Aug 212019
 
 21 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

His Wicked Games (The Cunningham Family #1) by Ember Casey

Trapped with a billionaire in his mysterious mansion… Can she beat him at his own game?

Lily Frazer would do anything to save the Frazer Center for the Arts–even take on the infamous billionaire Calder Cunningham. When Lily breaks onto the Cunningham estate, she only wants to find and reason with Calder. (All right, all right, she wants to punch him in the face, too, but that’s Plan B.) As it turns out, the arrogant billionaire is willing to give her the money he promised, but there’s a catch: she must win it from him.

Lily isn’t about to give up the money without a fight (or let some haughty bastard seduce her), but she quickly discovers that there might be more to the brooding Calder than she initially perceived. As their games of cat and mouse become increasingly intense, she suddenly finds herself confused by her own emotions. Can she deny her attraction long enough to win the money she needs?

Excerpt His Wicked Games (The Cunningham Family #1) by Ember Casey

“I know you haven’t had many chances to visit the Center,” I say, sliding my finger across the edge of my glass, “but I really think if you came by you’d see how much work we do for the community. And how much your family’s contributions mean for our programs.”

I glance up to find Calder staring at me, his fork frozen halfway between his plate and his mouth. He lowers it again slowly, his eyes still locked on me, and I squirm in my seat.

“Not yet,” he says, taking up his wineglass.

I stare at him, confused. “What?”

“It’s not time to discuss it yet.” He takes a sip of his wine. “I think we should enjoy our dinner first.”

I frown. “We had an agreement.”

“We still do. You sit through dinner with me, and I sit through your speech about your little Center.” He leans toward me, his eyes intent on mine. “Trust me, Ms. Frazer, I always keep my word.”

“I’m not sure I do trust you, Mr. Cunningham,” I say.

His hand slides toward mine on the table, and his finger brushes against the back of my palm. It sends a tiny shiver up my arm.

Calder smiles, his eyes dancing wickedly. “You should, Ms. Frazer. Believe me, I think you would enjoy the experience very much.”

I snatch my hand away from him.

“I’m not going to fall for that,” I say. “I’m not one of your little supermodels. I’m here for the Center, that’s all.”

I can tell from the way the corner of his mouth curls up that he doesn’t believe me. This guy isn’t used to women resisting his charms.

“I broke onto your property,” I remind him. “And I dripped mud all over your precious house. Besides, I don’t think I’m your type.”

“You don’t think I can admire a woman with a little spirit? I told you before, Ms. Frazer, I admire your tenacity. And a few of your other assets, truth be told.”

“You didn’t seem particularly admiring when you were threatening to call the cops on me,” I counter. “If you think you can make me forget about why I’m here, that I’ll just throw over the Center for the chance to sleep with you or something, you’re an idiot.”

Humor dances in his eyes. “I never suggested that. I’ve already made it clear that I’m attracted to you, and it’s quite obvious that you’re attracted to me as well. I’m just saying that I don’t see why you can’t have it both ways. Or, come to think of it, why I can’t have you a few dozen ways in the meantime.”

“You’re disgusting,” I say, standing up and throwing my napkin down on the table. “This is serious. The Frazer Center has done remarkable things for this community and its people—more things than you’ll ever appreciate or, dare I say it, do yourself, despite all your money or your fucking talking closets and fancy ceilings. If you refuse to talk about it… if you’re just going to be ridiculous and crude, then fine. I won’t waste any more of your time.” I turn and storm toward the door.

“You can’t leave,” Calder says calmly after me.

“Watch me.”

“No,” he says, just as my hand reaches the doorknob. “I mean it’s actually impossible for you to leave. Do you remember crossing the river on your way out here? The road between here and Barberville floods whenever there’s heavy rain. With a storm like this, it’s probably under three feet of water by now.”

My blood goes completely cold. I freeze, my fingers closed around the doorknob.

“You’re lying.”

“I’m afraid not,” he says, still as calm as ever. He raises his wineglass to his lips and takes another sip. “I’m afraid, Ms. Frazer, whether you like it or not, you’ll be staying here with me tonight.”

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Aug 202019
 
 20 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Rebel (Rebel Wheels #1) by Elle Casey

NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, ELLE CASEY brings readers Book 1 of 3 in the New Adult Romance Series, REBEL WHEELS.

Teagan Cross, college senior, rebel, and wiseass extraordinaire, goes from princess to pauper in a single phone call. Overnight, her life of privilege becomes one of survival, and no matter where she turns, it seems like the world is out to get her. She’s not going to fall apart, though. She’s a rebel and she’s strong … determined to live life on her own terms … and nothing’s going to stop her from getting things done and making things right. But when a twist of fate brings her to the doorstep of a different kind of Rebel, she’s forced to figure out when something’s worth fighting for and when something’s worth letting go.

Content Warning: Contains sexy adult situations, creative foul language, and some mild violence. May not be appropriate for younger readers.

Excerpt Rebel (Rebel Wheels #1) by Elle Casey

My name’s Teagan. I know, I know … the name. Twenty-two years ago, my mother thought a Welsh name for her only child would be beautiful. Teagan means pretty, so it should have fit perfectly. Who has an ugly baby, right? I guess I did okay in the looks department. I’m not too short, not too tall. Eating chips and gummy bears every day has no effect on my somewhat athletic frame, and I’ve been told my green eyes compliment my pale complexion. The problem with the name Teagan is my mom never considered the creative names kids would morph it into.

“Yo, Teabag, what’s up?”

I flip Perry Spitler off, but he just laughs as he passes on by.

He and I have an understanding; when we see each other on campus, he insults me, I flip him off, and we never actually talk. It suits us both just fine. Making out with him and then ralphing on his shoes in freshman year was one of the best moves I’ve ever made in my climb up the social ladder at UCLA.

“Why do you even talk to that douche canoe?” asks my friend Quin as she brushes out her long, black hair. Quinlan is her real name, but she refuses to answer to it. We both have a thing with names, which is only one of the many reasons we get along so well. “I hear he puts toy cars in dark places on weekends.” She puts away her brush and takes a bite of an energy bar, chewing it like a cow and waiting for my reaction.
I’m both intrigued and disgusted. “And by toy cars and dark places we mean…” I twist my longish, wavy brown hair up into a bun and stick a pencil in it to keep it from falling to my shoulders again. It’s frigging hot out here in the student union today. Dry heat, my butt.

“Literally. Like that movie Jackass. He put a toy car in his asshole at a party the other night.”

I snort in disbelief and disgust. “He did not.”

Quin puts up her hand like a girl scout. “Swear. Guy’s an asscar driver.”

I’m really happy I barfed on him now. Really, really happy. The kiss we shared? Well, we’ll just tally that up to a serious lapse in judgment on my part. In my defense, there were copious amounts of beer involved.

I can’t help but stare at his butt as he goes by. “Remind me not to accept any rides from him in the future.”

We collapse in immature giggles that have Perry turning around and frowning. Watching his face and imagining that I can see he’s walking with a slight limp only makes it worse. By the time I can see clearly again, he’s gone.

“Man, I totally needed that.” I can feel the good mood drugs floating around in my brain. Now the upcoming Summer of Doom doesn’t seem quite so bleak.

“You ready for summer break?” Quin asks, crumpling up the wrapper to her energy bar and throwing it on the ground.

I lean down and pick it up, sighing as I stick it in my bag. This is her thing. This is my thing. This is how we roll, with her being a pain in the ass and me picking up after her. “No. I’m not ready. I want to stay here and hang out with you and all the cool people.”

“No, you don’t. Do you know how hot it gets here in the summer? Ugh.” She brushes crumbs off her lap. “I am going to literally cook in my own skin, like a poached egg.”

“You forget, I’ve lived here for almost four years now, and No Cal isn’t that different.”

“But you always leave in the summer, and No Cal is different, so that doesn’t count. By the time you get back this September for your very last semester – by the way, you completely suck for graduating before me – all the poaching will be done.”

“You should come with me. Silicon Valley’s got a drier heat than LA.” I’m lying, but she’ll never know.

She faces me, not smiling. That’s a rare expression for her, as Quin-grins come frequently and often without provocation. We’re not much alike in that way; my smiles are rationed for only truly happy moments.

“You should invite me, and maybe I would,” she says.

“I always invite you.”

“No, you don’t. You just say, ‘You should come.’ That’s not the same thing.”

“What do you want, an engraved invitation?” A tiny spark of hope glimmers in my chest. Summer would only suck half as much if Quin were with me back at my father’s place.

“Yes. That would work.” She sniffs and looks off into the distance.

“I’ll seriously do it, if that’s what it would take to finally get you up there.”

“No, don’t bother. I can’t go.”

“Why? Because LA’s social scene would never survive without you?”

“No.” She stands, brushing off her legs. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

“Late for what? My classes were all done as of twenty minutes ago.”

“I have an appointment with a milkshake over at McDonald’s House of Horrors. Come on. Your treat.”

We begin the long walk across campus. “I’ll pay for your ticket,” I say, testing the waters. I don’t know why I bother, though.

“Nope. I pay my own way.”

“Do you have the money?”

“No. You know I’m broke.” Quin is always broke. She lives off the kindness of others and a scholarship. I’m not even sure what the scholarship is for. Do they give scholarships for being a smartass? Because if they do, she qualifies for a full ride.

“Then let me pay,” I say.

“No.”

“You can pay me back.”

“No.”

I try a different tack. “It’s because you don’t like me, I know. Admit it.”

“No, that’s not it, and if you try and guilt me into doing it, we won’t be friends anymore.”

“That’s a lie.”

“Yes, it is, but still … I won’t let you pay.”

I give her my puppy dog eyes. “I’m going to be desperately lonely.”

“No, you won’t be. You’ll have a bodyguard babysitter.”

I sigh. “They always suck.”

“That last one didn’t.”

“The last one was like forty years old!”

“So? What do you want to do? Fuck them or just have them take a bullet for you?”

“Can’t I do both?”

We laugh, knowing I’m full of crap. I actually liked the last guy assigned to babysit me, the guy being paid to assuage my father’s paranoia. He actually believes there are people in silicon valley trolling the neighborhoods for executives’ kids, since according to him they’d make really excellent kidnapping targets.

Jim was the name of my last babysitter. Maybe I’ll get him again and we can play chess all summer like we did last year. I’ve never slept with one of my dad’s employees. They’re always married, ugly, old, or a trifecta of all three. Besides, my dad would kill us both if I did something that stupid. We don’t fraternize with the help.

That’s what my uber arrogant step-mother says, anyway, although I’m not so sure she hasn’t put that rule to the side from time to time with the pool boy. Seriously … I’m not kidding. The pool boy.

“What are you thinking about right now?” Quin asks me. “I.O.U. for your thoughts.”

“I’m thinking how much I hate The Heinous One for being such a bag of dicks.”

Quin smiles. “I’m really looking forward to meeting your step-mother at graduation, you know that? I’m totally going to call her that to her face.”

I smile back. “Me too. Some day.” When I find a way to support myself and don’t have to worry about my father cutting me off.

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Aug 202019
 
 20 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Conclave Part I (Devil’s Night) Bonus Scene by Penelope Douglas

Can’t get enough of Kill Switch? Well, thankfully, Penelope Douglas gave us a bonus scene where Damon and Winter’s baby boy came into the world.

I had goose bumps all over reading this.

Enjoy!

Oh, and make sure to check out our review on Kill Switch!

Book Review Kill Switch by Penelope Douglas

*There is a part 2 coming on Devil’s Night. This doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but it does tease of the next scene to come. Please read with caution as Part II will not be released until October 30. This scene will remain on Penelope Dougla’s website, so feel free to go there if you want to wait for Part II to release. Happy reading!

DAMON

I walk in, dropping my keys on the entryway table as I pass on my way to the kitchen. I dart my eyes up.

There are no lights on upstairs.

If she left me, I’m going to burn the whole fucking world down until I find her, and if she took my kid, I’m really going to take my time with her. This is bullshit. When I call, you answer. When my men pass you the phone, you take the goddamn call! I have no idea what the hell I did now, but I’m going to have to break something to keep myself from wringing her precious, little neck.

Cutting my trip short to race home, because she decides to ignore my calls and do little pirouettes all over my peace of mind? What the fuck? I knew I should’ve been single. I knew that I knew that, because this is what women do, isn’t it? They take you and ball you up into a nice, little fucking knot until you can’t breathe, and…

I clench my fists, shaking my head. Bullshit. This is such bullshit!

I charge down the hall toward the kitchen, ready to hit the attached garage and grab myself some rope to remind her who she’s in love with, but I spot a figure out on the patio and stop.

It’s raining outside. Who’s there?

I change directions and head for the windows.

Heath Davis, one of the guards Mr. Garin hired for the night shift, leans against the bricks of the house, shielded from the rain under the awning. His hands sit in his pockets and a cigarette hangs out of his mouth. Smoke billows into the air above his head, and I lick my lips, trying to ignore the burning need on my tongue. The problem with quitting smoking is it’s really hard if you never fully quit.

His black hair, neatly combed back, shines under the flaming porch light, and his blue eyes are turned toward the yard, watching something.

I follow his gaze.

Winter stands waist deep in the pool, her back to us as droplets pummel the surface of the water and her hair sticks to her back.

I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. She’s there.

She raises her arms, gliding them through the evening rain as she steps to the right, and then swings out her arms and steps to the left.

She’s dancing. She practices in the pool a lot for balance.

But then I watch as she pulls all of her hair to one side, revealing her naked back, and I drop my eyes down her spine to her naked waist and hips.

I dip my chin, my eyes going hot. She’s not wearing any clothes.

I move just my eyes, darting them over to Davis. He doesn’t blink, his gaze staying on her.

When I said watch her every minute, I didn’t mean that.

Winter turns around, still fisting her hair with both hands, so her arms are covering her breasts, but I notice the white tulle she wears covering her face, and my heart feels like it’s skipping ten beats. It’s part of the costume for her upcoming show, and she’ll practice with it to get used to it.

But only wearing that and no clothes—and as far as she knows, I’m not here to see it—really pisses me off.

I watch as she drops her arms and sways to the side, shooting out her hands and twirling in the rain. Her wild hair, the see-through fabric on her face, her perfect breasts and skin…

God, she’s fucking surreal. With something about her that will always be innocent. Thunder cracks overhead, splitting the sky, and I no longer care if she’s angry or why. I want in that pool.

Heading over to the fridge, I pull a sandwich off the tray inside and take a butcher knife out of the block, slicing the square in half before walking outside. I take a bite with the knife still in my other hand.

Davis notices me right away and straightens, stomping out his cigarette. I stare out at Winter, her slender body arching and bending and taunting the fuck out of me like she’s so good at doing. My dick swells in my pants, and I cast him a quick glance. I’ll bet his is good and hard, too.

Davis clears his throat. “You said to watch her every minute.”

I take another bite and scrape the blade across the wrought-iron fence, cleaning the mustard off.

“Excuse me, sir.” And I see him dip his head out of the corner of my eye and back away to leave.

But I stop him. “Give me your belt.”

He pauses. “Sir?”

I sheath the knife in the flower pot in front of me, stabbing the soil.

He clears his throat again, and I hear a jangling as he quickly removes his leather belt.

He holds it out for me, and I take it. “If you ever insult my wife again,” I tell him, “I’ll take my son fishing using your eyeballs as bait.”

“Yes, sir.”

It’s not Winter’s fault. She’s in her home, it’s late, and she should be able to expect privacy.

I fling the rest of the sandwich into the bushes and slide the end of the belt through the buckle. “Go home,” I tell him.

After a moment, I hear the back door open and close, and I head for the pool deck, belt in hand.

Raining, dark, enclosed by trees… I stalk toward her, quiet and calm. It’s like we’re kids again. I love being hidden with her outside.

Winter dances slowly, her movements long and languorous with no real choreography as she freestyles to the soft, haunting tune coming from the pool house. Her wet skin glimmers in the faint glow coming from the house, and I don’t take my eyes off her as I strip off my clothes.

Leaving them in a pile on the ground, I grip Davis’s black, leather belt in my hand and hop in the pool. She stops moving, turning her head at the sound, but she doesn’t face me or say anything.

She knows it’s me.

Threading the strap through my fist, I walk through the heated water, taking in the glittering droplets on her shoulder blades as the rain hits my own head and arms.

I stop right behind her, the top of her head resting under my chin.

“I have something for you.” I lean down, grazing her ear with my lips. “You want it?”

But she turns her head away.

I cock an eyebrow, widening the gap in the belt.

“You must be very angry,” I say. “I call, you don’t answer. I send flowers—fucking flowers, Winter—and I don’t even get a text. I tap into the cameras, and you have them offline…”

She refuses to turn around.

I drop the loop over her head and pull the slack tight, her body slamming back into mine.

She gasps, and I look down, seeing her breasts rise and fall quickly.

I dip down again. “What did I do now, huh?” I growl low in her ear.

But she whips around, the belt slipping through my hand as she sloshes through the pool and away from me.

I grind my teeth together, following her with my eyes. She stands up tall again, defiant with her hands on the surface of the pool in front of her, so she can feel me coming.

The strap of the belt wraps around her neck, the slack falling down her back, and while I can barely make out her eyes, I see her pink lips, panting through the wet fabric.

“Not talking to me?” I start to circle her. “Hmm… I must’ve done something very bad.”

Her hair sticks to one of her breasts, and I can almost feel them between my lips.

And I no longer give a shit what she’s mad about, because I want her in our bed.

“Come here,” I tell her.

But she moves away instead, sensing my approach.

“Come here, Winter,” I say more firmly.

She continues to circle as I circle, the rain dancing across the pool and splashing up onto her stomach. Every inch of her skin is drenched, and my mouth is suddenly so dry.

“Now.”

But she tips her chin up a little, keeping her lips good and closed.

I grin, hoping she can hear it in my voice, because I’m losing my fucking patience. “Your sister came when she was called,” I taunt.

And that is it. Winter’s icy façade suddenly cracks. Her eyes go wide and then quickly morph into a glare as she shoots out both hands and shoves water at me.

I dive in and grab her as she’s distracted, throwing her over my shoulder. “Such a troublesome girl,” I scold, slapping her ass. “Why couldn’t I like the easy one? But no, I wanted this one.”

I hold her in my arms, but she arches back up, facing down at me with a scowl as she pushes at my chest.

Darting out my tongue, I run it up her stomach, licking off the water. A whimper escapes her, but she turns her head away, playing defiant.

My dick is ready to go, but it’s funny. As mad as she gets me, I secretly love it. I like it when it’s not easy. I take some skin between my teeth, looking up to see her eyes close as she digs her nails in my shoulders.

“Yell at me,” I whisper. “Scream. Hit me.”

I grip her ass in my hands, keeping my eyes on her as I graze the underside of her breast with my mouth.

“You mad at me?” I say against her skin, seeing her nipples, erect and hard for me.

She says nothing.

My lips tickle her breasts as I continue taunting her. “You want to leave and find yourself a decent man?”

She doesn’t want someone else. She better not want someone else. She likes me misbehaved. She likes me, period.

She still doesn’t answer, but she’s no longer pushing me away.

I quirk a smile. “You wanna touch me?”

When she doesn’t say anything, I shift her to one arm and grab the belt at her back with my free hand and pull, forcing her neck back as I catch one nipple between my teeth.

She gasps. “Damon.”

I nibble hard, biting into her breast and sucking on it as her clit throbs against my stomach.

“You hate me?” I play, walking to the edge of the pool and dropping her to her feet. “You done with me? Is that it?”

I push her into the wall, seeing a smile peek out before she quickly hides it again.

“You hate what I do to you?”

She bites her bottom lip, breathing hard.

I whip her around, wrapping my arm around her waist as I press her into the pool edge and breathe hot into her hair. My dick is so hard, I can already feel it dripping.

“Talk to me,” I tell her.

Reaching around, I tip her chin up toward me and cover her mouth through the fabric, an electric current shooting through me at the feel of her tongue brushing my lips, but I can’t get at it, because of the tulle. My whole body hurts. I need her.

“Talk to me,” I whisper against her mouth. “Please.”

She keeps silent.

I nibble her lips, sliding my hand down her ass and teasing that little spot that scares her just a little.

She shudders as I push her forward and force her knee up onto the step. She leans onto the pool deck as I rub her clit with one hand and her ass with the other. My dick naturally finds where to go, pressing into her tight, little entrance.

I see her gulp.

“Talk to me,” I warn her. “If you want me to stop me…”

Then you’re going to have to ask.

Her jaw flexes as she keeps her mouth shut, and I’m not even mad. I don’t want to stop. The rain falls around us, and I lean down, sucking the water off her back as the head of my cock presses into her, and I hear her whimper as I push through her tight little opening and stop.

“Damon,” she pants, her chin trembling nervously at where I’m going. “Damon…”

But I clamp my hand over her mouth and pull her back to me, her back arching so goddamn beautiful, and I’m not even all the way inside her yet.

“You had you your chance,” I whisper in her ear. “My turn.”

I slowly slide the rest of the way in, taking it in stride as much for me as for her. She needs to adjust, but she’s so damn tight I’ll be done before we even start.

I bury myself to the hilt, feeling the cool skin of her ass pressed into my hips, and I pause for a moment to let her get used to it. Her body shakes in my arms, but as soon as her breathing starts to slow, I start moving.

Gliding in and out, shallow at first, I feel her constrict around me, and I’m reeling. I don’t care what I did. I’d happily take an eight-hour flight for this. All she has to do is ask.

After a minute, I feel her start to back up into it, meeting me halfway, and I remove my hand from her mouth.

“Don’t talk,” I tell her. “Just take it.”

I grip her hip in one hand and the belt with the other and fuck her tight, little ass, taking out all the frustration she causes me that I love. I kiss and bite her neck and lips, eating her up as I sink my body into hers with her moans filling my ears.

“Decent men don’t do this,” I tell her. “But that’s why I wanted this one. She’s a devil just like me.”

She digs her nails into the pool deck, her neck pulled back by the belt, and I look down, watching my dick slide in and out of her as her wet hair bounces against her ass.

“Harder,” she moans.

I take her hand and put it on her clit, watching her arm move quick as she rubs herself, while I fuck her.

Her moans get louder, I feel her body shake, and I pound harder as I pull the belt as taut as I can.

She screams, and I’m immediately behind her, coming with three more hard thrusts and every muscle burning to exhaustion.

Oh, God. My whole body fires up, my stomach explodes with pleasure, and I release the belt, letting her fall forward before I break her neck. She lays over the edge, whimpering and breathing hard, and I unclench my fingers from her hips, withdrawing my nails from her skin.

She whines a little when I slide out of her, but I don’t move otherwise. Leaning down, I rest my forehead into her back.

“I love you,” I say.

She doesn’t respond, and I’m too weak to keep up the pretense.

“Okay, okay,” I admit. “Yeah, I may have threatened your choreographer with…” I search for words that won’t piss her off, “removal of certain limbs. I don’t like him putting his hands there. I put my hands there.”

He doesn’t need to hold her that far up her inner thigh, for Christ’s sake, I don’t care what the lift is called or if he’s gay. Just no.

“They all need to fucking know,” I explain. “They’ll respect you, and they will respect me, so by the time Ivarsen is old enough to notice, they won’t need to be reminded again.” I stand up and turn her around, guiding her legs around me as we float back into the pool. “The only one who can bring Ivar Torrance’s father to his knees is Ivar’s mother.”

I want them all to respect me. He doesn’t touch my wife like that, and if that means they fear me, then okay.

She purse her lips to one side, looking unimpressed but not really angry anymore.

I rub her nose with mine. “Forgive me?”

She lets out a sigh but then slowly nods.

I smile, relieved. “Talk to me then?”

But then she shakes her head.

I growl and push back, letting her go. “Then if that’s not it, what the hell did I do then?” I slap the water. “Goddammit!”

She stands up, replying flatly, “You won the bet.”

And then she turns around, finding the edge of the pool and hopping out.

The bet…

It only takes a moment for the light to dawn, and I realize what she’s talking about. The bet. My chest swells, and a smile spreads across my face as I dive for the edge of the pool, catching up with her.

“And you let me fuck you like that?” I scold, hopping out of the pool and lifting her up again.

Her arms and legs wrap around me, and I gaze up at her beautiful face as she strips off the mask and the belt.

“Yes, because I needed that,” she admits, looking embarrassed. “You know I’m all over you in the first trimester, especially.”

I laugh and squeeze her harder. I never actually thought I’d succeed. After Ivarsen was born, I wanted to keep going. Kids in our twenties, raise them in our thirties, and ship them off to college in our forties when we’re still young enough to have the house to ourselves and still be kinky, you know?

But she read some study that gifted children are usually only children or in families where the kids are five years or more apart. She wanted Ivar to have our complete attention during his formative years or some shit.

So we made a bet. She would get pregnant if I could get her pregnant. While she was on birth control.

I knew I was Superman.

“You’re mad you’re pregnant again?” I tease.

“I’m mad I lost the bet,” she snaps.

I kiss her. “Do you really think I’d not let you have something you wanted?”

She smiles. “Really?”

“You want a motorcycle, you get a motorcycle.”

Her face lights up with her beautiful, excited smile, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to take her out in the middle of the night on the empty roads.

After the baby comes, of course.

“I love you,” she finally says back.

“Good.”

I let her down, and we both walk to the pool house, grabbing towels laid out under the awning.

“And in all fairness, I wasn’t trying to cut your trip short,” she explains. “I’m sorry. I was just making you mad enough that you’d hunt me down when you got home.”

A mischievous smile spreads over her face.

Honestly, I don’t even care anymore. Michael and Kai can handle the meetings, and I love the angst in the games Winter and I play. When we’re in bed—or the pool—it never feels like we left high school. We’re perpetually two horny teenagers, and I feel alive in my life every day.

I wrap a towel around my waist. “Has he been good?”

“Yeah.” She nods. “The nanny wanted to give him a sliver of chocolate to see his reaction, but I told her we needed to wait for you.”

Hell yes. First chocolate? That’s big.

Winter was timid about having a nanny at first, guilty that she couldn’t do everything herself, but it’s been good. It gives us a little more time alone here and there, too.

She covers herself, and I take her hand. “Come on. I wanna see him.”

I know he’s asleep, but it’s been a week.

But she digs in her heels, stopping us. “He’s um…”

I look at her, my nerves instantly firing. “What?”

“He’s um…” She swallows. “Not here.”

Excuse me?

“He’s not here?” I repeat. “He’s twelve months old, Winter. Where is he?”

She shifts on her feet. “Rika wanted him for the night.”

“Rika…” I say. “And she took him to Meridian City?”

Winter turns her head away, telling me all I need to know.

I nod and grab her hand, leading her back to the house. “Of course not.”

***

Minutes later, we’re in the car and racing down the road, heading for the Fane house. I can’t believe they’d do this while I was away. If I hadn’t come back tonight, would I ever have known?

Winter sits up, dressed in a jeans and navy blue sweater, her wet hair combed and in a tight ponytail as she faces my direction. “Don’t be mad at me.”

“You know how I feel about this,” I tell her, grinding the wheel in my fist. “There’s no one else on my side. Not even Nik. You need to stand by me on this.”

“I am,” she rushes out. “I just… I don’t know.” A look of guilt crosses her face. “I guess I felt sorry for her. Rika said she’d be there every minute. I wouldn’t put him in danger, Damon.”

His “grandmother” is danger.

I want to be angry with Winter. She, above anyone else, should stand by me. She knows why I don’t want Ivarsen around Christiane, and it’s for good fucking reason.

But it’s not like I don’t go behind her back to educate her choreographer from time to time or see to it that her old pal Ethan suddenly lost his interest in photography.

But this is our son, dammit. They don’t get to make decisions about him without me. Rika has no business sticking her nose in this.

“You know she can’t prove herself if you don’t give her a chance,” Winter points out.

“She had a chance.”

After a short pause, Winter adds, “Yeah, so did we.” Her voice is somber as we both stare out the windshield. “Thank goodness we gave each other another one.”

***

I storm through the dark house, holding Winter’s hand, and spot Rika standing outside the library, looking through the windows in the closed doors. A couple of other people stand next to her, and I charge over, the sight of Christiane holding a sleeping Ivar in her arms as she sits in a chair coming into view beyond the glass. A man is in the room with her, reading quietly on the sofa as she rocks my kid.

I reach out and grab the handle, but Rika twists around and steps in front of me, covering my hand with hers.

“Move,” I order her.

“She’s not hurting him.”

“That’s right. She won’t.”

“Damon, calm down,” the guy next to her says.

I look over, seeing Will’s cousin, Misha.

I glare at him. “Eat my dick.”

Winter groans at my side, and some chick with Misha comments, “Oh, so this is Damon.”

But I turn my anger back on Rika.

She stares up at me, holding my stare. “Misha?” she says. “Will you give us a second?”

Yes, please. Piss off.

Winter slides out of my hand. “Misha, can you show me the sun room?” she asks him and then to us, “I’ll let you two have at it. Sorry, Rika.”

“Sorry for putting you in the middle, Winter,” Rika tells her.

They leave, and I try to push past her, my eyes darting from her to Ivar.

“That kid doesn’t absolve you.” Rika inches in front of me again, trying to catch my eyes. “He doesn’t make your past go way or make you better than her.”

I get in her face, gritting out. “Move.”

But she doesn’t. “You tied me to a bed,” she says. “Kissed me. Bit me. Even as I cried.”

The memory of all the times I tried to hurt her—did hurt her—rushes at me, but I push them away.

“Wanted to share me with your friends,” she goes on. “Wanted me to yourself for a little while, too, remember that?”

My stomach knots. What the hell?

“Your little sister…” she taunts.

I grab her arm and pull her away from the doors, shoving her into the wall. “You shut up about that shit,” I whisper, seething down at her. “I never want to hear about it again.”

“You threw me on the ground and tried to take off my clothes…”

I rear back, running my hand through my hair. What the fuck? I thought we were okay. Why is she doing this?

“I didn’t want you,” she continues to fucking talk, “but you forced your mouth on me anyway.”

Taking her by the wrist, I pull her into the kitchen, her bare feet stumbling across the hardwood floors. I force her into the wall and glare down at her.

“I would never have done anything,” I growl, no longer keeping my shit to a whisper. “I would never have hurt you!”

“I know.”

She answers so quickly and so easily that I hesitate, because I expected her to argue.

She knows. She knew.

Well, at least there’s that. But still… She can’t compare Christiane to me. We’re not the same. Yes, I made enough mistakes to last a lifetime, but I’m not a bad parent, and that’s just about the worst thing you can be.

And she was bad for twenty-three consecutive years. Not only did she completely abandon her child, but she put me in the hands of people who were evil.

I made my mistakes when I was young. When I was angry. When I was…alone.

I’m not those things anymore.

What does Christiane have to say for herself, huh?

“And I know you never will hurt me,” Rika tells me, her eyes soft and glistening. “I trust you. So trust me.”

I narrow my eyes, part of me wanting to give her what she wants. It’s only fair, and I want to trust her.

But she’s too good at getting what she wants out of me. Of sacrificing her queen to get my king.

We stare at each other, her words hanging in the air, but then I hear a ringing, and she raises her fingers to her ear, tapping on her earpiece.

“Erika Fane,” she answers the phone, holding my eyes. “Charles, so nice to hear from you.”

A glint hits her eyes, and I stand up straight, but she stays glued to the wall, watching me as she talks.

“Yes, my assistant sent the itinerary. I can’t wait.” She smiles.

I slowly release the knots in my stomach, calming my breathing as I wait for her.

Charles…itinerary…She’s been busy, trying to finish her degree and mayor the town. It’s impressive, though. Putting her into position was one of the better ideas I’ve ever had.

“Oh, rest assured our future alumni are in good hands,” she tells whoever she’s talking to. “I’ll be there early.” She laughs as I hear a male voice on the other end. “Oh, yeah, you know me. Overprepared every time.”

I watch her, graceful and well-spoken. A true player.

“No, Michael is in London,” she tells him. “But keep his seat open.” She eyes me. “I might still be escorted.”

I almost snort. As in moi?

Bitch just took my king. She knows I want this. Escorting her to a function in Thunder Bay. Making a public appearance at a respectable event. Having my wife, my kids, and my sisters around me and slowly building my family and our world, so that when my kid—my children—are old enough to remember, they won’t know it was any other way.

She does trust me. God, I don’t know why, but… she did let me go when she could’ve turned me in. And then she rescued me and bled for me and fought with me…

“I know what you do to parents who hurt you,” she finally says, returning to our discussion. “Do you really think I’d put her in your path if I weren’t sure?”

My mouth curls a little, amused. “You scared of me?”

“Oh, lots.” She nods exaggeratedly.

I laugh and turn around, relaxing a little as I walk to the sink and fill up a glass of water.

I gulp down all of it as she pulls some things out from the refrigerator.

She pulls up her hair into a bun and takes out a slice of bread, scooping some tuna onto the slice.

A hunger pang hits at the smell, and I realize all I had to eat today was that half sandwich a half hour ago. Coming to stand at her side, I take a slice out, too, and scoop some tuna salad onto the bread.

“Charles,” I repeat the name of who she was just talking to. “Kincaid?”

As in our old dean who’s still dean of Thunder Bay Prep and helped Winter’s father take me down the morning I was arrested?

Rika smiles to herself, and I look down to see her take her single slice filled with tuna and fold it in half, peeling off the top crust. I falter, glancing down at my sandwich, which is already folded the same way. Huh.

“I’m giving the orientation speech tomorrow for the incoming seniors,” she explains, taking a bite.

“And Michael and Kai are in London,” I add, “trying to wrangle that architect.”

I was there, too, until Winter decided to be funny.

So Rika had no one to escort her, except me.

She trails around the island, sitting down on a stool.

She props up her elbows on the counter. “I mean, you don’t have to escort me,” she explains. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. And the Andersons will be there, not to mention Kincaid still hates you, so…”

Is she trying to get me excited?

“You just might steal the show.” She feigns a sigh, sounding forlorn. “And I know how you like to keep a low profile.”

I chuckle, peeling off my crust. She’s as good as Winter at playing me, but I can’t say I don’t enjoy it.

But… I also know she wants a show of trust, too.

I don’t want Ivarsen around Rika’s mother. But I’m not entirely sure it’s because I don’t trust her.

Maybe I want to punish her. Maybe I’m jealous that he gets to have what I didn’t.

I stare down at the sandwich I can no longer eat, my stomach churning and the hint of bile in my throat.

If I want Rika, and I want my kids to have her, there’s no getting around Christiane. I don’t want to have to explain to them why they can’t see her or why they can’t come here.

Fucking fine.

“He can stay the night,” I tell her, “and we’ll see how it goes.”

She’s silent, but I can see her looking at me out of the corner of my eye. “Anything beyond that goes through me.” I look over at her. “You understand?”

She nods.

And if Christiane disappoints me, she will meet her maker before she ever meets another kid of mine.

I toss the sandwich down on the counter, filling up another glass of water. I have to get this taste out of my mouth.

“Winter’s pregnant again, isn’t she?” Rika asks, taking another bite.

“How did you know?”

She shrugs. “She’s been tired. Nauseous.”

Well that explains why she took the cameras offline then. She didn’t want me to see.

Rika leans on the counter, her eyes downcast as she plays with the rest of her sandwich. Her throat moves up and down as she swallows and then her jaw flexes like she’s deep in thought.

I take a drink and then dump out the rest of the water. “What?”

She darts her eyes up. “Nothing.”

But she’s not convincing. She’s thinking something.

“What?” I grit out again.

But she fires back. “Nothing.”

Her gaze falls to her sandwich again, and I decide to leave it. She knows how to solve her problems.

Which reminds me…

“While we’re on the subject, I want you married before you have his child.”

She laughs at me. “You want?”

I nod. “Kai married Banks in a day. What’s taking so long?”

It was a little different when she was just my friend’s girlfriend, but things have changed.

“You’re not married to Winter yet, either.”

“Winter and I are waiting for Will to come home,” I point out.

“Yeah me, too,” she quickly replies as if latching onto the first viable excuse I was stupid enough to give her.

But that’s not it. I know it’s not it. They’ve been engaged for a while, and Will only left town about a year ago. At first, I thought it was Michael. His schedule, his obligations, etc.

I’m not sure it’s his fault anymore, though. What’s going on with her?

I watch her play with her bread, remembering the first time we were alone in a kitchen together. I had to be fifteen. She saw me, stopped breathing, and left as quickly as possible.

Now she rarely makes a move without my knowledge or input.

“You know what a papal conclave is?” I ask.

She shakes her head a little. “Um, kind of, I guess.”

I slide my hands into my pockets and lean against the fridge. “When it’s time to elect a new pope, every cardinal in the college of cardinals under the age of eighty is locked in a room until they can come to an agreement on who the new pope will be,” I explain. “They started doing this, because eight hundred years ago, it took three years to choose a new pope due to political infighting. People don’t solve problems if they’re not forced to face them, you know? Now, the cardinals are led into the Sistine Chapel, there’s a shout of “extra omnes” meaning “everyone out”, and the doors are chained shut, locking them in until they solve the problem.”

We might not make the best decisions under pressure, but you can’t make a decision at all when you’re not talking about it.

She sits there, the wheels in her head turning. “Conclave,” she murmurs to herself.

“It’s a good idea when you’ve got things to settle, you know?”

We have weddings to plan. Projects that can’t stall, because her fiancé is always out of town. Winter wants to start some humanitarian organization, and I know Kai’s family has connections abroad who can help.

Not to mention Banks. We need everything nicely set up for my plans for her, and it’s past time to get started. I’ll need help getting her on board.

And keeping Kai out of my way about it.

And, of course, there’s Will.

“Pithom,” she says.

I meet her eyes, a smile spreading across my lips. Michael’s family’s yacht. Not a bad location. No need for locked doors, because there’s no escape at sea.

I nod.

Someone enters the room, and I look up to see Misha walk in, Winter holding onto the other girl’s arm.

“I need to talk to you,” he says to Rika.

She slides off the stool. “Right,” she says like they had a conversation I interrupted when I showed up. “I’m sorry.”

I take Winter’s hand and guide her over to me, locking eyes for a moment with the chick who brought her in.

“Who is she?” I ask.

But Misha takes the woman’s arm and slides her behind him, out of my view.

I snort. “I just wanted to say hi,” I tease. “I mean, we’ll all run into each other a lot. She may as well get to know me.”

If his dad is dating Rika’s mother, and they possibly get married, we’ll all have to get really friendly.

Winter chimes in. “His bite is worse than his bark, but he only bites me,” she assures the new kids. “Don’t worry.” And then she arches up on her toes to kiss my jaw. “Get along, please.”

Misha’s snotty little glare rests on me, because he wouldn’t know a good time if it sat on his face. The girl is cute, though.

He finally turns his eyes to Rika. “When was the last time you heard from Will?”

My stomach coils at the mention. Will is rarely in touch these days, but he is adamant that he needs to do what he needs to do. I left him once, after all. If he could wait me out, I can do the same for him.

“He texts,” Rika answers.

“He texts you?”

“Well, his parents,” Rika replies. “They say he’s on a retreat. Doing humanitarian stuff in Asia.”

Misha shakes his head. “They’re lying.”

“How do you know?” I chime in.

“Because I know them,” he shoots back. “His mother nods a lot when she’s saying things that aren’t true.”

Rika looks at me. “Rehab?”

Possibly. They could be getting him sober and keeping it quiet.

But it’s Misha who responds. “They would tell us, because they know Will would anyway once he got out.”

“They might not want us looking for him, though,” Rika suggests.

“Well, I think we should,” Misha tells her.

I thin my eyes, liquid heat running down my arms, because now he has me afraid.

“Why are you worried?” I ask him.

“Because my grandfather is coming up on re-election, and Will is a mess.”

The weight of what he’s suggesting slowly starts to sink in. My father threatened me with it countless time, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually being sent there. He’d be in more danger there than not.

But …he’d be out of the way. He’d be unheard and unseen. No longer a liability.

“Ivar was born a year ago.” I look down at Rika as I hold Winter’s hand, realization hitting me. “He wouldn’t have abandoned me this long. Not willingly.”

She shakes her head. “They wouldn’t…”

“I really hope not,” I say. “Even if we can find it, we’ll never get in.”

Misha moves up, standing directly at Rika’s side. “Don’t you worry about it,” he tells me. “We’ll take care of it.”

What? We’ll take care of…

I grab Rika’s arm and pull her over to my side as I glare at him. “That’s right. We will.”

You little shit. You know what your parents almost married makes you and her? Absolutely nothing. No one shuts me out.

“This is family business,” he maintains.

“And I’m the oldest,” I fire back, inching forward. “Get in line.”

He may very well be her step-brother at some point, but I’m blood.

“Guys…” Rika’s shoots out her hands to push us both back.

“You fucked him up enough,” Misha warns, meeting me eye to eye, “and I’m not twelve anymore.”

“Yeah, I know.” I smile, giving him a pat on the cheek. He jerks away. “You grew into a pretty young thing, didn’t ya, Princess?” I flick the earring in his lip. “You wear more jewelry than a chick, but let’s get one thing clear. The only thing those pathetic tattoos serve to do is hide that baby soft skin underneath.”

He smirks. “Turning you on, am I?”

His girl snorts behind him, and I scowl.

Misha pushes forward, ignoring Rika’s protests. “You’re bad for him.”

“I didn’t let him O.D. to his death on my watch,” I growl, throwing the death of his sister in his face.

Misha shoves me in the chest, forcing me back, and the next thing I know, we’re both on the ground, scrambling to get on top of each other and punch the living daylights out of one another.

Ok, that was low. Annie was sweet and all. Honestly. But he has some nerve suggesting he’ll take care of Will better after what happened to his kid sister. What a little shit.

And to even suggest that he, Rika, and Will are “family business” that doesn’t involve me makes me want to grind my boot into his pretty, little fucking face.

“That’s enough!” Rika yells.

I feel people around us as the girls probably scramble to pull us away from each other, but he’s had this fucking coming. Wallowing around town in his own personal black parade, all woe is me, because he has a good dad and money and a safe home life but turning up his nose at it in his hippie search for truth.

“Stop it!”

Someone pulls at my shoulders as I almost get him under me, so I can straddle the little fucker and then maybe he can write a poem about it.

But then ice cold water hits us both, and I gasp, pausing long enough for Rika to kick me off of him. I fall to the side, both of us breathing hard.

Shit. My hair hangs in my eyes, and I wipe the water out of my eyes.

“Misha,” she grits out, staring down at him. “We’re having a conclave in one month. You just got yourself invited.”

And she stalks off, setting the glass pitcher down on the island.

Misha sits up, flipping me the finger. “Prick.”

I push myself to my feet. “Babysoft.”

Sea is a great place to bury bodies, you know? Deep breath, asshole.

***

RIKA

I blow out the smoke, most of it filtering out the window. Normally, I’d go outside, but it’s still raining, and I’m too frazzled to care about one cigarette in the house.

Misha. Damon. Will.

Student. Mayor. Aunt.

Sister.

I drop my eyes, taking another drag.

Michael.

I want to do all of it. I hope I can do everything else I want to do, too.

A lump lodges in my throat at the thought of Damon’s conclave. There are things I need to say before I leave that boat, but I’m scared.

“I kind of regretted you never grew up with siblings,” my mother says, approaching my back, “and now that you have one, he’s an immediate bad influence.”

She wraps an arm around my waist and smiles at me, cocking an eyebrow at the cigarette in my hand. I laugh, grinding it out in the dish I brought over. Damon and I have stashes in several locations, but none here. I guess if Ivar spends more time here, Damon will, too. May as well arrange one more stash then.

I look down at the old black and white photos in silver frames adorning the little table in front of me.

My great-grandfather, circa 1900, sits on a horse at the family ranch in South Africa.

I run my finger over his ten-year-old face, the black hair and eyes like coal in the photo. “Ivarsen has the hair,” I remark. “Not the eyes, though.”

Ivarsen’s eyes are blue, like his mother’s.

“No,” my mother replies. “It skips several generations. None of yours or Damon’s children will have both.”

My children. A sinking feeling aches in my stomach.

I take a breath and pull away from my mother, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll take the baby monitor in my room,” I tell her. “I want to get up with him if he wakes.”

And I start to walk away.

“When are you going to tell him?” she calls out.

I stop. But I don’t turn around, my heart beating faster. “Tell him what?”

“That your father’s will accounted for you and any other children I’d have,” she says. “When are you going to tell Damon?”

My shoulders relax. Oh, that.

I was pretty pissed when she first told me. I didn’t trust him. I wasn’t going to allow him to run my father’s work into the ground in some temper tantrum. I needed to make sure I could trust him.

In the meantime, I set aside his half in a trust for Ivar, but…

I guess my mother’s right. He’ll make something out of it. If he wants it.

But I have a feeling he doesn’t. I’m kind of proud of him. He’s the only one out of the four who can say they’re completely self-made. Damon is doing well. I kind of envy the freedom he has. He’s creating his own legacy.

But still…he should know. I was wrong to keep it from him.

“I’ll deal with it,” I tell her and continue walking.

What’s one more order of business to add to the conclave anyway? Nine friends locked on a boat with alcohol, spear guns, and the black ocean at night? This was a fantastic idea.

*Conclave Part II is coming on Devil’s Night!

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Aug 192019
 
 19 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Lost and Found (Love in New York #1) by Elle Casey

Sometimes engagement rings can get lost and then found. Sometimes people can too. All it takes is a heavy-duty dose of karma and the magic of Manhattan to make it all come together.

Leah is a financially destitute new age hippy. James is a wealthy surgeon with a trust fund. She’s awkward, he’s poised. She’s completely crazy, he’s way too sane. People might say they have nothing in common, but they’d be wrong. They both live in Manhattan, they both have no idea how to change a baby diaper, and they’re both lost … until they find one another.

Excerpt Lost and Found (Love in New York #1) by Elle Casey

Leah.

I’m still feeling like a Disney princess when I leave the store mid-afternoon and head to the subway. I only work half-days because that’s all Belinda can afford, and usually that stresses me out on account of the fact that I make almost no money, but today, I’m perfectly fine with it. The sun is shining, my favorite fountain is working and sending white water splashing all over the place, and …

“Shiiit!” I yelp, slipping on the sidewalk and nearly busting my ass in the process. I’m saved by my ninja-esque skills as I grab the edge of a garbage can affixed to the concrete next to the street. I hang there for a couple seconds until I can get my feet under me again.

“Oh, man, that’s some bad luck right there,” says a guy who’s walking past and looking at the reason for my near-fall.

I cringe as I stand up and realize I’ve slipped on a dog turd. Literally. It’s a poop right there on the ground.

“Who didn’t clean up after their dog?!” I yell, for some reason imagining that the perpetrator is still hanging around the scene of the crime, when I know perfectly well he stopped, plopped, and ran. “This isn’t Paris, you know!”

I’ve heard there’s dog poop all over the sidewalks there, but here in New York, people usually take care of their doggie-business. Unfortunately, my head was too full of dreams of re-designing Belinda’s place to realize where my feet were placing themselves.

“What the hell am I going to do now?”

I look down the sidewalk and notice a man with a hot dog cart up ahead, and an idea-lightbulb goes on above my head. Hot dog carts have lots of napkins. Score.

As I start to hobble over, an alarmed expression comes over the vendor’s face and he starts shaking his finger at me.

“Oh, no, lady, no no. No doggy stuff for me. No, not for me. Not for you. No, no.” For some reason his horrible accent is making this worse. His hand becomes a stop sign. “You go away!”

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

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Aug 182019
 
 18 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Holding His Forever by Alexa Riley

Derek aka Phoenix is a New York City firefighter and has dedicated his life to saving people. When he loses two of his men in the line of duty, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to see the light again.

However, when an angel in the form of a woman named Fia appears before him, his world as he knows it is turned upside down.

Fia has been working hard to make money so she can finish her last semester of school. A fire in her building sets her back to square one, but the fireman who saves her turns out to be more than she ever expected.

Once he gets his arms around her, there’s no letting go. Because when you’ve got your forever in your arms, nothing else matters.

Warning: This is hot and fast insta-love that ignites the pages. It’s burning heat that combusts into an inferno of lava. Okay, that’s all the fire words I could come up with. Now insert a pun about a big hose. It’s quick, dirty, and ridiculously over the top.

Excerpt Holding His Forever by Alexa Riley

Chapter 1

Fia

“You finish your shit, Fia?”

Sam’s gravelly voice from years of smoking barks from behind me as I hang up the phone in his back office. A mixture of annoyance and relief fills me. I really didn’t want to have to cover Kim’s shift at the women’s shelter tonight and was thankful she was able to make it in. I would have done it if they needed me; I’d do anything for that place. But I’m dead on my feet as it is. I’ve been on my feet for the past twelve hours and haven’t slept in over twenty-four, and it would be my luck that if I went back to the shelter, it would be a busy night.

“Already clocked out.” I turn to look at Sam, whose eyes are trained on my ass. He slowly pulls them up to my face as a smirk plays at his lips, showing off his yellow-tinted teeth, not a care that he’s openly running his eyes over my body. Sadly, I’ve become used to it. It still creeps me out, but he’s never tried anything.

Or maybe my luck is about to change, I think, as he shuts the door to his office, trapping me in. The door is always open. The waitresses here at Moe’s always keep our stuff stored back here, where we clock in and out for our shifts.

“You think about my offer?” He cocks his head to the side like he’s giving me the world, not a management position at the diner. I’d stay later after waiting tables and help with paperwork and orders and get a raise, but I think Sam has a few more strings he wants to add to the position things I want no part of. I’ve turned down the offer twice now, but he keeps telling me to think on it.

Normally I just mumble a, “no, thanks,” on my way out the door, but now it’s closed and I’m trapped. Trapped with a man twice my age, maybe even pushing three times my age. It’s hard to tell with his shaved head. He’s double my size, and I don’t mean in muscle or height. No, there’s a lot of gut on old Sam.

“I really don’t have the time.” I tell him the same thing I’ve said every time it’s been brought up. At least, not without giving up my shifts at the shelter, and that’s not something I’m willing to do, even if the pay is way worse over there. I love that shelter. I owe them so much after what they did for my mother and me. I’m just thankful they pay me at all, because I would do it for free. I hope that one day I can do it for free, but at the moment that just isn’t possible if I want to keep a roof over my head and food on my plate.

“We’ll cut your serving time,” he suggests, taking a step towards me. I try to match his in retreat but only hit the desk. I don’t want to cut my serving hours only to spend more time with him in his cramped little office alone. Hell, I’ve been in here for two minutes and I feel like I’m having a panic attack. I can feel my heartbeat pick up speed. My anxiety grows with each pull of my breath. I know all too well how men act when they don’t get the responses they want. I’ve seen it for years with my own father and how he treated my mother.

I just shake my head again, trying to push the words past my lips. “I really” My words are cut short when Tracy throws open the door.

“Who in the hell put the” She stops abruptly when she sees us both standing in the tiny office. Her eyes narrow, going back and forth between us. Tracy has been working at the diner for years. She trained me a few months back, and many might even think she owns the place by how she pushes everyone around. And I’m pretty sure she and Sam have a thing. I stay out of her way. I want my tables and tips and nothing more from this place. It’s a means to an end. A slow means, but I’m getting there, dollar by dollar, and this place has the best tips I’ve come across so far, so I put up with it.

“I’m having a meeting.” Sam turns to look at her. Tracy purses her lips at him, clearly not liking what he’s saying.

“No, it’s fine. I really should be going. I’ll miss the bus,” I lie. I always walk home. I grab my purse and coat and don’t even bother to put them on. I just hold them close to my body over my cheap polyester uniform that fits a little too snuggly on me. “Maybe Tracy would like the manager position,” I throw out.

“What!” Tracy half-screams, her face scrunching up. I steal the moment to slip past them both as fast as I can and out the side door of the diner, into the chilled night. The street is empty now that it’s almost midnight on a Tuesday.

I slip my coat on and make the half-mile walk to my apartment, which sits over an old laundromat. Locking the door behind me, I waste no time pulling my uniform from my body and tossing my tips from tonight on the table before jumping into the shower. I have to get the smell of grease off my hair and body. I let the warm water run over me, relaxing my muscles as I wash away the day’s work.

When I’m done I grab a shirt and a pair of panties and pull them on. I sit at the small fold-out table in my half kitchen, if you can call it that. It doesn’t even have a full refrigerator, just one of those tiny ones you find in a hotel, which is probably where it came from. There’s a small sink and microwave, and that’s about it. My exhaustion outweighs my hunger as I count my tips. A hundred dollars on a double shift for a Tuesday isn’t too bad. Every dollar counts at this point. I’m so close to being able to pay for my last semester of college. Twelve more credits and I’m done, I remind myself. I can do this.

I grab the money and place it carefully, along with yesterday’s money, between the pages of a book I keep on the table. I still need to go to the bank and deposit it. After that, I walk the few feet to my bed in the corner of the room and fall face first into the cushioned surface.

“I miss you, Mom,” I whisper into the pillow before sleep takes me.

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Aug 182019
 
 18 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Most Eligible Billionaire by Annika Martin

OMG – the cute little dog I adopted turns out to be a billionaire Maltese! That’s right, my tiny dog just inherited giant corporation!

I’m Vicky, the dog whisperer. (Not really, but that’s what my elderly neighbor says whenever I walk her dog, Smuckers.)

When she dies, she surprises everybody by leaving a corporation worth billions to Smuckers…and she leaves Smuckers to me.

Suddenly I go from running my Etsy store to sitting in an elegant Wall Street boardroom with Smuckers in my lap. And my neighbor’s son, Henry Locke, aka New York’s most eligible bachelor, glaring across the table at me.

Rumor has it Henry’s a business genius who’s as talented in the bedroom as he is in the boardroom. Sure, he’s gorgeous. Sex-in-a-seven-thousand dollar suit. But…

He’s arrogant and infuriating.
He refuses to listen to me when I insist I didn’t con his mother.
He thinks he can bully me, buy me off, control me, even seduce me.

Henry may have the women of Manhattan eating out of the palm of his hand, but I’m so over entitled rich guys who think they own the world.

No way will his wicked smile be charming ME out of my panties.

His wicked…devastating…impossible-to-resist smile.

Oh well, who needs panties anyway?

*A sexy enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy standalone!*
*Formerly titled Most Eligible Bastard*

Excerpt Most Eligible Billionaire by Annika Martin

She glares at me now. “I can’t believe you tried to strip poor Smuckers of his vote. Do you have no decency?”
“When it comes to protecting this company?” I say. “No.”
Her gaze intensifies. “Just no?”
“None at all,” I say. “No decency whatsoever. Nada, if you will.”
Her pretty lips part. It’s shock. Maybe a little bit awe.
I give her an amused smile, adjusting my jacket sleeve over my cuff just so. The suit was tailored by a man who charges three hundred bucks an hour and is worth every penny.
“Uh,” she says. “You think you’re all that? You’re not.”
“Oh, I am all that,” I say. “I very much am. And for the record, I will crush you in the end.”
“Smuckers had this medication once,” she says. “We tried to hide it in his food, and he spit it out. No matter what we did, he’d spit it out.” She puts one finger on the paper with the new amendment and slides it back across the desk. “Smuckers doesn’t like when people try to fool him. That’s his message for you.”
“I have a message for Smuckers.” I put my finger on it and slide it back across to her. “Smuckers needs to know that we have a private investigator on this case. Smuckers might not have very nice food to eat if you ended up in prison.”
Finally she looks scared.
Brett swoops in. “I say we settle this. One-time offer from me personally.” He writes the number—$4,500,000.00. “This offer expires in two minutes.”
My heart pounds. She needs to take offer. We’ve shown how close she can come to losing everything.
She looks at the paper.
She’s all alone caring for that sister of hers. She’s poor—we have her banking information; we know it for a fact. She has every reason in the world to take it. Yet she hesitates.
“This is our last offer,” Brett says. “After this, we’ll take the company from you, and you’ll get nothing.”
She raises her brown eyes to me. It’s me she’s really dealing with. I like that she knows that.
“You know what Smuckers hates even more than being fooled?” she says.
My heart pounds. She almost lost everything to me, and now she’s going to tell me a dog story?
“He hates being threatened,” she says. “And bullied. He really, really hates it.”
“Well he’s going to have to get used to it,” I hear myself saying. “He’s used to bubbles and bows and sunny parks but he’s in the jungle now. There are animals who are faster and stronger and smarter than he is. Animals who will dominate him easily—savagely, even.”
“Then you don’t know Smuckers very well.”
“Oh, I know all about Smuckers, and I’d suggest he practice rolling over. Baring his belly for the superior predator.” I lower my voice. “Begging sweetly for mercy.”
The color heightens in her face. This shouldn’t be fun.
But oh, it is.
I keep going. “Smuckers may think he can request packets and bylaws and get up to speed, but he can’t compete here. He doesn’t have the skills.”
“Smuckers thinks owning fifty-one percent is the best skill to have,” she says.

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Aug 172019
 
 17 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Thief of Hearts (Hearts #5) by L.H. Cosway

Seduce the teacher.

Meet the cousin.

Make a deal.

Steal the painting.

Andrea Anderson has no clue of the thoughts churning around in the dark and dangerous ex-con’s head as he enters her classroom. In fact, she’s momentarily lost for words. Not in her entire teaching career has she had a student who looked quite like Stu Cross.

A widow at just twenty-eight, love is something Andie hasn’t considered a part of her life for a very long time. However, when lingering touches turn to whispered words and hot, searching stares, she begins to wonder if maybe she should take a leap of faith.

But Stu is in her class for a reason, and it has nothing to do with love. He’s there to burrow his way into her life and repay a debt, otherwise his family will suffer. Andie is the first person to show him true kindness since he left prison, and though he doesn’t want to mislead her, he doesn’t have another choice.

Before long, Stu can’t tell whether or not he’s acting anymore, and his feelings for Andie could throw all of his carefully crafted plans into complete and utter disarray.

**Can be read as a stand alone.

Excerpt Thief of Hearts (Hearts #5) by L.H. Cosway

When the other students were gone and only Stu and I remained, a quiet descended. My stupid dry mouth got the best of me and I couldn’t seem to find any words. Stu just stood there staring, waiting for whatever it was I wanted to say to him. His eyes traced my form and I grew stiff, especially when his eyes landed on my ring finger. His attention lingered there for a long moment in something akin to confusion, but I didn’t really understand why. Finally, I broke the quiet.
“You were twenty minutes late this morning.”
Stu raked a hand over the light stubble on his jaw. “That a problem?”
I cleared my throat. “Yes. Please make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
“Will do. Is that all?”
“No,” I blurted.
His gaze went to my wedding ring again, before moving up to my lips and then my eyes. I rubbed my palms on my trousers. Stu took a step closer, and the fact that he was standing over me while I was still seated made me feel at a disadvantage.
“What then?”
“You need to do the work I give you, otherwise there’s no point in you being here.”
He let out sigh now, like he finally understood my irritation. “You’re pissed that I didn’t read the book.”
“I’m not pissed, and please don’t use that language with me. I’ve already had to warn you yesterday. My job is to teach you, Stu. It’s my passion, and if I can’t help a student fulfil all their potential then there’s no sense in either one of us wasting our time. And look, I understand all this must be a big change for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just let me know and we’ll take it slow. But if you don’t want to learn then I’m not going to force you.”
Stu stared at me for a long moment before a small smile graced his lips.
“You know, this is the first time a woman has ever offered to take things slow with me.” He tilted his head, his smile turning flirtatious, and I really didn’t get why he was trying to avoid being serious. I wasn’t there to berate him and I only had his best interests and the best interests of the class at heart. Like I said before, one bad egg could spoil the lot.
“You don’t have to deflect. There’s no judgement here.”
Now he bent to lean his hands on my desk and look me directly in the eye. “I’m not deflecting, Miss Anderson, I’m flirting.”
His voice was low and purposefully husky. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. It just felt like such a stereotype for the young worldly male student to use his wiles to flatter the plain, bookish teacher. Little did Stu know, I was impervious to wiles, nor did I have any real interest in the opposite sex. I hadn’t been interested in anyone at all since Mark, and I couldn’t imagine that changing. He had been my world. Irreplaceable.
But you did feel attracted to Stu when he first arrived, a little voice in my head piped up.
And yes, okay, that was technically true, but I put it down to being female, and Stu Cross was the sort of man all women reacted to, whether they were teenage girls or eighty-year-old grandmothers. He had sex appeal; it was as simple as that. Luckily, I was more or less unsusceptible to sex appeal. Sure, he gave me vague stirrings, but I wasn’t the sort of woman who dropped her knickers for vagueness.
I let out a soft chuckle. “Here’s a life lesson for you, Stu. And I say this with absolutely no malice or hard feelings. The combination of young and female in a teacher does not equal naïve. Pretend flirting with me isn’t going to help you pass. What will help you pass is working with me, participating in class, and arriving on time in the mornings. I’ll always be respectful toward you, and I hope you can learn to be respectful to me in return.”
I expected him to react one of three ways: embarrassed, apologetic or hostile. Surprisingly, it was none of those. What he did do was lean closer, granting me a waft of his masculine, woodsy cologne. His gaze never left mine as he replied simply, “And here’s a life lesson for you, Miss Anderson. I’m not pretending.”

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Aug 162019
 
 16 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »

UnChain Me (Savage Beast MC #3) by Hayley Faiman

Nineteen-year-old Bellarosa has lived the past three years locked away in a tower, freedom, being only a myth she could fantasize about.
She has tried to break free of her chains but has failed at every attempt. That is, until a friend turns a blind eye and allows for her to escape her confines.
The president of the Savage Beast MC is no easy role to play. Neither is being a single father. His focus has always been his club and his daughter.
At almost forty, Dragon is convinced he will never find a woman to call his own, not unless he buys her.
Both lost souls searching for freedom. Both stumbling upon one another. Unsure if they can trust each other. She searches for happily ever after. He will never be her prince charming.
When two people who learn to trust despite their pasts come together, they become an unstoppable force, something that not even the devil.

Excerpt UnChain Me (Savage Beast MC #3) by Hayley Faiman

“Where are we?” I chance asking, changing the subject.
Taz coughs, but Jaguar is the next to speak. “We’re in Arizona, almost to Egar, where you’ll call your new home. If you cause any trouble, we won’t hesitate to end you, Bellarosa. We’re only bringing you along because both of us think that there’s a chance one of our men may like you for himself. If he don’t, then there are about twenty men that would kill for a turn,” he mutters.
“You act like that’s a threat,” I snort.
His finger touches the underside of my chin and he lifts it up, his dark eyes boring into mine. “It’s not a threat, just an observation. You’re young and beautiful. I’m sure you’re damn good in the sack, too. We’re not much different than the Zanetti famiglia. We keep whores, except we don’t charge for them. They’re for our use and whoever we decide is allowed to play.”
I lick my bottom lip, keeping my gaze focused on his. “I’ve never received a penny for my services, Jaguar. If this is some kind of game, you won’t scare me. I won’t be a pawn, not anymore. I want my freedom,” I say, telling him my truth, my secret.
“None of us is free, babe. You gotta get that shit out of your head, right fuckin’ now. We all owe a debt to someone. Whether it be the man above us, or the Devil. Ain’t none of us without a puppeteer,” Taz mutters.
I close my eyes for a moment, inhaling a deep breath, thinking about his words. Maybe he’s right. Maybe this dream of being free, maybe it was all for absolutely nothing. Letting out my breath in a heavy exhale, I open my eyes to find the truck stopping in front of a gate.

UnScrew Me

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UnChain Me

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Aug 162019
 
 16 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Ball Peen Hammer (Morgan Brothers #1) by Lauren Rowe

eane Morgan wouldn’t return any of my calls or texts, and I was pissed as hell about it. I didn’t want to drive from Seattle to L.A. with the guy any more than he wanted to drive with me, but I had no frickin’ choice in the matter–at least, not if I wanted to use his brother Dax’s coveted parking spot at UCLA.
Okay, so it turned out Keane was objectively gorgeous, and, fine, pretty funny, too. But did he have to be so damned in love with himself? I mean, jeez, the cocky way he flashed those dimples was just so orchestrated. And, honestly, what kind of guy uses the phrase “baby doll” with a straight face? Oh, that’s right: the kind of guy who’s a male stripper.
Yup, the cocky jerk turned out to be Seattle’s answer to Magic Mike, a stripper known as “Ball Peen Hammer”–which meant Keane Morgan was emphatically not the kind of guy I’d ever fall for.
Not. At. All.
No freakin’ way.
Well, until Keane convinced me to fall for him, that is.
Which I did.
Hard.

Currently, the chronological order that these books should be read in is:

Captain
Hero
Ball Peen Hammer
Mister Bodyguard
Rockstar

Note: “Captain” and “Hero” are parallel over time, but at some point “Hero” goes far than “Captain” and “Ball Peen Hammer” take place after the events of both books.

Excerpt Ball Peen Hammer (Morgan Brothers #1) by Lauren Rowe

As they exchange information, I make my way to the end of my aisle and loop into theirs, not taking my eyes off Baby Face the whole time. Shit. This dude’s hunting Maddy so hard, it’s making my blood boil. Jesus, he’s going full-throttle rifle on Maddy’s ass right now, completely foregoing his crossbow altogether.
When I reach the two of them in the middle of their aisle, I shuffle past the dude and stand next to Maddy, shoulder to shoulder, and then, on a sudden impulse, put my arm around her shoulders and squeeze her tight, making her wobble in place at the unexpected jolt to her balance. “Hey, sis,” I say, squeezing her like a rag doll. “You totally fell down on your candy-acquiring duties.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She subtly wiggles out of my grasp. “Brian and I got into this hilarious argument about the best candy bar of all- time, and—”
“And I’m totally right,” Brian says, cutting her off, and they both chuckle at some inside joke.
“No, I’m totally right,” Maddy corrects.
Brian smiles at her. “I’ll actually be down in L.A. in a month. How ’bout I call you then?”
“Great.”
“Nice to meet you, man,” Brian says, looking at me. He nods but doesn’t put out his hand.
I nod back.
Brian strolls away, buys a Snickers bar and a can of Red Bull, and leaves with a little wave to Maddy.
The minute he’s out the door, Maddy takes a giant step away from me, her face etched with annoyance. “What was that?” she asks.
“What?”
“That weird thing you just did?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Maddy puts on an exaggerated scowl, like she’s Hulk Hogan eying an opponent. “’Hey, Brian,’” she says in a low voice, clearly intending to imitate me but sounding more like Arnold Schwarzenegger imitating Maddy imitating me. “’I’m Maddy Milliken’s bodyguard and I’m going to beat you the hell up now,’” she adds.
“What are you talking about?” I say, chuckling.
Maddy pauses, assessing me, and finally shrugs. “Nothing. I guess I imagined it.”
“Imaged what?”
“Your weird… I dunno… vibe.”
“Oh, well, yeah. I was worried about you.”
“Worried about me? I was standing in a minimart, buying candy. Pretty low-risk activity, I’d say.”
“Uh, you absolutely were not standing in a minimart, buying candy—you totally fell down on that job, dude. You were standing in a minimart, getting picked up by a douche. And second of all—”
“What?”
Shit. What the fuck am I doing? I’ve got to stop this shit right now. “Don’t get riled up, baby doll,” I say in my most soothing voice. “All I’m saying is you took so damned long in here, I started thinking maybe the store was getting robbed or you’d fallen into the toilet or something.”
Maddy twists her mouth. “Brian didn’t seem the least bit douchey to me.”
I shrug.“What gave you the impression he’s a douche?”
“Just a figure of speech. So are you gonna do the job I hired you to do or not?” I motion to the candy rack. “‘Cause based on your performance thus far, you’re totally fired.”
“And I wasn’t getting ‘picked up,’” Maddy says, her tone full of indignation. “Brian’s brother goes to UCLA. Can’t I talk to a helpful, nice guy without it being some sort of a sleazy pick-up?”
“Sure you can. However, in this instance, you were talking to a helpful, nice guy who was picking you up so he can bone the living fuck outta ya.”
“Keane.” Maddy’s cheeks burst with color. “Don’t say that. Oh my god. You’re insane. Brian was just being helpful, that’s all.”
“Yeah, so he can bone the living fuck outta ya.”
“Stop saying that. Please. It’s offensive and absolutely not true. This topic of conversation is officially over.”

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Aug 152019
 
 15 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Alec (Slater Brothers #2) by L.A. Casey

Keela Daley is the black sheep of her family. She has always come second to her younger cousin Micah. Even in the eyes of her mother, Micah shone bright, and Keela faded to black. Now, in adulthood, Micah is a bride-to-be and the spotlight is solely on her. Keela is a low priority…or so she thinks.

Alec Slater is a bachelor, never one to bed the same woman, or man, twice. He is a free agent who does what he pleases and answers to no one; that is until a fiery Irish redhead with a temper to match her hair colour knocks him on his arse. Literally.

She hates to admit it, but Keela needs a favour from the cocky Slater brother, a huge favour. She needs him to not only escort her to Micah’s wedding, but to also pose as her boyfriend. Alec agrees to help Keela, but has certain conditions for her to abide by. He wants her body and plans to have it before anyone can say I do.

What he doesn’t plan on is losing his heart as well as the possibility of losing his family when someone from his past threatens his future.

Alec owns Keela, and what Alec owns, Alec keeps.

Excerpt Alec (Slater Brothers #2) by L.A. Casey

Chapter One

“Miss Daley? Open up! I know you’re in there, your car is outside in the tenant car park!”

I groaned at the sound of the loud voice, and flicked my eyes open then quickly re-closed them. It took a few moments for me to be able to keep them open, and when I could, I couldn’t see very well. I squinted through the darkness waiting for my eyes to adjust to the minimal lighting. When I could see a little, I quickly narrowed my eyes at the fat snoring male beside me. I shoved him hoping to knock him off the bed, but instead of falling off like I’d hoped he only farted and rolled over in my direction then placed a big sloppy kiss on my mouth.

“Storm!” I shouted and wiped at my mouth and tried not to heave, but the smell of Storm’s breath made that very hard.

Storm lazily got to his feet, stretched and made some weird noises then proceeded to belly flop on top of me until I gasped for air. Storm, my two year old German Shepherd, needed to be put on a diet or one of these days the fat baby was going to smother me in my sleep.

“Off!” I gasped and shoved at his large body with both of my hands.

Storm did as ordered and got off me. But he didn’t get off the bed, instead he just rolled back over to his side – yes, my dog had a side of the bed – which was just typical. The only time he willingly moved was if it was breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time or pretty much any time he knew there would be food in it for him.

“You pathetic excuse for a guard dog,” I muttered as the banging on my apartment door started up again.

Storm replied with another fart that had me opening the windows before I left my bedroom to proceed down the hallway to open my door. I stubbed my toe on one of Storm’s doggy toys as I walked and cursed the person on the other side of the door for making me get out of bed; it was the middle of the night for God’s sake!

“I’m comin’, keep your knickers on!” I shouted when I reached my door and began unlocking all the locks. There was five of them in total because, in the area where I lived, one lock was not enough. I switched on my hall light and jumped when the bulb blew, coating the hall in darkness once again. I sighed as I turned to my front door, even though I knew who was on the other side, I still looked through the peep hole just to be safe.

When I confirmed the noisy menace at my door was in fact my neighbour, I unlocked the final lock and pulled it open then harshly glared at the man who was stood before me. Mr. Pervert – his real name was Mr. Doyle – was a middle-aged man who was the CEO at Perverts ‘R Us. The man was a major creep, and I hated that I answered the door to him dressed in nothing but my nightdress because it gave him free rein to ogle me with his ever roaming eyes.

“Can I help you, Mr. Per-Doyle?” I asked, biting my tongue, so I didn’t laugh at almost calling him Mr. Pervert out loud.

He snapped his eyes up from my legs to my face and cleared his throat as he lifted his hand – a hand that contained one single envelope. I simply stared at the envelope for a moment then flicked my eyes up to Mr. Pervert and found his eyes weren’t on my face anymore. I knocked on the outside of my door with my free hand which made him jump with fright and me inwardly snort. When his eyes were once again on mine, I nodded to the envelope in his hand and then raised my brows in a silent question.

He cleared his throat again before saying, “I’ve been away the last few weeks and found this on my floor when I got home a few moments ago. It is addressed to you, but has my apartment number on it instead of yours.”

I wanted to punch him. I used the light from the hallway outside of my apartment to look back inside my apartment and lock my eyes on the clock hanging on the wall behind me; it read 3:20 am.

Couldn’t he have just waited till morning before he delivered it to me?

The bloody eejit!

I sighed as I turned back to Mr. Pervert, who was back to looking at my body. I reached out and gripped the envelope and gave it a little tug until Mr. Pervert released it.

“Thanks, I appreciate you goin’ out of your way to make sure I get me post.” I faked a smile and then pulled the hand that now held the envelope away until it was tucked safely behind my door – along with the rest of my body – so Mr. Pervert couldn’t see me anymore.

He blinked a few times and looked at my face, because it was now all that he could see.

“It was no problem at all, sweetheart.”

Sweetheart?

Bleh!

I smiled and nodded my head as I inched my door closed. “Good night.”

“Good-” I closed the door before he could finish his sentence.

I shook off my shivers then I relocked all of the locks on my door and closed the bolt at the top of the door. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard Mr. Pervert’s footsteps trot back across the hall and into his own apartment where he closed the door behind him. I looked at the envelope in my hand and decided to open it because I was curious as to what was inside it. I couldn’t see very well because the hallway was still dark but I knew it wasn’t a bill, it didn’t feel like the envelope bills came in, it was thicker. From what I had seen it looked nicer than a bill envelope. Fancier.

I headed into my sitting room which was also doubled as my kitchen and flicked on the light. I tossed the envelope on the kitchen table and went to the counter drawers to look for my envelope cutter. I found it after only a second of looking, but had to put it down when I heard my phone ring from my bedroom. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion.

Who the hell would be calling me at half three in the morning on a Friday night?

“Aideen,” I said out loud and headed in the direction of my bedroom.

Aideen Collins was my best friend. She was the closest thing I had to a sister and I loved her dearly, but she had her moments when she royally pissed me off. Ringing me at half three in the morning was one of those moments.

When I got to the phone in my bedroom and pressed answer, I said, “You’d better have a good reason for ringin’ me at this hour Aideen Collins or I am goin’ kick seven shades of shite outta you!”

I heard a deep, rumbling chuckle.

“She does have a good reason, so you don’t need to kick any shade of shit out of her,” a male voice replied, it made me jump with fright because I wasn’t expecting it.

“Who are you? Where is Aideen? Why do you have her phone?” I asked then gasped and shouted, “If you have hurt me friend in any way I’m goin’ to fuck you up!”

The stranger laughed this time and said, “Is that a promise, kitten?”

Ex-fucking-cuse me?

“Where is Aideen? You better tell me right now or I’m gonna-“

“Fuck me up? Yeah, I got that part,” he chuckled again then before he could say anything else I heard a different male voice speak. I asked you to ring the girl’s friend, Alec. What the hell is taking so long?”

I mentally made a note of the name Alec incase I had to call the Guards.

“I’m talking to her friend, but I haven’t been able to tell her the point of my call. She is too busy threatening to ‘fuck me up’ if I have hurt the girl,” the lad who called me laughed.

I was mad and also scared as to where Aideen was and who these foreign guys were. I knew they weren’t Irish or even English – their accents sounded too different – but I couldn’t pinpoint where they were from because there was a lot of background [J9] noise. It sounded like music.

“Just tell her what I told you to say so she can get here already,” the second lad said to the one who called me.

The lad who called me sighed and said, “Keela, I’m calling to let you know your friend Aiden was in a fight and we need you to come pick her up. She told me to call you.”

“Her name is Aideen not Aiden, it’s pronounced Ay-deen,” I said then widened my eyes when I comprehended the rest of what he just told me. I screamed, “Is she okay? What happened? Who hurt her?”

“Calm down, hellcat. She is fine, we just need you to come and collect her. I’ll explain everything once you get here.”

“Where is ‘here’?” I snapped as I moved around my room pulling on my vans. I grabbed my car keys from my bedside table as I held my phone to my ear with my shoulder.

“Playhouse Nightclub, it’s right beside the Tallaght bypass-“

“I know where it is, I’ll be there in five minutes,” I said and hung up on him.

I gripped onto my phone and car keys as I closed my bedroom window. I told Storm to stay put, but it feel on deaf ears because he didn’t move an inch or even wake up. I ran down my hallway and unlocked the locks and the bolt on my door then flung it open and sprung into the corridor. I closed my front door, locked it, then ran like a bat out of Hell down the hallway, down four flights of stairs and out into my apartment complex’s car park. I sprinted towards my car and only realised I was in my nightdress when the cool breeze hit me and made me shiver.

“Fuck!” I snapped as I unlocked my car, got into it and started the engine.

I didn’t think of changing clothes, just about getting my shoes on and then getting out to my car. I wasn’t going back inside to change; I had to get to Aideen and make sure she was okay before changing clothes even became an option. It was okay though; I didn’t show off any valuables. The nightdress was just a little short, it was black so I didn’t have to worry that it was see through, at least I got lucky with that. The weather was good tonight as well, it was cool but not windy or raining. I would just have to hold the hem of my nightdress down when I got out of my car to keep it from rising up incase I had to run anywhere.

I pulled out of the car park and straight onto the main road and headed towards the nightclub[J11] . I was wide awake now, but the stinging in my eyes didn’t go amiss. I had only been asleep for four hours before Mr. Pervert woke me up, but before that I hadn’t slept in twenty-seven hours. I worked in my local supermarket, Super Value. I was broke, and I needed all the hours I could get, so yesterday I worked an eleven hour shift and instead of going straight to bed when I got home, I dove straight into writing and pulled an all-nighter.

I always had a passion for bringing the stories in my head to life on paper or on a laptop screen. I only ever dabbled in silly little things here and there, never a full length novel. Luckily Aideen – literally – gave me the kick up the arse I needed and said I should just ‘go for it’ because I wouldn’t know if my writing would be a success if I never put it out there. After that wake up call, which was three weeks ago, I knuckled down and started writing my very first book. Yesterday, even though I was shattered, I was completely in the zone and just had to write. I had so much inside me for my story that if I didn’t get it out of my head soon I was going to explode. So I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more. The lack of sleep and the stinging in my eyes from staring at my laptop was kicking my arse now though because I felt like death, and I was pretty sure I looked the part too.

When I came to a red traffic light I pulled down my visor and looked in the little mirror and winced. Scratch that, saying I looked like death would have been kind. The sclera around my green eyes looked like a road map to Hell, that’s how bloodshot they were. My fiery red hair was slightly greasy, and pulled up into a disastrous looking bun. I glanced down at my long bare white legs and shook my head.

Why did I have to be so tall?

If I were shorter, this nightdress would be longer and less exposing!

I was a bloody mess!

I angrily pushed my visor up when the traffic light changed to green and sped to the location of the nightclub Aideen was at with these men. I got there in less than five minutes because the green lights were with me, and there was little to no traffic on the roads thanks to the early hour. I turned into the nightclub car park entrance and looped around until I saw two huge males looking down at a small woman sitting down on the path a few meters away from the nightclub’s entrance. It was Aideen, I just knew it. I parked my car across from them, jumped out, and slammed my door before I took off running towards Aideen.

When the noise of my feet hitting the pavement could be heard both men looked up at me, but didn’t say anything as I reached them. When I was next to them, I dropped down to my knees and pulled Aideen into a hug. I ignored the slight stinging in my knees from the concrete ground digging into my skin and held Aideen tightly.

“Are you okay? What happened?” I asked then pulled back from the hug so I could look at her.

Aideen looked back at me and I gasped at the sight that greeted me. She had a small cut over her eyebrow and her right jaw was swollen.

“Some bitch jumped on me,” she grumbled.

“Who?” I snapped. “I’ll fuckin’ kill ‘er!”

I was surprised that I sounded like I could actually follow through with my threat.

I was not a fighter.

Not. At. All.

I have been in one fight in my entire life, and that was only because my younger cousin Micah punched me in the face when we were kids to see if my blood was blue. She told everyone I was an alien from outer space with blue blood and the only way to prove I was a human was to punch me and make my nose bleed. I agreed because I didn’t think it would hurt that much – I was wrong, very wrong, because it hurt like hell.

After Micah punched me and red blood streamed from my nose and we confirmed I was in fact human, I jumped on her because I was in so much pain and decided that she needed to be punished for hurting me. Instead of dishing out a hiding, I received a black eye and a chipped tooth. Micah kicked my arse, and it was the first and only fight I have ever been in. Regardless of my inability to bring the pain, if anyone hurt Aideen or Storm, I would go Bruce Lee on those fuckers.

That was a cold hard fact.

Aideen smiled at me and pulled me in for another tight hug. “I know you would, but I just want to go home now. Can I stay with you?”

Was that a serious question?

I shook her. “Of course, you bloody eejit.”

Aideen laughed and so did the males who stood over us. I don’t know how, but I forgot they were next to us. I quickly stood up and pulled Aideen with me. She wasn’t exactly drunk, just a little tipsy, so I didn’t have to balance her or anything, but I still kept a tight hold on her just in case.

“This is Alec,” Aideen said and lazily pointed to the man on the right who was openly looking me up and down, “and Kane.” I tightened my hold on Aideen when I looked to Kane, the man on the left. He was just as tall and as muscular as the arsehole who was looking at my body, but he was scary looking. He had a large scar that curved around the left side of his mouth and some claw like scars going from his right temple and down through his eyebrow leaving gaps in the hairs like they were styled that way.

“Hi,” I said lowly and avoided direct eye contact.

“Kane came to my rescue when Alec’s girlfriend hit me,” Aideen said and smiled at Kane, who smiled right back at her.

“She was my lay for the night, not my girlfriend… and I apologised for her actions,” Alec said with a sigh.

I ignored Alec, the eejit who just spoke, and looked at Kane when he smiled and felt myself instantly become relaxed. He didn’t look scary when he smiled like that. I frowned though when the rest of what Aideen said settled in my brain and before I knew it I let go of Aideen and shoved Alec in the chest as hard as I could. He wasn’t expecting it so when I shoved him he lost his balance and fell back onto his arse with a grunt.

“That is for your bird hurtin’ me friend and if I find out who the slut is I’m goin’ fuckin’ kill ‘er!” I bellowed.

Aideen pulled me back by the arm and begged me to stop while Alec looked up at me with wide eyes before he looked to Kane, who stared down at him also with wide eyes and his mouth agape. A few seconds passed until they both burst out laughing like what just happened was the funniest thing ever. I saw red and tried to go for Alec again, but Aideen moved herself in front of me and pushed me back by the shoulders.

“I told you bro, she is a fucking hellcat!” Alec cackled as he gripped onto Kane’s outstretched hand and was helped to his feet.

Kane continued to laugh as he shook his head. “I wish the twins saw that, Dominic would have helped her hit you while Damien recorded it.”

I had no idea what or whom they were talking about, but I pointed my finger dangerously over Aideen’s shoulder at Alec and snarled at him.

“Keep laughin’ pretty boy, and I’ll scratch up that face of yours!” I warned.

Alec stepped forward, a grin tugged at his mouth. “I’m finding myself highly attracted to you right now. Would you like to come home with me since you’re already dressed for bed?”

I dropped my jaw in shock, and so did Aideen, who spun around and shoved him in the chest, but didn’t manage to knock him to the ground. “Knock it off! I appreciate you both helpin’ me, but I won’t have you treatin’ me friend like she is one of your clients, Alec. She is a good girl!”

Clients?

What the hell did that mean?

Alec grinned at Aideen before he flicked his eyes to me. “Oh, I’m bettin’ there is a bad girl deep inside her somewhere. I’ll just have to use my fingers, mouth, and cock to bring her out to play.”

What. The. Fuck?

“Who the hell do you think you are?” I snapped.

He grinned and gave me a wink as he said, “Alec Slater, your next – or only – great fuck.”

Was he for real?

“You’re about to be Alec Slater – murder victim – if you don’t shut that hole in your face!”

Kane cracked up with laughter as he reached for Aideen’s arm and pulled her into him and away from me. “Please, don’t interfere. I’ve never seen a female, besides Bronagh, backtalk him like this before,” he said to Aideen then brushed her blonde hair out of her eyes; the action caused her to melt into a puddle by the way she sagged into him.

I rolled my eyes at her then looked to Alec, who had inched closer to me, before I growled, “Try touchin’ me, and you won’t ever be able to have kids. I’m warnin’ you.”

Alec grinned and folded his arms across his board chest; it caused all his muscles that I could see to contract and tense. He settled on staying put, but openly raked his eyes over my body, mainly my legs, and it made me feel very uncomfortable.

“Stop lookin’ at me you dirty bastard!” I growled.

Alec flicked his eyes up to me. “Why would you come outside dressed like that if you didn’t want people to look at you?” he asked.

I clenched my hands into fists and took a step towards him. I had to tilt my head back a little bit because he was a lot taller than my five foot ten inches and when I realised that I felt intimidated, but I was not ready to back down.

“I came outside dressed in me nightdress because me friend needed me and gettin’ dressed didn’t cross me mind when you rang me, you eejit.”

He flashed his teeth at me when he smiled. “You sound like my bro’s girl, she calls me an eejit a lot.”

I looked him up and down; my lip curled in disgust. “She must be kind ’cause there are a lot of words that would suit you much better. Batty boy would be two of them,” I snarled then turned in Aideen’s direction and found her kissing Kane. Not just smooching, she was completely necking on with him. I walked forward, grabbed her arm and tugged her, not so gently, next to me.

When she was next to me I squeezed her arm and snarled, “Do you not remember the stranger danger film we watched when we were in school?”

Aideen gave me an are-you-serious look before she snickered and shook her head. “They aren’t dangerous. Kane saved me from danger.”

I pointed over my shoulder. “Yeah, and batty boy’s bird put you in danger so let’s go.”

“I get the feeling that you’re calling me gay,” Alec said from behind me.

I set my jaw and continued to tug on Aideen as she frowned over my shoulder and said, “She is callin’ you gay, but she doesn’t mean it as an insult or anythin’. She’s not homophobic, she just said it because she hoped it would piss you off.”

Seriously?!

“You aren’t supposed to tell him that, Ado!” I snapped.

“Ado? I like that nickname,” Kane’s voice purred from my right.

He pronounced Ado so proper.

Ay-doh.

I pushed Aideen behind me, ignoring her complaints as I fixed Kane with a glare that wavered the longer I looked at him. “Listen, thanks for helpin’ me friend after she got hurt, but she isn’t goin’ to thank you with some personal pole dancin’ so give the flirtin’ a rest.”

Kane raised his eyebrows as he looked over my shoulder and asked Aideen, “You’re a stripper?”

“No, I am a teacher,” Aideen scoffed. “‘No pole dancin’ means no shaggin’.”

Kane laughed then. “Your friend is banning you from having sex with me?”

“Yes,” Aideen and I said in unison.

“And you’re going along with it?” Alec asked Aideen as he rounded on us and leaned back against the same car Kane was leaning on.

They looked like a pair of fitness models and noticing that pissed me off.

“Yeah,” Aideen sighed. “She is pretty big on no sex with strangers and… so am I.”

Kane’s eyes bore into Aideen and then he smiled as he said, “Pity.”

“Uh huh,” Aideen agreed with a sad sigh.

I rolled my eyes and said, “I’ll stop off at the shop on the way home and buy you some batteries for your vibrator to get you through the night. You will be grand.”

“Keela!” Aideen gasped and smacked my arse, it made me yelp and jump.

Both of the lads laughed at what I said and shook their heads as they continued to look at us. I got annoyed and said to Aideen, “Maybe they could apply to Pervert ‘R Us, they fit the bill with those stares.”

Aideen laughed and smacked my arse again.

“Excuse me?” Alec said.

Aideen was snickering as she said, “Keela’s neighbour, Mr. Doyle, is a man who stares a lot so she named him Mr. Pervert and imagined him bein’ the CEO of a company called Pervert ‘R Us.”

I narrowed my eyes when the two hyenas started laughing again – they seemed to do that a lot.

I angrily reached behind me and grabbed Aideen. “We’re leavin’. I have to go home to Storm.”

“Storm?” Alec questioned.

“Storm is her-“

“Boyfriend,” I smiled as I cut Aideen off and gave her a go-along-with-me look. She looked back to me and I could see the amusement in her eyes as she nodded her head and looked to Alec.

“Storm is pretty protective of her,” she said.

Alex cocked an eyebrow. “If he is so protective then how come he let you come out here alone while dressed like that?”

He made it sound like my nightdress was skimpy!

I snarled and made a move forward to set him straight but Aideen put herself between Alec and I before saying, “Storm is very hard to rouse durin’ the night. He probably didn’t even hear her leave, but he is still a great… lad.”

I inwardly snorted.

“Yeah, and he will kick your arse for even suggestin’ we have sex!” I stated.

Alec popped his head around Aideen and grinned at me. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

Good news!

“You better back off then because one more crude comment and I will fuck you up, never mind Storm!” I snarled.

Alec bit down on his bottom lip and grinned at me, I knew he was thinking crude things, so I glared at him which made Kane snort.

“Can we keep her? I like hearing someone put you in your place, the fact that she is a female is even better. You don’t affect her bro; you’re losing your touch.” Kane chuckled and playfully shoved Alec when he settled back beside him on the car they were leaning on.

Alex continued to grin at me as he spoke to Kane, “It’s still early, don’t shoot me down so quickly, bro.”

“I’ll fuckin’ shoot you,” I murmured making Aideen snort as she reached for my hand.

“This has been… interestin’. However, Keela is right, we better get goin’.”

“Thank you, Jesus,” I cheered making Kane snicker before looking to Aideen.

He grinned at her and said, “I guess I’ll see you around, Ado.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m the only one allowed to call her Ado.”

Kane flicked his eyes to me and smiled. “I like you.”

I flushed but forced myself to stand up straight as I said, “Well, I don’t like you or your pervey friend-“

“Brother. I’m his pervy brother,” Alec cut me off making Aideen snicker.

I shoved her and glared at Alec before I looked back to Kane, who still looked at me with an amused expression. I cleared my throat and said, “I don’t like you or your pervy brother. You’re both clearly nothin’ but trouble if the people you pal around with attack girls for no reason. You’re both very fuckin’ rude as well!”

I turned and grabbed Aideen’s hand and took off walking away from the brothers and in the direction of my car.

“What? No goodbye kiss? Now who is being rude!” Alec’s voice called out after us making Aideen cackle.

I grunted. “Fuck you,” I shouted without turning around.

“Name the time and place, kitten,” Alec called back which caused Aideen to break out in a full on laugh.

Kitten?

I fumed in silence as I all but hauled Aideen across the dark car park and into my car. “Name the time and place, kitten,” I mimicked Alec’s voice which caused Aideen to laugh harder as she buckled her seat belt.

I buckled my own seat belt then started up my car. I pulled out of the space I was in and quickly drove out of the car park. I don’t think I calmed down enough to breathe normally until we were on the Tallaght Bypass.

“Can you believe him? What a fuckin’ dick!” I spat.

Aideen snorted. “I found that entire conversation hilarious.”

I shook my head. “Well you shouldn’t have. Look at your face, Aideen!”

Aideen sighed. “I know, but it honestly wasn’t their fault. We were just havin’ a good time when out of no where this girl jumped on me.”

I gripped my steering wheel so tight that my knuckles turned white.

“Why were you even with them?” I spat.

I wasn’t angry with her, I was just angry that she got hurt by some bitch.

“I wasn’t even with them. Tonight was the first time I met them. I was out with Branna. Tonight was a small twenty-first birthday party for Bronagh. Branna left early with Ryder because he wasn’t feelin’ very well. Bronagh is still inside the club with her lad, Nico, and her friend, Alannah. I was sat with Kane and Alec when a drunk girl came over and accused me of bein’ Alec’s latest shag. Alec laughed at the girl, but didn’t deny it, so she jumped on me.”

I grunted.

Branna Murphy was Aideen’s friend and has been her friend since they were in preschool. Aideen is a few years older than me so she has known Branna longer than she has known me. I’m a grown woman, I’m not at all jealous of their friendship. Branna was cool after all. Her sister Bronagh was great as well, I was two years older than Bronagh, who turned twenty-one today. I had been invited to go out with everyone tonight but my body was beat, so I declined the invitation.

My thoughts calmed me down enough for me to loosen my grip on the steering wheel but I still shook with anger. “You should have let me punch ’em.”

Aideen chuckled then lifted her hand to cradle her face. “You would have broken your hand! Did you see how big he was?”

I grunted and nodded my head. “His brother was even more muscular. Do they live at the gym or somethin’?”

Aideen snickered. “Branna said they have a gym in her house. ‘Member I told you she moved in with Ryder and the oldest twin, Nico, moved in with her sister?”

I nodded my head.

“Branna didn’t just move in with Ryder, she moved in with Alec and Kane as well. She said there is a gym room where the sittin’ room should be and that they all work out a lot. You should see Nico; he’s twenty-one and the lad is ripped. He is a fighter or somethin’.”

I glanced at her wide eyed. “Why the hell are you hangin’ around walkin’ tanks, Aideen?”

Aideen burst into a fit of giggles which made me grin even though I was mad.

“They are lovely – big and scary – but lovely.”

I shivered when I pictured Kane’s face, calling him lovely was not a word that I would use to describe him.

“How do you think Kane got those scars on his face? They are kind of severe.”

Aideen sighed. “I’ve no idea what happened to him but he is still gorgeous!”

“You like his accent as well, right?” I questioned.

Aideen purred, “Oh, my God. I could listen to him talk all day! He could make wet by just sayin’ ‘Hello’!”

I rolled my eyes. “I swear you think with your dick.”

Aideen cackled. “You mean vagina?”

“Yeah, I mean vagina, but sayin’ dick sounds better.”

Aideen continued to laugh then hissed a little and covered her face with her hands. I glanced at her every so often during the five minute drive back to my apartment complex. I parked in my usual spot, then myself and Aideen got out of the car, and after I locked it, quickly scurried across the car park and into my apartment building. We took the stairs two at a time until we got to the fifth floor where my apartment was located. I opened my hall door with lightening like speed because I didn’t want to be caught by Mr. Pervert again dressed in just my nightdress.

Luckily, we got inside with no one seeing us. Aideen and I then went into the bathroom where I got out my first aid kit while she pulled her dress off then pulled down her underwear and sat on the toilet.

I was opening an antiseptic packet when I glanced up at her through the mirror and snorted, “Do you reckon lads do this?”

Aideen opened her eyes and lazily smiled at me as she said, “Willingly go to the toilet with another lad in the room? Nah, they would call each other gay.”

I chuckled and looked back down to the first aid kit while Aideen finished up on the toilet. I turned when the toilet flushed and waited for her to wash her hands before I began cleaning her face up. She was four inches shorter than me now that her heels were off, so it made holding her head still a lot easier.

“OW!” Aideen suddenly hollered which earned a bark from my bedroom.

“Go back asleep you fat shite!” Aideen shouted when I swiped the antiseptic wipe over a small cut above her eye.

I hissed at her, “Leave him alone, he isn’t fat. He just has a thick coat!”

Aideen laughed through her hissing. “Yeah, a thick coat of blubber.”

I gave her a firm look. “Don’t slag me baby when I’m cleanin’ you up. Me finger might slip and jam into your eye.”

Aideen gave me a wary look and closed her mouth which made me inwardly grin as I finished cleaning up her face. When I was finished, she went into my bedroom to get some of my pyjamas to wear while I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I turned on the kitchen light then moved to the sink and filled up a glass and quickly gulped down the water. I looked to my left and noticed the envelope Mr. Pervert gave to me earlier, still unopened on my kitchen table.

“Storm, get off the bed… or at least move over!” Aideen’s voice shouted from my bedroom.

I roughly rubbed the back of my neck and sighed. I glanced at the envelope once more before I shook my head and walked over to the kitchen light switch and flipped it off. I turned and walked towards the sounds of growling and shouting coming from my bedroom and decided that dealing with Storm and Aideen was enough for one night.

Whatever was in that envelope could wait until morning.

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Aug 142019
 
 14 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

My Perfect Mistake (Over the Top #1) by Kelly Siskind

What happens in Aspen is definitely not staying in Aspen . . .

A girls’ trip to Aspen was exactly what Shay needed to forget about her toxic ex-boyfriend. She’s got her girls, pristine slopes for skiing, and hot guys everywhere. Of course, her epic self-rediscovery goes completely to hell when a wild (and deliciously hot) skier knocks Shay on her ass . . . and war is declared.

Kolton doesn’t know what it is about Shay that makes him lose it. Not just his cool—although she does have an unholy gift for that—but his restraint. When anger gives way to explosive chemistry, they’re both shaken with the intensity of it. But somewhere between lust and hate, Kolton and Shay realize they could have something real . . . if they don’t kill each other first.

Excerpt My Perfect Mistake (Over the Top #1) by Kelly Siskind

He tosses me my anti-sexy helmet. “We should take another run before we head down.”

I catch it and shake my head, unsure I heard him right. “Sorry, we? Shouldn’t you be skiing with your buddies? It’s bad enough you hijacked my lunch and I have to sit at a table with you again tonight. Now you want to ski together? Thanks but no thanks.”

He lifts his arms over his head and stretches from side to side. A sliver of skin peeks out below his jacket. “The guys called it quits early. Worried you can’t keep up?”

As fucking if. The dude’s obviously egging me on, but he snaps my self-control. Everything between us is action, reaction. Spark and flame. What’s his deal, anyway? Why sit with me and ski with me when we’re worse than cats and dogs? If he thinks firing me up means he’s getting a replay of last night, he’s mistaken. Still, I need to beat his ass on the slopes. “Fine. I’ll take that run. It’s about time I put you in your place. But let’s be clear. We can have lunch and ski together, but there will be no sex.” A teen walking by stops midstride and doubles over in a fit of giggles.

“I didn’t catch that.” Kolton leans forward and cups a hand around his helmeted ear. “Do you mind speaking up?”

What a total douche.

“Everyone is wise until he speaks,” I mumble, recalling my granddad’s words.

Kolton straightens, a question passing across his face. “Are you Irish? My granddad used to say that all the time. Along with, ‘Shut your mouth and eat your dinner.’”

I laugh, abrupt and maniacal, the sharp sound catching me off guard. The energy shifts between us, like the first time I understood my Spanish teacher—the foreign becoming familiar. I frown, unsure I want Kolton to feel familiar. “Yeah, I am. The first curse I learned was feckin’ arse, and I’d kind of like to use it now.”

He smiles to himself, as though we’re friends who would sit and talk and laugh about our shared upbringing. Ruffled, I cram my helmet on, get geared up, and try to stomp out of the lodge all look out, buddy, but with the boots and Martian head, it’s a fail.

Skis on and goggles down, we race to the lift. He arrives first, making like he’s been waiting forever with a dramatic yawn. I roll my eyes and push past him. The lift line is empty, so it’s just him and me on the four-person chair.

“Mind not doing that?” he says partway up as I swing my skis.

The chair sways in response, and I rock my legs harder. “This?”

His olive skin grays. “Yeah. That.” He leans his elbows on the safety bar and closes his eyes.

If he pukes, I’ll likely toss my cookies, too. When my brother got food poisoning from China House’s all-you-can-eat buffet, it wasn’t pretty. I hadn’t eaten a thing there, but the second he threw up, I proceeded to reenact that pie eating scene from Stand by Me: projectile vomit, solid stream, fire hydrant force.

I still my skis and stop bouncing.

We pass one supporting tower, then another, before he opens his eyes.

“You regretting that lunch?” I ask, smirking.

He flexes his hands, and the poles dangling from his wrists knock around. “No. I’m regretting getting on this chair with you.”

Such a charmer.

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Aug 132019
 
 13 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Undercover Attraction (The O’Malleys #5) by Katee Robert

Scandal. Wealth. Power. Seduction. Welcome to the world of the O’Malleys.

Ex-cop Charlotte Finch used to think there was a clear line between right and wrong. Then her fellow officers betrayed her, and the world is no longer so black and white. Especially when it’s Aiden O’Malley, one of the most dangerous men in Boston, who offers her a chance for justice. The only catch: she’ll have to pretend to be his fiancée for his plan to work.

Aiden can’t afford to let anyone see the man behind the mask. To run the O’Malley empire, he has to be cool and controlled at all times. But the moment he meets Charlie, they’re playing with fire. Her slightest touch is enough to send him over the edge. At first their “engagement” was a way to eliminate his enemies. Now he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe– even if he has to destroy his own family to do it.

Excerpt Undercover Attraction (The O’Malleys #5) by Katee Robert

“Come on.” Aidan stepped back and took her hand. “I have something to show you.”

He led the way up the back stairs and through a door she hadn’t explored yet. Charlie’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of candles flickering on a table laid out with a bottle of wine, two glasses, and a whole spread of Chinese takeout.

She let go of his hand and wandered over to peer into the boxes. “How did you know that crispy pork belly was my favorite?” Just like that, the pieces clicked together. She snapped her fingers. “You had your sister feel me out?” She’d thought Kiera had been asking about her favorite food so they could pick a local place next time they ventured out of the house. “Shady. Very shady.”

“I am a mob boss, after all.” He came around the table and poured them both a glass of wine. “I have it on good authority that this cab pairs well with Chinese takeout.”

“How classy of you.” It was like stepping into another realm of existence as she sat down and accepted the glass of wine while he filled two plates. When Aiden had said that he wanted a dinner date with her, she’d assumed that meant dressing to the nines and going out somewhere fancy. She said as much.

He snorted. “Eating out always serves a purpose. Either you’re making a point, or ensuring you’re seen by someone specific, or conducting a business meeting. We’ve been making points and playing parts since we met. I’d like to try something new—having a relaxing conversation. Just me and you, Aiden and Charlie, not the leader of the O’Malley clan and the former-cop-turned-fake-fiancée.”

“Do you think that’s even possible?” Such a short time together, and it was clear they both had a boatload of issues. It was easy enough to ignore when they were banging each other’s brains out or pretending to be something they weren’t, but holding down a conversation without those masks in place? She wasn’t sure it was a good idea.

Because I already like him.

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Aug 122019
 
 12 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Preservation (The Walshes #7) by Kate Canterbary

Two lonely hearts.
Just once, she’d like to be someone’s first choice.
She’s strong-willed and spunky, but she’s left picking up the pieces from her ex’s lies and manipulations, and daydreaming about taking a scalpel to his scrotum.
Flying under the radar is what he does best.
He’s laid-back and loyal, but he wants the most off-limits woman in his world, and nothing will ever make that a reality.
An arrangement of mutual benefit.
Two months, four dates.
Five, if things go well.
Five at the most.
But possibly six.
Definitely no more than six dates.
Only the appearance of a romantic relationship is required, and they expect nothing more from their time together. There will be none of those benefits involved.
One wild weekend.
After waking up in bed together—very naked and even more hungover—the terms and conditions of their arrangement no longer apply. Now they’re faced with something riskier than exposing their fake relationship: letting go of the past and zipping up the future.
Some things have to fall apart before they can be put back together.

Excerpt Preservation (The Walshes #7) by Kate Canterbary

Riley pointed at the plate between us. “These are my favorite pretzel bites in the city. Try some.”
I shot him a sharp look. “Are you just trying to get me in a good mood?” I asked. “I did eat lunch today.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked, dipping two pretzels in the accompanying sauce. “What did you have? Based on you yelling at me about noticing your shoes, I’d say it was an iced venti skinny latte.”
“Almonds,” I replied. And an iced venti skinny latte but I wasn’t copping to that just yet.
Riley tried to fight a laugh, and failed. “Almonds?” he repeated.
“Chocolate covered almonds, yes.” I folded my arms across my chest. “It was an appropriate amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbs.”
He shook his head and ate another pretzel. “I don’t want to live in a world where a few almonds—chocolate or otherwise—are lunch.” He pointed to the plate and pushed his beer toward me. “Eat. Drink. Please.”
I glared at the pilsner and pretzels. I hated being told what to do. Just fucking hated it. But then my stomach growled—goddamn it—and Riley shot me a pointed glance.
“People think that a rumbling stomach is the sign of hunger,” I said, reaching for his glass. I drained the beer and then selected a pretzel for dipping. “It is not.”
Riley gazed at me, his expression flat. It gave me a moment to study him while choosing another pretzel. He was wearing jeans, a tailored shirt with the cuffs rolled up to his elbows, and a pinstriped vest, and his hair was a wreck. It looked like he’d been tugging the dark strands in every conceivable direction. His eyes were rimmed with a bit of red and his lids heavy, as if he’d been rubbing them or hadn’t gotten much sleep. Perhaps both. There was a small notebook beside his phone, and a mechanical pencil tucked into the spiral binding.
And he was still more attractive than I knew how to handle. Even tired and irritable, and ordering me to eat his pretzels and drink his beer, he was hot as fuck. I bit into another pretzel and offered him a small smile.
“Would you say the chip on your shoulder is massive or epic?” he asked. There was no hint of amusement in his tone, and he was staring at me with more ice than I’d believed he could muster. It didn’t feel like we were sniping at each other anymore. “It might be semantics to you but I’m trying to get a feel for what I’m dealing with here.”
But then one of his big hands found my leg under the table. He squeezed and rubbed his thumb along the hollow of my knee, and I started to believe I’d been all wrong about this man. There was the player and there was the overgrown kid, but there was so much more than that.

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Aug 112019
 
 11 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Grip (Grip #1) by Kennedy Ryan

Resisting an irresistible force wears you down and turns you out.
I know.
I’ve been doing it for years.
I may not have a musical gift of my own, but I’ve got a nose for talent and an eye for the extraordinary.
And Marlon James – Grip to his fans – is nothing short of extraordinary.
Years ago, we strung together a few magical nights, but I keep those memories in a locked drawer and I’ve thrown away the key.
All that’s left is friendship and work.
He’s on the verge of unimaginable fame, all his dreams poised to come true.
I manage his career, but I can’t seem to manage my heart.
It’s wild, reckless, disobedient.
And it remembers all the things I want to forget.

The Grip Series concludes with book 3, STILL.

Excerpt Grip (Grip #1) by Kennedy Ryan

I wanted to keep this pain locked away, private. Until now. Until Grip. His eyes rest on my face. I feel his compassion, and it weighs so much I want out from under it. I turn my head to escape the honesty between us for a few seconds. Just for a reprieve. As soon as I look over the side, I realize my mistake.
“Oh, God. We’re so high.”
Breath charges up my throat, panic pushing out the last few minutes of peace. My heart jackhammers. Blood rushes to my head, and the world spins. I grip my head to make it stop.
“Hey, hey.” Grip scoots closer, eliminating the distance between us. “Put your head down as far as you can.”
The safety bar keeps me from putting my head between my knees, but I don’t think it would help anyway. Nothing helps. It’s irrational. I know I’m safe, but fear mocks me and makes me its bitch. I hate it, but I can’t stop it.
“My mom used to tell me to recite things,” Grip says from above me. “Like to distract myself when I was scared. To give me something else to focus on.”
It only makes me more anxious that I have nothing I can recite. Fear jumbles all my thoughts together, so discombobulated that I can’t even assemble the digits of my phone number.
“I can’t think of anything.”
“Okay. Hold up.” He rubs my back in soothing strokes that don’t soothe. “I’ll do it. Just listen to my voice. Focus on what I’m saying.”
I can’t focus. I can’t stop the encroaching darkness, blurring my edges and knotting my interior. It’s never been this bad, and it would happen right in front of Grip.
“I’ll recite “Poetry” by Pablo Neruda. My favorite actually.” Grip’s voice is warm but disembodied as I press my eyes closed. “It feels like he was writing my life story. Like he knew there would be this kid who needed something bigger than himself, and he wrote this to guide that kid to a different path. This has always felt like more than a poem. It’s personal. It feels like my prophecy.”
The emotion, the honesty in his voice compels me to hazard a glance at him. In the faint light of the moon and the bright lights of the carnival, I see his face. Beautiful and bronzed, a sculpture of bold bones and full lips. His eyes are intent, never looking away from mine as he begins.
His deep voice caresses Neruda’s sentiments of how poetry called him from the street and away from violence. Of how writing saved him from a certain fate and opened up a world he’d never imagined. And Grip’s right. The poem could have been written for him . . . could have foretold the story of a boy called, not from the streets of a Chilean city, but from the streets of Compton.
Passion weaves between his words and conviction laces every line. He means these words. He loves these words. Amazingly, as he’s reciting a poem I’ve never heard before, someone else’s words illuminate Grip to me. I see him clearly. A man deeply committed to his craft and who views his gift as a miracle of circumstance. As cocky as he is, I see him humbled by the means to escape a path so many others never leave. And if the poem tells his story, his eyes are a confession, never straying from mine, holding mine in the moonlight, his voice liquid poured over something sweet. As he approaches the end, my fears are forgotten, but I’m still stuck on a Ferris wheel under a darkened sky, and nothing has ever been more fitting than the final words, in which the poet says he wheeled with the stars and his heart broke loose on the wind.
There are too few perfect moments in this life. Far too few of us get them, but I am privileged to have this one with this man. When he empties his chest of his heart and empties his body of his soul for me under a starry sky on a Ferris wheel. And I know. In this moment, I know that I’m lost to him. It has been a matter of days. It has been a string of moments. It has not been long enough to tell him, but in my heart, I know I am lost.
“Did that help?” he asks.
He searches through the dim light for my fear or my panic, but they aren’t there anymore. He leans closer, so close his breath whispers over my face. I don’t know when he realizes that fear has gone and that something else has come, but I see the change in his eyes.
I think he might be lost in me, too.
The inches between our lips disappear. At the first brush of his mouth on mine, I know this kiss will never end. It will live on in my memory for the rest of my life. His lips beg entry, a tentative touch that blazes through my defenses and hastens the rhythm of my heart. I clutch his arm, skin and muscle, satin over steel. A thousand textures collide. The hot silk of his mouth. The sharp, straight edge of his teeth. The firm curve of his lips. The taste of him. God, the taste of him makes me moan. He cups my face, fingers spearing into my hair. I press so close the heat of his body burns through the thin fabric of our shirts.
“Bris.” He says it against my lips before trailing kisses down my chin. His mouth opens over my neck, hot and wet, and I arch into him, the pleasure like a train in my veins. Rushing. Vaulting. Exploding.
“Oh, God.” I’m a panting mess. My hands venture under his shirt, desperate, nails scraping at his back. “Keep kissing me.”
He’s back at my lips, devouring, our tongues dueling, dancing. This kiss has a cadence, his head moving to the left and then right, on beat, a syncopation, a simultaneity of lips and tongues. His mouth slants over mine, hot and zealous, and I link my fingers behind his head, clinging, afraid this will end. Afraid to lose the enormity of this moment. At the top of the world, so close we could almost touch the sky and with only the stars watching, I found out what a kiss should be.

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Aug 102019
 
 10 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Still (Grip #2) by Kennedy Ryan

**STILL is the conclusion of Grip & Bristol’s emotional journey. You must read FLOW, available for FREE, and GRIP before beginning STILL**

I’ll be there.
Through thick and thin.
Ride or die.
You can count on me.

The promises people make.
The vows we take.
Assumptions of the heart.
Emotion tells us how we feel, but life…life has a way of plunging us in boiling water, burning away our illusions, testing our faith, trying our convictions.
Love floating is a butterfly, but love tested is an anchor.

For Grip and Bristol,
Love started at the top of the world
On a Ferris wheel under the stars
But when that love is tested, will they fly or fall?

Excerpt Still (Grip #2) by Kennedy Ryan

“Mmmmm, that looks good.”
The comment grabs my attention, and I find myself smiling for the first time since I left Bristol. As she walks toward me, the approaching sunset paints the roof in shadows, but I see her clearly. Dark hair, burnished in places, falls around her shoulders. She has already discarded the dress she wore at lunch today in favor of a T-shirt and nothing else; it’s the one I just tossed into the hamper.
She tugs at my HABITUAL LINE STEPPER T-shirt, the hem landing at the top of her thighs. Where the T-shirt stops, my eyes keep going, past the lean muscles of her legs and the cut of her calves, the delicate bones of her ankles and to her bare feet. I love this girl, head to toe. Beyond this gorgeous packaging, it’s everything beneath that makes me beyond grateful she’s mine. The loyalty, the bottomless pit that is her heart, her sense of humor. The toughest girl I know is also the most tender, and I’m so honored I get to see both sides, all her sides.
“You out of clean clothes?” I nod to my T-shirt. “You gotta wear my dirty stuff now?”
An impish smile tugs at her bare lips. She’s washed away her makeup, and with it, all the sophistication she wraps around herself for her job. Up on this roof in my T-shirt, she’s just my girl. I love her in every iteration, but this is the one only I get to see, so it’s probably my favorite.
“I have clean clothes.” She steps close enough for me to smell her scent and mine mingling in the fabric. “I like the way this shirt smells.”
I drop a look over her, my eyes resting on the curves of her breasts in the soft cotton, where her nipples have gone taut under my stare.
“How does the shirt smell?” I ask, my voice as smoky as the steaks I should be paying attention to.
“Like you.” She leans forward until her breasts press into my chest. “It smells like you.”
My hands are twitching to touch her, and I finally surrender, slipping under the shirt to grasp her waist, pulling her up the few inches until our lips meet. I’ve been thinking about these steaks all day, and before Bristol arrived, I thought I was starving—but this, what I feel having her in my arms after hours apart, this is starving. It starts in my balls and tunnels up through my chest, infiltrates my heart, and presses its way to my mouth, which is open and devouring in a lips-searching, tongues-dueling kiss. I grip her by the ass, grinding our bodies together until the texture of her skin and mine, the scents of her skin and mine meld into this one panting, voracious thing that never seems to get enough.
“You better not burn my steak,” Bristol pants in between kisses.
I angle my head to send my tongue deeper into her mouth, holding her still, teasing her until she’s straining up, open and begging when I pull back.
“Grip.” My name is a whimpering complaint. She cups my neck and tugs my head back down.
“Oh, no.” I resist, laugh, and turn to the grill. “You were so concerned about me burning these steaks, Ms. Medium Rare.”
“I am.” She slides her arms around me from behind and I feel a sweet sting, her teeth gently biting my shoulder through my T-shirt. I love it when she bites me, but I’m not giving her that satisfaction yet. “But that doesn’t mean you get to stop kissing me. You have to multitask.”
One slim hand slides over my abs and past my belt to cup me through my jeans.
Damn. Not sure how long I can keep up this charade that I don’t want to screw her into the wall on the roof where anyone with half a telescope could see.
“Wow,” I say, keeping my tone unaffected, though she’s gotta feel me getting longer and harder in her hand. “Somebody’s horny as hell.”
She makes a sound that’s half outraged laughter, half indignant grunt before stepping around to stand in front of me by the grill.
“I will not be slut-shamed by my own boyfriend.” Amusement lights her eyes, turning them to quicksilver.
“Shamed?” I put down the grilling fork I’m using for the steaks and reach for her again. “No shame in being horny for me, baby. I wanna give you a gold star.”
Her eyes slide down to the erection poking her in the stomach. “Is that what we’re calling it now? Should we name it?”
“Guys who have to name their dicks probably aren’t using ’em right.”
“So I ask again . . . should we name it?”
I cock a brow and press our hips together.
“Are you implying that I don’t know how to use mine? Because that’s not the impression I got this morning when you came so hard you were singing like a bird.”
She tilts her head, her eyes wide and considering. “Did you say like a bird?” A small smile plays around her lips. “What made you say that?”
“I don’t know.” I give a careless shrug. “Why?”
“It’s silly,” she says, rolling her eyes in self-derision. “I was thinking today when I laughed it sounded like . . .”
Bristol blushes about once every Halley’s Comet, so the color washing across her cheeks makes me wonder.
“What?” I probe. “Your laugh sounded like what?”
“Like a happy bird,” she mumbles, peering up at me like I’m going to laugh in her face.
Which I do.
“Stop laughing at me.” She narrows her eyes in mock warning.
“Right.” I dip my head to catch her eyes and tease her. “Because when you tell me you laugh like a happy bird I’m just supposed let you get away with that.”
“I’m not telling you things anymore.” She narrows her eyes and folds her arms over her chest.
“Yeah, right. I’m your best friend.” I pull her back into me. “You’ll tell me everything like you always do.”
“You are, you know.” Her voice softens. “My best friend, I mean.”
When she looks at me like this, her eyes stripped of every defense, no guard in sight, completely honest and open and vulnerable, I feel slightly invincible. It’s a trick of the heart, I know, but I can’t help but think that as long as she looks at me like this, there isn’t anything I couldn’t survive, that our love is the stuff of legends, rolled in Teflon, disaster-proof. I’m as fanciful as Bristol, my laughing bird.
“You’re mine, too,” I echo her sentiment. “My best friend.”
“I won’t tell Rhyson,” she promises with a grin.
“I’m pretty sure he spits the same line to Kai.” I keep a straight face. “We have to say that shit to get laid.”
“I hate you.”
“Orrrrrrrrr do you love me and want to blow me after dinner?” I shrug and lift my hands, my palms up. “Just saying. Listen to your heart, Bristol. Listen to your heart.”
“I’m listening to my belly right now, smartass, and it’s growling. Feed me.”
“Like my mama used to say, ain’t no freeloaders in this house. What’ll you give me for feeding you?”
“Um . . .”
“I do have a suggestion, if you’re searching.”
“Let me guess—you have a ‘Will fuck for food’ sign up here somewhere?”
“I used bubble letters.” I laugh and give her ass a light smack. “You can barter that booty.”
It’s so damn easy with Bristol—our banter, the chemistry, the perfect rhythm of our conversation. It was one of the first things I noticed when we met all those years ago. We didn’t read each other’s minds or finish each other’s sentences. It wasn’t cosmic, but it was a connection that seized me by the brain and grabbed me by the balls. She was as smart as she was sexy, as curious as she was forthcoming. There were years in between when we made things complicated, when things were strained, but now with our hearts settled on each other for good, it’s simple.
This.
Her.
Us.

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Aug 092019
 
 9 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Hook Shot (Hoops #3) by Kennedy Ryan

A deeply emotional standalone romance set in the worlds of professional basketball and high fashion.

Divorced. Single dad. Traded to a losing squad.
Cheated on, betrayed, exposed.
My perfect life blew up in my face and I’m still picking up the pieces.
The last thing I need is her.
A wildflower. A storm. A woman I can’t resist.
Lotus DuPree is a kick to my gut and a wrench in my plans
from the moment our eyes meet.
I promised myself I wouldn’t trust a woman again,
but I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want Lo.
She’s not the plan I made, but she’s the risk I have to take.

A warrior. A baller. The one they call Gladiator.
Kenan Ross charged into my life smelling all good, looking even better and snatching my breath from the moment we met.
The last thing I need is him.
I’m working on me. Facing my pain and conquering my demons.
I’ve seen what trusting a man gets you.
I. Don’t. Have. Time. For. This.
But he just keeps coming for me.
Keeps knocking down my defenses and stealing my excuses
one by one.
He never gives up, and now…I’m not sure I want him to.

Excerpt Hook Shot (Hoops #3) by Kennedy Ryan

After talking to Kenan for the last few minutes, and looking under his hood, so to speak, I’ve found that he’s a classic. They don’t make them like him anymore, and if I don’t change the subject, change the course of this conversation, I’ll fool myself that we don’t have to keep things simple and that we could be more than just friends, not just for the summer, but for a long time to come. As long as I’d like.
“Okay,” I say, switching gears without a clutch and pulling a tie off another of Amanda’s racks. “I think that shirt could work really well with this tie.”
He doesn’t look at the tie I’m holding up, but keeps his eyes fastened on me. He’s not playing along. I’ve boxed myself into a corner with him. And the quarters are too tight. His scent. His warmth. His intelligence. His thoughtfulness. He is pressing in on me, overtaking my good intentions in all the ways I never thought a man could.
“Try this on,” I say, blindly shoving the mint green shirt at him.
When I look at him, he’s already peeled one shirt off and is reaching for the one I chose. I didn’t think this through. Didn’t forecast that Kenan changing from one shirt into another would mean his naked chest. I lose my train of thought and all my chill. Besides my mouth dropping open at the sight of the sculpted terrain of his chest and abs, I give no other indication that he affects me. Taut, bronze skin stretches across his broad shoulders like supple canvas pulled over a frame, the foundation of a masterpiece. He’s a big man. Not bulky, but instead chiseled to the specifications of a master sculptor: arms roped with muscles, biceps like rocks under skin glowing with health. The forearms Chase raved about are lined with veins and sinew. And I die for a great chest. I’ve never seen one more spectacular than Kenan’s.
Two words.
Male. Nipples.
Jesus, my mouth is literally watering at the thought of tasting them, sucking them, licking them. And if that pectoral perfection weren’t enough, the two columns of muscles, four each, are stacked over his lean stomach arrowing down to a narrow waist and hips. I can’t look away. I lick my lips, imagining how he would feel under my mouth. How I’d lick around his nipples and drag my tongue down that shallow path bisecting his abdominal muscles. I’d slip that belt off and sink to my knees. Unzip those pants and take him out. God, hold him in my hands and then take him all the way to the back of my throat. I’d choke on him. A man this big . . . I’d be so tight around him.
“Lotus,” Kenan says, jarring me from my torso trance. “Should I go ahead and put this shirt on? Or did you need a little more time?”
I snap a glance up to his face, embarrassed to find him laughing at me. Oh, God. I’m as bad as Amanda. I turn to leave, but he catches my elbow with a gentle hand and turns me back around, walking us behind two of the racks. He bends until he’s almost eye level with me.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” he says, searching my face intently. “I’m glad you like my body.”
“I didn’t say I . . .” My words trail off at his knowing grin. “Okay. So you have a nice body. I work in fashion. Do you have any idea how many great bodies I see on a daily basis?”
“I’m sure many,” he says, his smile still firmly in place. “I can’t speak for any of them, only for the way you looked at me.”
“And how do you think I looked at you?” I ask defensively, forcing myself not to look away.
In the quiet that follows, his smile fades, and heat replaces the humor in his eyes. “You looked at me the way I bet I’ve looked at you every time you walk into a room,” he says, the timbre of his voice rolling over my sensitive skin like a caress. “Like I would eat you if I could. Head to toe, everything in between.”
“Kenan,” I protest, closing my eyes on a groan. “We said friends. We said simple. This is not how you start a simple friendship.”
His large hand cups my jaw and lifts my chin. I open my eyes, blinking dazedly at him. I wasn’t prepared for how his touch makes me feel. How I instantly crave more of it; want to lean into the warmth; to turn and trace his lifeline with my tongue. Tell him all the things I could discover just from reading his palm and looking into his eyes.
How can such a large hand feel so gentle, like it’s capable of treasuring, cherishing?
“Okay, Lotus,” he says, regret and reluctance woven around my name. “Simple. Friendship.”
About Kennedy
A Top 25 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy Ryan writes about women from all walks of life, empowering them and placing them firmly at the center of each story and in charge of their own destinies. Her heroes respect, cherish and lose their minds for the women who capture their hearts.
She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine and Frolic, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Atlanta Autism families, she has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other media outlets as an advocate for families living with autism.

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Aug 082019
 
 8 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Hoops Holiday (Hoops #2.5) by Kennedy Ryan

A jock, a journalist and a second chance . . .

MacKenzie Decker was a question Avery never got to ask, much less answer.
They met when she was a young reporter fueled by ambition, and the ink on Deck’s first NBA contract was barely dry. Years later, they’ve climbed so high and lost so much, but one thing hasn’t changed. The attraction that simmered between them in a locker room before is still there. With success like theirs, everything has been possible . . . except them.

That was then.
But what about now?

*Hoops Holiday Collection consists of FULL-COURT PRESS, a HOOPS novella originally published in the TEAM PLAYER Anthology. It has been expanded with all-new, never-before-published content & epilogue.

It also includes Christmas-themed short stories for characters from LONG SHOT and BLOCK SHOT, books 1 and 2 of the series.

Excerpt Hoops Holiday (Hoops #2.5) by Kennedy Ryan

Deck pulls me closer by the shoulders while tears course over my cheeks and dampen the fine cotton of his shirt. I can’t catch my breath. Weeping quakes my body with the stupid tears I promised myself I wouldn’t shed today. I was so determined to forget all of this tonight, and here I am, a sloppy mess all over Mack Decker. His wide, warm palms roll over my arms when his jacket falls from my shoulders and hits the thick pile carpet. He rests his hands at the curve of my neck and shoulder when my tears finally subside, his thumbs under my chin, lifting, forcing my eyes to meet his.
“Hey, you okay?” he asks softly.
I concentrate all my senses, all my focus on where his hands have been. My arms are warm from his touch. The sensitive skin of my neck tingles where his thumbs caress. The faint smell of alcohol and his expensive cologne flares my nostrils. My heart slams into my ribs like I’ve run and leapt and landed. Wordlessly, I scoot forward on the stool, widening my legs until he’s between them, bracketed by my knees. The bold action forces the dress up to the juncture of my thighs, offering a glimpse of my black panties. His eyes drop between my legs and snap up to my face. He tries to step back, hands falling away and jaw ticking, but I latch onto one leanly muscled arm.
“Don’t.” I scoot forward more until I’m barely on the stool. “Please don’t leave me like this, Deck.”
“I’m not leaving you, Avery. I . . .” He gives a decisive shake of his head. “You’re not in a good place tonight and I won’t take advantage of that. I want to help you, not . . .”
His words trail away and his eyes are distracted, following a path along my collarbone, between my breasts, over my stomach and between my legs. I spread my thighs another inch, showing him what he’s wanted for a long time and inviting him to take it tonight.
He licks his bottom lip, a fascinating swipe of his tongue that I lean forward and mimic with my own. His pleasured groan vibrates against my mouth, but he pulls back, drawing in a deep breath and shaking his head again.
“Ave, I—”
I grip him by the neck and lick the seam of his lips. His jaw drops on a gasp, and I push my tongue in, exploring the warm, silky interior of his mouth. My hands venture between us, finding him lengthened, hardened. When I squeeze, he growls into our kiss. His hands, which have remained in deliberate discipline at his sides, encompass my waist. They’re so big his fingers almost meet at my back and his thumbs rest under my breasts. My nipples tauten in proximity to his touch.
“You’re playing with fire here.” His voice emerges rough as Brillo.
“I know exactly,” I say, my voice husky while my hand pushes up and down over his dick. “what I’m playing with.”
“Avery, we should—”
“Make me feel,” I cut in, steadily pumping him through his pants. “You want to help, then make me feel.”
Tears gather at the edges of my eyes, trickling unchecked over my face and into the corners of my mouth.
“Make me feel something other than pain, Deck.” I meet his eyes, and they reflect my sorrow back to me. He groans when my hand persists.
“Promise me,” he finally says, searching my face. “Promise me you won’t regret this tomorrow.”
A dissonant laugh flows out of me, misplaced in the grief and lust permeating the room around us.
“I can’t promise you I won’t regret this tomorrow.” I stare back at him, not hiding my pain or my passion or my confusion or my need. “I can only promise that I want it like hell tonight.”

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Aug 072019
 
 7 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Long Shot (Hoops #1) by Kennedy Ryan

A FORBIDDEN LOVE SET IN THE EXPLOSIVE WORLD OF THE NBA…

Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl?
You don’t.
My fairy tale is upside down.
A happily never after.
I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud.
I was a fool, and his love – fool’s gold.
Now there’s a new player in the game, August West.
One of the NBA’s brightest stars.
Fine. Forbidden.
He wants me. I want him.
But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go
.
.
*Contains domestic/sexual abuse not involving the hero. Please read reviews for guidance.

Excerpt Long Shot (Hoops #1) by Kennedy Ryan

“Iris?” August’s frown, the concern on his face, in his voice, remind me where I am. “Baby, you okay?”
I blink down at him dumbly, swallowing my tears, eating my memories whole and digesting a nightmare from long ago. I nod, my lips a cold, wobbly curve.
“Kiss me,” he whispers, his eyes so tender, so intent.
I remember a magical night under the stars, under a streetlight on the eve of greatness. A night filled with laughter and confidences, pregnant with promise. And I see him so clearly, my prince, asking for a kiss.
And I do.
I kiss him like the world might end tonight because I’ll never take this for granted. Not his kindness, when I’ve known cruelty all too well. Not his tenderness, when I’ve been handled roughly in the past. Not his love, when I’ve been possessed and owned and mistreated.
He thaws me with his kiss, my prince, and I melt into him. We’re chest to chest, with August’s number crushed between us. I take his cock in my hand, aligning our bodies, and two become one in a carnal slide of flesh. I anchor myself by my elbows hooked around his neck, and we kiss until I’m dizzy and our breaths tangle in a cloud of bliss. Under the jersey, his palm spans my back, digging into the naked flesh as our hips lock and roll and grind. My body clenches around him, and we pray, we curse, we moan, we mate like our bodies were made for this moment.
Ours is a love that reimagines—that peels back the sky at high noon searching for the stars, collecting them like shells in a bucket. We bathe in stardust, drink from the Milky Way, and dance on the moon. We pierce the firmament, peer into infinity, and tread on time and space. There is no before. There is no after. Now gives birth to forever. This moment may die, but this love never will. Time is not a line. It’s a circle, and we, August and Iris, we stand at the center.

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Aug 052019
 
 5 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Not Without You (By Your Side Series #3) by A.P. Watson

I have one rule in life—never fall in love. Sure, I loved my father and my best friend, but being in love with someone? Out of the question . . . It just wasn’t worth the risk. I saw the agony my father went through as my mother’s coffin was lowered into the ground, and he has never fully recovered from the depths of those sorrows. I won’t put myself through the same misery. I can’t.

Instead, I lose myself in my art. As a painter, I push my emotions into the colors I paint with. I usually put my entire being into every single painting, driving my fingers past the breaking point, but lately, my creative well has run dry. For over a year, my mind has taken a creative sabbatical, locking me out of my own reprieve. But everything changed when I met him. One glance into those bright blue eyes had my hands twitching with the desire to paint again.

If I thought remaining friends with my new muse was going to be easy, I was in for one hell of a letdown, because I was falling for him—fast. Handsome as hell, funny, and kind, he was everything I didn’t need, couldn’t have. I needed to remember my philosophy—live a happy, fulfilling life without falling in love. But deep down, I’m beginning to realize such a fate isn’t possible . . . Not Without You.

Excerpt Not Without You (By Your Side Series #3) by A.P. Watson

Chapter One: White

White. That was the color that reigned supreme in places like this, places promising all the enlightenment that follows a higher education. Frankly, I would rather be surrounded by any other color in the crayon box. Yes, that meant puke green, sunshine yellow, and even the bright orange screaming at us from every inch of campus. In my opinion, anything was better than white. White was the color of a blank canvas, a stark reminder of the creative sabbatical my soul was currently taking.
“Why do you look like your grandma just flipped you off?”
The sound of Wren’s voice threw me out of my train of thought.
“Because I hate this class. Anything not related to art is a waste of my time.”
“Yeah, that might be true, but everybody is required to take Probability & Statistics.”
“And the probability of me passing this class is slim, so as you can see, no further instruction is needed,” I quipped, sticking my tongue out at her.
She flung her long copper locks over her shoulder and plopped in the seat to my left, pulling out a spiral notebook and a green pen. She was feeling sassy today, and that was an incredible sign. If I had to deal with everything she’d been through the past few weeks, I would have curled up in a ball and flipped the world the middle finger. But not Wren. She was a damn force to be reckoned with.
Placing my hand on her arm, I gave it a little squeeze. Instantly, her body stilled. Although I didn’t reveal my thoughts, my gesture meant she could count on me. It meant she wasn’t alone.
“Thanks, babe,” she whispered, setting her hand on my knee. “You’re the best.”
“Ditto, babe.”
To my right, I could just make out the form of the hot blond guy who had been staring at me for half the class on Tuesday. Not that I hadn’t done my fair share of staring. My eyes had wandered in his direction more than a couple of times since the start of the semester. After all, no harm ever came from looking. He stepped closer, intent on occupying the empty chair next to me.
“If you’re going to sit there, you’d better have a good handle on what the hell is going on in this class,” I stated. My less-than-stellar performance on our first test meant I needed to get my ass in gear if I had any hopes of making it through this class with my GPA intact.
“You mean you don’t?” he asked, humor evident in his tone. “Because you seem like the type of person who has a handle on everything.”
I glanced up at him. Most of the time whenever a guy hit on me, I would dismiss them with little more than a wave of my hand. But his comment had more than piqued my interest. His shaggy blond hair and golden skin tone were so much hotter than I remembered. “Oh,” I whispered with a smile, “you’re good.”
He sat down next to me, sliding a pen out of the pocket of his jeans. “That’s what I hear.” And Hottie was apparently telling the truth, because when he opened his notebook, the first test we took slid out, landing in my lap. “Sorry.” He leaned in my direction.
But I was too quick for him. I grabbed the paper, completely at a loss for words, which was really fucking rare for me. Holy hell. Hottie got a ninety-six? “Look, we got the same grade!”
Wren snickered at my exclamation, trying her best to keep from laughing, since Professor Leigh had already started passing out the attendance roster.
“Really?” asked Hottie.
“Yeah, if you reverse the numbers on your test, that’s what I got.”
The bitchy chick who always wore a red headband turned around to glare at me. “Shh,” she spat, holding her finger over her lips.
“Oh, shut up. It’s not like we’re going to use this fucking bullshit in everyday life.” My retort either offended or shocked her, because she scoffed at me before spinning back around. God, I hated that fucking headband.
“That girl annoys the shit out of me,” Wren mumbled.
“Me too, babe.”
“Eh, she’s just pissed because she got the second-best grade in the class,” Hottie said.
“That seat is yours for the rest of the semester if you want it.”
“I may hold you to that. And my name is Ryan Evanston, by the way.” He held out his hand for me to shake. Crystal blue eyes met mine—the color so pure and pristine my fingers twitched with the need to recreate it.
Well, fuck.
For some people, sexual dry spells ruled their existence. For me, my artistic dry spell was worse than being stranded in the Sahara without a canteen. Sure, I’d been creating art projects for school, but my desire to paint—to let the world fall away and just create—had been non-existent. Wren believed I was uninspired, and she was probably right. But here, at this moment, all I wanted to do was paint those eyes.
Eventually, I slid my hand into his, noting the warmth radiating from his flesh. “Terayn Andrews.”
“And you?” he asked, leaning toward Wren.
“Wren Williams,” she answered.
“Nice to meet both of you.”
“Likewise,” I muttered for both of us.
Professor Leigh droned on for what felt like an eternity. So the guy had his passions, and they all happened to lie within statistics, but that still didn’t warrant the need for him to subject each of us to said passions. Alas, the board of this higher education establishment somehow feels we will benefit from taking a statistics course. And it was a load of freaking bull too.
I tried to concentrate on the sound of Leigh’s voice, but my brain was only capable of withstanding so much torture. I copied down a few notes from the lecture, but my willpower was obliterated by the color periwinkle. My hand had been twitching since I caught sight of those blue eyes. Pulling a few colored pens from my purse, I decided to let my fingers do their bidding.
Line after line flowed together, forming a perfect representation of the human eye. That iris and the multitude of colors it possessed were astounding. I used not one but three different blues in order to capture the intricacy of the hue. And I still wasn’t done. Something about his expression when he had looked at me caught my interest. It needed to be captured too. Now, the drawing had a set of eyebrows to accompany those eyes.
A sharp elbow to my side pulled my attention from the growing portrait in front of me.
“If you keep at it, you’re going to wind up drawing a full portrait,” Wren whispered in my ear.
“What?”
“And you might want to stop before you get to Hottie’s body.”
“Fuck,” I muttered, the momentary enchantment his eyes had cast over me finally breaking.
I scrambled to cover the drawing that had now taken up over three-fourths of my notebook paper, but my efforts were too late. Hottie had already caught sight of my sudden artistic breakthrough.
He pointed to my drawing. “You’re really talented.”
“Thanks. Art major, so I have a bad habit of doodling all the time.”
“I like it.”
I swept a strand of hair behind my ear and glanced at the clock. Thank God, this hell pit of a class was nearly over. I was in the middle of straightening my papers when a page full of notes landed right on top of my stack.
I glanced to my right, staring at Hottie, or rather, Ryan. “What’s this?”
“Notes for today’s lecture.”
“Don’t you need these?” I asked.
“Not really. This class is almost fun for me. I’m double majoring in corporate finance and business.”
“Holy shit.”
He laughed, turning that blue gaze on me. “That’s one way to put it.”
“Thank you for the notes.”
“No problem.”
To my left, I could just make out Wren’s body stiffening. Her phone was clutched in her hands, and she squeezed the plastic case dangerously.
That couldn’t be good. I glanced at her and the phone. A text from Liam lit up the screen.
Fuck that fucking jackass.
Even after all the shit he had pulled on her birthday, he was still trying to fuck with her life. I was just about to throw my arm around her when she stood and bolted from the class. I grabbed my stuff and flew after her, ignoring the astonished stares of our fellow classmates. The moment I reached the doorway, my head turned in either direction. Wren was at the end of the hall, clearly fighting back tears. The girl didn’t cry. In fact, the only time I’d seen her cry—other than at my mother’s funeral—was on her birthday last week when she caught Liam fucking his ex.
I approached her with caution. “Hey, babe. Talk to me about it?”
She shook her head, water shining in her brown eyes. “I am so over him and all his bullshit! Why can’t he just leave me the fuck alone?”
Her raised voice garnered a few curious stares. Not thinking, I grabbed her hand and pulled her into what I thought would be an empty room. Instead, we were met with a wall of urinals. Oh well, it would do.
“What is he doing now?”
“Trying to apologize. As if I would even take his lying, cheating ass back.”
“The nerve of that fucker.”
“Hey! This is the men’s restroom!” A guy I’d never seen before held the door open, staring at us in shock.
“Ask me if I care,” I replied, glaring at him with nothing but hatred in my eyes.
“But—” the guy began.
“Find another restroom. This one is occupied.” Hottie from our statistics class loomed over the guy. All right, he wasn’t just another pretty face. He had some nicely muscled arms to back up his threat.
“My mistake.” The guy scurried away a second later.
“Are both of you okay?”
“Wren?” I questioned in a soft voice.
“Not really,” she replied, her fingers twisting around a long strand of her hair. Her eyes were glued to the floor, but the faint trace of tears still lingered on the curves of her cheeks.
“I see.” He nodded, looking thoughtful as he shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “You guys hungry?”
“Yeah,” Wren answered.
“I could eat,” I added.
“My Jeep is parked right outside this building. Why don’t I take you guys to get something to eat?”
I looked to Wren so she would know this was her call.
“Okay,” she muttered.
He held the door open for us while Wren and I filed out of the men’s restroom. The three of us exited the building, stepping out into the overcast day. Yesterday was nearly seventy degrees. Today, it was barely above fifty. I really wished Tennessee would decide what the hell it wanted to do with the weather.
Hottie drove us to a diner not far from campus. I’d always been told not to get in the car with a stranger, but Ryan put off nothing but good vibes. He had opened and closed the car doors for Wren and I, and he even held open the door to the diner. Everything in my gut informed me he was a nice guy.
We slid into an empty booth just as our waiter arrived. He handed each of us a menu and a glass of water before he scurried away, stating he’d be back in a minute to take our order. I sipped on my water, watching Wren out of the corner of my eye.
“Do you have any more classes today?” I asked Ryan.
“Nope. I’m free. What about you two?”
“I’ve got art history tonight at seven but that’s it.”
“I’m done too,” Wren stated.
“And you’re an art major. What about you, Wren?”
“Nursing. I’m still getting a few requirements in now, though.”
“That’s awesome.”
“What about you?” she asked. She’d been too distracted by Liam’s earlier message to hear Ryan’s answer in class.
“I’m double majoring in corporate finance and business.”
“Damn. Guess that explains the A you got on the first statistics exam.”
“If either of you need help in that class, just ask. I really don’t mind.”
“Thanks,” she answered.
“I think I’m the only one who really needs the help,” I added.
Wren grinned, nudging me with her shoulder. “Numbers so aren’t your thing.”
“I’m tragically left-brained.”
No sooner than the words left my mouth, and our waiter popped up out of nowhere to take our order.
“Alright. What can I get y’all to eat?” He turned in my direction first, awaiting my order.
“I’ll have a burger with a side of onion rings.”
He jotted down my order. “And for you?”
“I’ll have two pancakes and a double side of bacon.”
“Oh, we stopped serving breakfast at noon.”
Wren’s expression dropped at his words. It was only two in the afternoon. I figured this place served breakfast all day, and she must have too. She picked the menu back up, scanning through the lunch dishes.
“Give her whatever she wants,” Ryan ordered, pulling out his wallet.
“I wish I could, but we stopped serving breakfast two hours ago.”
Ryan set a fifty-dollar bill on top of the guy’s order pad. “Surely a few pancakes and two sides of bacon won’t be too much trouble, right?”
“It’s okay! I’ll just order something else,” Wren said.
“Nope, you want pancakes and bacon, and you’ll get it.” Ryan’s voice wasn’t angry, but it did err on the side of being extremely dominant. And I kind of liked it.
“Two pancakes and two sides of bacon it is,” the waiter agreed, scribbling on his pad.
“We really appreciate you being so accommodating,” Ryan stated.
“And for you?” the waiter asked.
“A burger with a side of fries and a strawberry milkshake.
“Okay. I’ll have that out to you as soon as possible.”
“Thank you,” Ryan answered, collecting all the menus to hand back to the waiter.
“Thank you so much for what you did, but you didn’t need to do it,” Wren said once our waiter was out of earshot.
Ryan shrugged, acting like it wasn’t a big deal. “You seemed like you weren’t having the best day, so it’s the least I can do.”
“Thank you,” I added, staring into those sapphire eyes.
“It’s nothing.”
“I really do appreciate it,” Wren replied.
“Happy to help. Besides, what kind of diner doesn’t serve breakfast all day?”
“I was thinking the same thing!”
I nodded, completely in agreement with Wren. “I thought it did too. Kind of weird that it doesn’t.”
“I suppose next time we eat out, it’ll have to be at Street City Grill. They serve breakfast all day.”
“Bacon should always be served all day.”
“I agree wholeheartedly.” Ryan smiled at her. “So, how long have the two of you been friends?”
“Since we were six,” Wren and I answered in unison.
Ryan nodded. “I can tell.”
“This copper-haired beauty is my number one babe.” I slid my arm around her neck and squeezed tight.
“No boyfriend?”
“What the hell would I want one of those for?”
“I don’t mean to put down my own gender, but you’re probably better off without one,” Ryan joked.
“No kidding,” Wren agreed.
“Look, I’m not one to pry, but if you want to talk about whatever has been making your day so shitty, feel free to get it off your chest.”
“I appreciate the thought.”
“It’s either about relationship or family troubles. And while I’m well-versed with the latter, I’m also a good listener if you ever need to vent about it.”
Wren gave him a slight smile. “Thank you. I’ll definitely keep your offer in mind. It might be nice to have a guy’s perspective on everything.”
“Relationship trouble then,” Ryan muttered more to himself than to Wren and me.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Sorry, I figured it was guy trouble, but I didn’t want to pry.”
“Oh,” Wren breathed. “Yeah, it is.”
“Figures. Men are dicks most of the time.”
“Oh, so you’re gay?” I questioned. The way Ryan had been staring at me in class led me to believe he fell to the charms of the female population, so I couldn’t help but be curious.
I blamed his eyes.
“What?” His eyebrows pinched together as he quickly shifted his attention from Wren to me. “I’m not gay.”
“If you are, we don’t care. Actually, it will probably make us like you more.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble, but I like pussy.”
His reply caught me off guard. Those periwinkle irises held my gaze for a second before tearing through me like a damn power drill. “Um, I-I . . .” What the hell was I even going to say? I was not the type of woman to be at a loss for words, so this development was pretty strange for me. And Hottie’s looks were definitely responsible.
Wren burst into a fit of laughter beside me. “Oh my God! You made her blush! Jesus Christ, Ter, I don’t think you’ve blushed since ninth grade.” She leaned across the table and held out her hand, giving Ryan a high five. “You are crass and awesome! We can be friends.”
Ryan licked his lips and grinned like the freaking Cheshire cat. “Happy to have your approval.”
Thank God, my embarrassing moment was cut short by the arrival of our food. Our waiter placed a plate in front of each of us before scurrying away.
“Bacon!” Wren bounced happily as she shoved a strip of crispy goodness into her mouth.
“In the world of Wren, bacon makes everything better,” I explained.
“I can see that. And in the world of Terayn, what makes everything better?”
Usually, that answer was painting and Wren’s mom making me a chicken pot pie. But with my creative hiatus seeping into every part of my being, I was going to have to settle for baked goods. “Wren’s mom makes the best chicken pot pie I’ve ever had in my life.”
“So, it makes everything in your life better?”
“Pretty much.” I shrugged my shoulders and shoved an onion ring in my mouth as I watched Ryan devour his burger. “And what makes everything in your life better?”
“Foodwise? A burger and fries. Not foodwise, I guess hitting the gym. It’s a good way to burn off steam.”
“We can tell.”
Wren snickered beside me, quickly shoving a bite of pancake into her mouth.
“Thank you?”
“Was that meant as a comment or a question?” I asked Ryan.
“Both, I guess.”
“Fair enough.”
We finished the rest of our food, and I couldn’t help but be thankful for the distraction Ryan had given Wren. Her life had been turned upside down, so any excuse to forget the shit storm Liam had brought on her? I was all for it.
Although, the part of my brain continuously stressing about my future career as an artist was thankful for the distraction as well.

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Aug 042019
 
 4 August 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »

Riding the Edge (The Wild Riders #3.5) by Jaci Burton

New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton lets loose in a story of a hot undercover Wild Rider biker hired to keep an eye on the reckless daughter of a Nevada senator.

Wild Rider Rick Benetti has been tasked with keeping watch over a senator’s daughter Ava Vargas. She’s joined the Hellraisers, a biker gang suspected of drug smuggling. Not a hard assignment for Rick—Ava is beautiful and fun, and he’s looking forward to getting up close and personal with his charge.

Ava has zero interest in bikers, and only infiltrated the biker gang since her best friend dropped out of grad school and lost herself in this group. Getting close to her bestie again is the only way to rescue her. But riding with hot biker Rick turns out to be more exciting than Ava could have ever imagined.

When Rick realizes he’s fallen for Ava, he knows he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her, even if it costs him his job—or his life.

Excerpt Riding the Edge (The Wild Riders #3.5) by Jaci Burton

Speaking of people . . . where the hell had Lacey gone off to? Ava hadn’t seen her since they’d arrived here. Ava searched her out, but the crowd had thickened and she couldn’t find her.

“Looking for your friend?” Rick asked.

“Yes.”

“I saw Bo take her upstairs. Let’s go find them.”

Once again, he took her hand and led her up the stairs, though they had to wind their way through a crowd of people using the stairs as a seating area. They didn’t seem to mind though, in fact, made room for Rick and Ava to find their footing until they made their way to the second floor.

Ava studied the hallway that branched out in two directions and led to lots of doors—closed doors.

“Uh, maybe we shouldn’t be up here.”

Rick cocked his head to the side. “Why not?”

“I think people came up here to find some privacy.”

He grinned. “I’m sure they did. But you wanted to find your friend, didn’t you?”

“Well, yes, but if she and Bo want to be alone . . .”

He shrugged. “It’s just sex. They won’t mind being disturbed. Let’s go.”

Just sex? He was joking, right?

Apparently not. He started down a hallway. Ava ran after him and grabbed his arm before he turned a knob. “Are you serious? Stop that.”

“What?”

“You can’t just barge in on people having sex.”

“Why not?”

“First. It’s rude. And second . . . oh my God. Do I have to spell it out?”

He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “Sure. Go ahead.”

“Do you really want to watch people . . . you know.”

“Fucking?”

God. The way he said it. She flushed with heat all over. He made it sound dirty. And exciting. And compelling.

“Yes.”

“I guess if people don’t want to be bothered they’ll lock the door. Unless they forget. Most don’t really care. Watch.”

Riding the Edge by Jaci Burton
She took a giant step back as he turned the knob and opened a door that was, as he said, unlocked.

“Anyone in here having sex?”

“Get the fuck out of here!” came a sharp retort from the darkened room.

Rick laughed and closed the door.

“See? They didn’t want guests.”

She shook her head. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

He ignored her, took a few steps down the hall, and opened the next door. “What’s going on in here?”

There was heavy breathing. Then giggling, followed by a male voice that said, “Fucking. Why, do you wanna watch?”

“Maybe. I’ll get back to you.”

He closed the door and turned to her. Ava put her hand over her mouth to smother her laugh. “You’re something.”

He waggled his brows. “You have no idea, honey.”

“You don’t mean to go into every room and do this.”

“Sure I do.”

This time she quickened her step and rushed to cover the next door, putting her hand over the knob in the hopes she could spare another couple some embarrassment. “Really. Stop.”

Undaunted, he leaned into her, and her breath caught when he placed his hand over hers. She felt swallowed up, cornered, and for some reason didn’t mind at all.

He turned the knob and pushed the door open, sending her flying into the room with him.

“Anyone in here?”

No one replied.

“Hey, we’re in luck. Looks like we have this one to ourselves.”

Before she could say a word, he’d closed the door behind him. Ava heard the click of the lock.

“The smart ones lock the door to prevent assholes like me from coming in.”

She was now locked in a dark bedroom with Rick. And yet she wasn’t at all afraid. Intrigued, yes. Excited, definitely.

Riding the Edge by Jaci Burton
“Are you there?” he asked, his voice lowering.

“Yes.”

“Keep talking and I’ll find you.”

She licked her lips. “What would you like me to talk about?”

He was drawing closer. She moved farther away, though it wasn’t from fear. She bumped into something with her hip. Dresser, maybe.

“I don’t know. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I’m thinking I’m locked in a bedroom with someone I don’t know very well.”

“Do you need to know me well?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“What do you want to know about me, Ava?”

He was getting closer. She inched farther to the right. “Tell me where you’ve been for the past ten years.”

He went silent. When he spoke again, his breath brushed against her cheek. “I was in prison for a while for theft. Then I just rode freelance here and there, ended up in Chicago.”

She found it hard to breathe with him standing so close to her. But at least he’d been honest. “In prison?”

“Yeah.”

“For how long?”

“Three years.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Seven years ago.”

“Not since then?”

“No.”

She inhaled, blew it out, then stopped breathing when he wound his arms around her waist. “Does that bother you?”

“Honestly? I don’t know.” She thought about it. Just because he did time in jail didn’t mean he was a bad person now. People made mistakes. Some people learned from them. She’d seen plenty of that.

He laughed, and took a step back. “Go away, Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What?”

She heard the creak of the bedsprings.

“You can’t handle the Big Bad Wolf.”

Affronted, she moved forward, her knee making contact with the mattress. “Now just a minute. I didn’t say that.”

Riding the Edge by Jaci Burton
“You didn’t have to say a word. You’re a scared little rabbit.”

Dammit. “I am not.”

“Aren’t you?”

He sounded so smug. “No, I’m not. I just don’t have indiscriminate sex with strangers.”

He laughed, the sound as dark as the room they were in. “Sorry. I left my resume in my other bike.”

What an asshole. She should leave, march downstairs and . . .

And what? “Do you often bully women into having sex with you?”

“I’ve never had to beg a woman to have sex with me, Ava.”

She believed that. Women probably fought each other for the right to get in bed with him. And why not? He was gorgeous, oozed sexuality. So what the hell was wrong with her? She wasn’t a virgin. God knows the man got her juices flowing.

“If you have to think that hard about it, you should go. I promise not to chase you.”

“What if I wanted you to?”

“Wanted me to what? Chase you?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t chase women. I like them to be willing.”

She blew out a breath. He had a point.

“Ava.”

“Yes.”

“What’s wrong with letting go and just enjoying yourself?”

She didn’t have an answer to that because she rarely did it. “I don’t know.”

“Want me to show you what it’s like?” He was challenging her, daring her to let go. Could she? Her life was all planned out, so orderly, so controlled. This moment represented everything that wasn’t her. And everything that was Rick. He didn’t appear to be a threat to her, at least not that she could discern. Then again, what did she really know about him?

What had she really known about any of the guys she’d had sex with in her lifetime?

Not much other than what they’d told her. She hadn’t known them any better than she knew Rick. And she was way more turned on by him than she’d ever been by them. Just standing in this dark bedroom with him, listening to him talk to her, had her wet, her nipples puckering and begging to be touched, licked, sucked.

The thrill of the forbidden, she supposed. Was that the lure that pulled Lacey in? The bad boy in leather offering the apple in the garden? Tempting, oh so tempting.

Then again, what was so wrong about going a little wild? She was certainly overdue for it.

She sat on the bed. And suddenly, he was right there, his chest against her back.

Riding the Edge by Jaci Burton
And when he leaned in and pressed his lips to the side of her neck, she shivered at the contact, tilted her head back and let him have access. She turned and he pulled her against him, her breasts pillowed against his chest.

She laid her hands on his arms and felt the corded strength of his biceps flexing, and knew she wanted him naked, wanted to explore his body with her hands and her mouth.

She wanted something she’d never had before.

The chance to live a little bit on the edge.

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

Book Review soon

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