ever.

And we still had the rest of the night together.

The thought gave me butterflies. For once, I didn’t have to act a certain way or behave according to my family’s set standards. I could just have a good time with the handsome man standing behind me. No rules. No stress. No expectations.

Being with Nick made me feel free. His confidence and easy grace were contagious. I could just be myself. Do whatever I wanted. Say whatever I wanted. This Emmeline was relaxed. Happy.

“Let’s get married,” Nick whispered into my ear.

“What?” I gasped, turning to look up at him with wide eyes. Where had that come from?

“Let’s get married. You said you wanted crazy. Nothing is crazier than two people who just met getting hitched in Las Vegas.”

“We can’t get married!”

His vibrant eyes gleamed as his mouth formed a smug, crooked grin. “I dare you.”

***

“You don’t need to buy me that ring. It’s too much money,” I said.

I turned my eyes to the jewelry. Sitting on a velvet cloth was a two-carat diamond. A ring of smaller diamonds haloed it, and an array of smaller, rectangular diamonds shot out from the sides like sunbeams. The edging formed a Gatsby hexagon set in rose gold.

It was exquisite.

It was expensive. Too expensive.

I didn’t know about Nick’s financial situation and would never put him in a position to overspend.

“Too much money?” he parroted. “Says the girl staying in the Bellagio penthouse suite who rides around in a private limo and just dropped five grand on a hunk of metal for me.”

“I don’t need anything fancy, Nick.”

Framing my jaw with his large hands, he leaned down and kissed the tip of my nose. “Buying you the ring that makes your face light up like the sun is something I want to do. I’d do just about anything to see that look on your face every day. I’m not broke, Emmy. I can buy that ring. But even if I was poor, I’d find a way to get it.”

Wow, that felt good.

My face split into a beaming smile. It didn’t last long because Nick leaned down and captured my mouth. Right in the middle of the jewelry store, our tongues tangled together in a deep kiss. My hands explored the defined ridges of his chest while his arms banded around my lower back and pulled my hips tightly into his.

When he finally broke away, I was breathless and my heart was thundering out of my chest. His hardness had rubbed up against my hip and I was on fire. Swaying sideways on wobbling knees, I clung to Nick’s shirt to keep from falling.

I wanted a kiss like that every day for the rest of my life.

A throat clearing broke our happy bubble. Nick turned to the clerk but kept an arm around my waist to steady me on my feet. He took the ring from the clerk’s hand and slowly slid it onto my finger. Tingles spread from my hand through my arm when it was positioned perfectly against my knuckle.

I admired the jewels and how perfectly they looked on my finger. How perfectly my hand looked in Nick’s.

Gazing up into his vibrant eyes, I knew Nick was the only man for me. I had found the one. Fate, something I hadn’t believed in until tonight, had brought us together. We’d only been with each other for hours but I was undeniably in love.

“When are you two getting married?” the clerk asked.

“Tonight,” Nick said, not taking his eyes from mine.

“Oh, congratulations! Which chapel did you choose?” she asked.

“We haven’t picked one yet.”

“Well, if I may offer a recommendation . . .”

One hour later, Nick helped me climb out of a town car in front of The Clover Chapel.

“Wow.” My eyes raked over the charming, square building.

The white stucco walls were dotted with intricate, stained glass windows made of blues and greens. A small steeple at the peak of the roof held a brass bell. Vines with small, white flowers climbed over the walls, covering the stucco.

The clerk had not been wrong. It was incredible.

I felt Nick’s heat at my side and my fingers naturally found his. I rushed to pull him inside, barely containing my excitement to see the chapel’s interior.

The air evaporated from my lungs the instant we crossed through the pale wooden doors with a tiny four-leafed clover tacked to the top of its frame. The beauty of this chapel was beyond any of my wildest dreams.

Through an arched opening directly in front of us was a short aisle lined with small, wooden pews. At its end was a pergola threaded with greenery, glittering twigs, fairy lights and white magnolia flowers. Hanging white wisteria blooms filled the open ceiling.

We had just walked into a garden wonderland. Someone had reached into my mind and created the setting for my dream wedding.

Magic.

“Hello! Welcome to The Clover Chapel,” the receptionist said. “How can I help you?”

“We’d like to get married tonight,” Nick said.

“Congratulations! Clover will be so excited.” She flipped open a three-ring binder to show us their wedding packages. When we made our choice, she left to find the officiant, Clover herself.

“Are you going to regret this?” Nick asked, pulling me into his arms. His question was sincere. He wouldn’t hold this against me if I chose to call a quit to this dare.

But this wasn’t a crazy adventure for me anymore. It was real.

We were real.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t wearing a designer couture gown and my hair wasn’t in an elaborate updo. I had no desire to spend a fortune on my wedding. I hated the pretentious and over-the-top fiascos my engaged friends were all planning. All I wanted was to marry a man who was the only one for me.

Nick was that man.

I didn’t know all of the mundane details of his life or his past. I’d learn those in time. For now, I knew what was important. Nick was kind, generous and affectionate. He looked at me like I was the only woman in the world.

“No, I won’t regret getting married. Will you?” I hoped with everything I had that his answer was no.

“Abso-fucking-lutely not.”

My breath hitched and I fought to swallow past the lump in my throat. Never in my life had that ridiculous saying sounded so wonderful.

“We’re ready for you,” the receptionist said, popping her head out into the entryway.

Nick held out an elbow and I looped my arm through his before he escorted me down the aisle. Step by step, we strolled together to Clover standing under the arch.

Ten minutes later, we were husband and wife. We had repeated traditional vows, promising to love and cherish one another until death parted us.

With permission to kiss his bride, a smile spread across Nick’s face as he hoisted me up into his arms.

“Hi, Wife.”

“Hi, Husband.”

The light in his eyes was dancing. I imagined that mine looked much the same.

I dropped my lips to his for a kiss that I would never forget. The moment our lips touched, the world around us melted away.

There was only us.

Leaving the chapel, we barely spoke as the receptionist handed us our marriage certificate and wedding photos. The smiles on our faces were so wide they couldn’t be broken for words. Never in my life had I been so deliriously happy.

“Do you believe in fate?” I asked Nick as we rode back to the Bellagio.

“Yeah.”

“Are we going to make this work?” I whispered.

“Fuck yes we are.”

Any lingering anxiety in my stomach vanished. “How?”

“We just are. We belong to each other. Tomorrow, we’ll figure it all out. Tonight, let’s just be us.”

“Okay. Let’s just be us,” I said, thanking all the angels in the heavens that I was lucky enough to have him as mine.

***

“Nick?” I called through the sitting room of the hotel suite.

I’d just woken up alone, and after searching the bedroom and bathroom, I’d walked out to the common area, hoping to find him with coffee. The shots from last night had given me a mild headache and I needed caffeine.

He wasn’t on either sofa or in the kitchenette. I turned back toward the bedroom for some clothes but stopped when a shiny object on the foyer table caught my eye.

The closer I got to the table, the heavier my steps fell on the polished marble floor. I knew that shiny object. It was the platinum band I had placed on Nick’s finger at The Clover Chapel last night.

I reached out and let my fingertips brush the cool metal. Sliding it to the side, I read the one-word note underneath.

Sorry

Excerpt #2

“I want a chance,” Nick said.

“A chance for what?” I asked.

“A chance to start again.”

My mouth fell open. Was he serious? “What? Why?”

“You asked me back then if I believed in fate. I didn’t until I met you. And I’ve spent nine years thinking I’d never see your face again. But fate brought you back into my life and I’m not going to mess it up again.”

I struggled to swallow the lump in my throat and speak. “You left me.”

“Please believe I did it for a good reason. And not a day has gone by when I haven’t regretted it.” He stroked the side of my trapped hand with his thumb.

“Why?” My eyes filled with tears the second the word passed my lips.

“I promise I’ll explain. Just not tonight,” he said.

My heart sank and I sagged into the heavily padded bench seat. This was his test and he had failed miserably. I didn’t want a deflection, a promise to explain later. He could disappear tomorrow for another nine years for all I knew.

“No,” I said. “No chances. You could have found me. You could have explained. You’ve lost your chance.”

His jaw clenched and the muscle on his forehead twitched. If he actually thought a couple of sweet sentences—which lacked an apology, I might add—would have me falling all over him again, he was sorely mistaken.

“I stayed away from you because I figured you would have moved on. But you’re not happy. I can see it plain as day. Give me a chance?”

I looked to the table. “No. I want a divorce.”

“You won’t get one.”

“What?” I gasped, my eyes snapping up to his.

“No divorce. I’ll contest it.”

“Do you really think challenging me and my legal team is a good idea, Nick? You’ll be wasting both our time and money.”

“I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Is this about my money? Is that what you want? Then fine. Name your price. Just let me go.”

“It’s not about your fucking money. It never was. But I’m not letting you go until I get my chance.”

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May 172019
 
 17 May 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Gypsy King BLURB:

Series: Tin Gypsy Book 1

by Devney Perry

The former Tin Gypsy motorcycle club has everyone in Clifton Forge, Montana convinced they’ve locked their clubhouse doors and ripped off their patches. Everyone but Bryce Ryan. There’s more happening at the club’s garage than muscle car restorations and Harley rebuilds. Her instincts are screaming there’s a story—one she’s going to tell.

As the new owner of the small town’s newspaper, Bryce is hungry for more than birth announcements and obituaries. When a woman is brutally killed and all signs point to the Tin Gypsies, Bryce is determined to expose the club and their leader, Kingston “Dash” Slater, as murderers.

Bryce bests Dash match after match, disappointed her rugged and handsome opponent turns out to be an underwhelming adversary. Secrets are exposed. Truths defeat lies. Bryce is poised to win this battle in a landslide.

Then Dash breaks all the rules and tips the scales.

One kiss, and she’s fighting to save more than just her story. She’s fighting to save her heart from the Gypsy King.

Pre Order Link:
Publication Date: October 29, 2019

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Yqx3Qm
Apple: https://geni.us/lNxYz
Nook: https://geni.us/YkLih
Kobo: https://geni.us/THXK

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Apr 242019
 
 24 April 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

BLURB The Candle Palace (Jamison Valley #6) by Devney Perry

Sometimes a single flame can ignite a love that lasts a lifetime.

Milo Phillips knows the meaning of pain. Suffering through the most intense physical agony of his life, he’s confined to a hospital bed to bear it alone. More than once, he wishes he’d died in the explosion that melted and mangled his skin. Darkness consumes him, snuffing all the joy in his life and leaving an empty hole in its place.
But one day, a flicker of light sneaks into his hospital room, driving away some of the hopelessness. For the first time in months, pain isn’t all he feels.

The flicker’s name is Sara Foster, his new nurse. Milo just hopes that Sara can see past his scars. Because underneath, his heart has begun beating again just for her.

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Jan 122019
 
 12 January 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Title: Tattered (Lark Cove #1)
Author: Devney Perry
Publication Date: June 19th 2018
Shelves: Contemporary; Romance;
Format: Kindle (374 pages)
Rating: 7/10

This book got me hooked from the first pages!! This isn’t my first read of Devney Perry’s books, and I am really glad about that!

Blurb:
Thea Landry has always known her place in modern-day society. It’s somewhere just above the trash can her mother dumped her in as a newborn but below the class where much comes easy. With her tattered shoes and bargain-bin clothes, her life has never been full of glamour.
So when a rich and charismatic man takes interest, she doesn’t fool herself into thinking their encounter is anything more than a one-night stand. Months later, she’s kicking herself for not getting his phone number. Or his last name. She’s given up hope of seeing him ever again.
Until one day, years later, Logan Kendrick waltzes into her life once more and turns everything she’s built upside down. This time around, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s going to fight to keep him in her life—not for herself.
But for their daughter.

Tattered starts with our two main characters meeting at her place of work, where she’s a bartender and he’s a very charming man. Thea and Logan soon share a night together and part ways after that. Play forward 6 years and we find out that she had his baby, without any way of contacting him and moves to Montana to start a new life there. They meet unexpectedly on his business trip there and soon their chemistry returns and they give each other a new chance.

“I’d never forgotten Thea, even after all these years…”

I just love books of second chances and most of all, ones where cute babies are involved. I just love the pace of the story how it unfolds and how they time everything up based on their little girl, Charlie.

“How are we going to handle this?”
Her eyebrows came together. “Handle what?”
“Us. There’s no way I’m not going to kiss you today. I’m wondering if you want me to hide it from her. Or if you’re okay with her knowing that her dad is crazy about her mom.”

Reading about a single mother that managed to start over and be fierce for her baby girl always soothes me and how a father learns to love his daughter so fiercely always make me want to come back reading some more. It also made me a bit happy that Charlie never made it easy on Logan, which made all of it much more heartbreaking to read.
They try to have things started again, but when they can’t find a common ground on who should move where, will everything fall apart? Or will they see that what mostly matters in life is family and loving each other?

Click here for the Prologue and Chapter One for you as a preview.


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Jan 122019
 
 12 January 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Devney Perry will release Tinsel, her 4th book of Lark Cove’ series on 19th February 2019.

Sofia Kendrick has always cherished her tiara. As the youngest daughter of a wealthy New York family, she’s lived the life of an American princess. But after two scandalous divorces and a breakup smear her name across the society rags, the shine from her crown has dulled. People call her superficial, even gaudy.

She’s nothing more than tinsel.

Desperate for escape and starving for peace, Sofia heads to Montana for a holiday weekend with her brother. But she doesn’t get the relaxing vacation she planned. Instead, she’s put to work in a bar alongside Dakota Magee—a man who does not want her help. A man who is set on teaching her a few lessons about real life and hard work. But Sofia has a couple of life lessons of her own to teach. Like how to fall in love.

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