Apr 152020
 

Lies and Lullabies (Hush Note Book 1) by Sarina Bowen

Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details.

I didn’t know he was a rock star.

I didn’t know his real name.

Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.

And I sure never expected to see him again.

Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

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 15 April 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Apr 132020
 

Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen

The new series is set in Vermont. True North is populated by the tough, outdoorsy mountain men that populate the Green Mountain State. They raise cows and they grow apples. They chop a lot of wood, especially when they need to blow off steam. (Beards are optional but encouraged.)

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Title: Bittersweet (True North #1)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: June 14th, 2016
Shelves: Contemporary; Romance;
Format: Kindle (349 pages)
Rating: 10/10

This is a series worth reading, and I only finished book 1. I hope all is as I imagine with the rest of the characters we have come to know.

Griffin is a farmer who needs to sort out his problems and support his family after his father passed away. Before, he was just a college boy who wanted a girl, but now he has other. And one of them is said girl, that he finds right in a ditch outside his farm house.

Audrey is a chef and she’s good at it. It might be the only thing she’s actually good at but being broke and employed to a company that doesn’t give two cents on her, will unfortunately keep her out of the kitchen.

This is how she found herself, again, face to face with Griff.

What started when they were college students will become more as soon as they give in to their attraction.

I am excited to hear the rest of the family and their significant other. Oh, and Jude is mine!!! I can’t wait to read his story.

 

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Apr 022020
 

Sure Shot (Brooklyn #4) by Sarina Bowen

A new stand-alone hockey romance from USA Today bestseller Sarina Bowen.

On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle her personal life with the same zeal that she brings to her successful agency.

A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner with a bad reputation. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.

She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.

Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…

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 2 April 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Feb 142020
 

Epic (Him Book 3) by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

They’re back! Epic is a novella about your favorite hockey duo!

Jamie and Wes are having a blast living and working in Toronto. Until a scout for another team swoops in to make one of them an offer that might complicate the life they’ve built together.

Q and A about Epic:
Q: Is this a full-length book?
A: Not even close! It’s a 7 chapter novella.

Q: Besides Wes and Jamie, who else will I see?
A: Blake and Jess. Wes’s team. And some unlucky grasshoppers…

Q: Will there be more books about Wesmie?
A: No more books are planned. But you can try on our other co-written works: Good Boy, Stay & Top Secret. Thanks for reading!

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 14 February 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Dec 182019
 

Heartland (True North #7) by Sarina Bowen

An emotional friends to lovers romance full of risky secrets and late-night lessons in seduction.

Dylan is my best friend, and the only person in my life who understands me. He doesn’t mind my social awkwardness or my weird history. The only glitch? He doesn’t know that I’ve been hopelessly, desperately in love with him since the first day we picked apples together in his family’s orchard.
But I know better than to confess.
Now that we’re both in college together, I’m seeing a new side of him. College Dylan drinks and has a lot of sex. None of it with me.
Until the night I foolishly ask him to tutor me in more than algebra…and he actually says yes.
But the cool morning light shows me how badly I’ve endangered our friendship. And I don’t know if anything will be the same again.

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 18 December 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Nov 292019
 

Falling From the Sky (Gravity #2) by Sarina Bowen

She’s the woman he doesn’t remember. He’s the man she can’t forget.

Bad boy Hank “Hazardous” Lazarus used to have everything: a gorgeous girlfriend, a career as a freestyle snowboarder and a spot on the US Olympic team. Nine months ago, after a bad crash in the half pipe, he woke up in the hospital, unable to move his legs. Now he’s landed there again, but gravity is not the culprit. With his family pressuring him to try a groundbreaking treatment, Hank self-medicates with too much tequila instead.

Doctor Callie Anders has the courage to restart a patient’s heart with a thousand volts of electricity, yet she’s afraid to risk her own. So she doesn’t confess to her newest patient they they met just before the accident, an encounter that he doesn’t remember. Even as their friendship develops, she won’t admit that she regrets turning down his dinner invitation, or that her heart stutters every time those inked shoulders roll through the door of the therapy department.

With another Vermont winter coming again, Hank needs a hand out from under the avalanche of his disappointments. If only Callie were brave enough to take the job.

This book is a standalone novel, no cliffhangers, no prior experience necessary.

Excerpt Falling From the Sky (Gravity #2) by Sarina Bowen

CHAPTER ONE

Standing on the snowy hillside under the December sun, Callie Anders found herself pulsing along with an unfamiliar bass line. The heavy groove scraping through the oversize speakers was the sound of bands she didn’t recognize, played in clubs she’d never visited.

And it wasn’t just the music. Nothing about the slopeside party resembled her ordinary life. The vibe felt more like an after-hours club than a sporting event. Beers in hand, spectators watched as a final competitor tipped his snowboard over the edge of the super pipe to drop into its steep curve. Gravity did its thing for the athlete, ramping up his speed as the board dropped into the valley of the pipe and then up the opposite side. At the top again, the guy snapped his hips upward, grabbed the board with one hand, and then whipped his body around in the air, reversing course to land neatly on the snow again. And then he was off, hurtling down the pipe with only seconds to prepare for his next trick.

Callie had seen snowboarding on TV, but in person it was even more impressive. After the kid launched his second trick—some kind of dizzying spin, she lost count of his rotations—he seemed to meld his board onto the surface, his shoulders relaxing into a carefree stance as he dropped downhill again. As he sped by, Callie even saw his lips moving, forming the lyrics of the song thumping overhead.

After two more whirling tricks, he finished to a cheer from the crowd. The wool-clad heads in the crowd swiveled toward the giant screen, waiting for his scores.

“Not bad for a bunch of knuckle draggers,” her friend Dane muttered beside her.

“I love it,” Callie heard herself say. She was glad that Dane and Willow had towed her along to the snowboarding competition. “It’s…half athleticism, half circus performance.”

In response, Dane only snorted. And that made her best friend Willow grin. “He can’t help it, Callie. A skier can’t say anything nice about snowboarding. It’s not in his DNA.”

Dane gave Callie a wink. “In two months you’ll see what a real mountain event looks like.”

“I can’t wait,” she agreed. So far, she had only seen Dane race on television. But she’d already bought her plane ticket to Europe for the Olympics, where Dane would be contending for as many as four medals.

As if on cue, the music changed to the telltale trumpets of the Olympic anthem. Callie’s eyes drifted to the big screen at the top of the pipe, which announced in giant type that the elite exhibition would happen next. After the last trumpet tone, the music devolved again into a heavy beat, and Callie saw the crowd begin to move with the music. As the knit hats and down jackets around her began to bob, it was as if Callie had been transported to a sunny, snowy land of hipsters. One that she wished she’d visited long ago.

Actually, she wished a lot of things.

When you spend nine years of your life becoming a doctor, there’s a lot that you miss. For most of that time, the sacrifice hadn’t really bothered her. But the past several months had been hard, and Callie had been spectacularly lonely.

It was almost exactly a year ago that she’d caught Nathan, her doctor boyfriend, cheating on her in an exam room with a leggy young nursing student. Callie had thrown the bastard out, of course. Yet twelve months later, Nathan and the nurse were still going strong, and she was still alone.

To make matters worse, Willow and Dane left Vermont for Utah in the spring, leaving Callie doubly bereft.

This weekend would make for a happy exception. Her friends were in town to take care of some business. And they’d brought Callie’s new favorite person—their three-month-old daughter. Baby Finley was riding out the snowboarding event asleep inside Dane’s ski jacket. If Callie put a hand on Dane’s shoulder and raised herself up on tiptoe, she could just glimpse the baby’s satin eyelids.

Callie hadn’t seen her friends for ten weeks—not since she’d flown out to Salt Lake after the baby was born in September. In the meantime, Willow and Dane had been busy settling into their new house, caring for the baby and surviving a whirlwind of preparations for the Olympic Games. In two months she’d see them again overseas. Callie and Willow would hole up in the hotel together, caring for Finley and cheering on Dane during the games.

It was all very exciting, but Callie still felt hollow inside. As she stood there beside her happy friends, she found herself fighting off unfamiliar feelings of envy. Willow had taken what seemed like an outrageous risk on a man with a difficult past. And now Willow was one third of what Sports Illustrated had recently described as “the cutest family in winter sports.”

And what was Callie part of, exactly?

“So, you never told me,” Willow said, stomping the snow off her boots. “Did you have drinks with the cute radiologist?”

“I think he’s seeing someone,” Callie answered without meeting Willow’s eyes.

“Well, did you ask him?” Willow pressed.

“I’m pretty sure.”

Willow shook her head, and let out an exaggerated sigh. “You know what I don’t get about you?”

“Nope. But you’re going to tell me whether I want to know or not, right?”

“I don’t understand,” Willow continued undeterred, “how you have the guts to literally restart someone’s heart with a thousand volts of electricity. But you can’t risk yours even to ask a guy out for drinks.”

“Actually, we don’t need a thousand volts anymore. The new defibrillators come in around three hundred.”

“You’re hopeless.”

That was probably true.

“Hey, I see Hazardous!” Willow said, raising a hand to wave at someone.

Callie followed her friend’s gaze over to the roped-off area at the base of the half-pipe. A very attractive man stood there, suited up for the snow, his helmet under one arm. The pose reminded Callie of old Apollo astronaut photos. When the guy spotted Willow, a lazy smile broke across his broad mouth, and he raised a hand in greeting.

“Let’s go say hello,” Willow prompted, angling through the crowd in his direction.

“After you,” Dane said to Callie. And so she followed her friend toward the low fence.

“You’ve got to meet Hank Lazarus,” Willow said over her shoulder. “He parties a lot harder than we can keep up with these days, but the guy is seriously fun.”

The closer they got, the more Callie stared. Willow’s friend might be seriously fun, but he was also seriously hot. His shaved head was a military style that usually did nothing for Callie. But it was offset by big brown eyes and full, sensual lips. He was broad in a way that said “linebacker” more than “snowboarder,” and his cut jaw and cleft chin were speckled with two or three days’ worth of dark whiskers.

As they drew up to him, his chocolaty gaze took them all in. He lifted an eyebrow, and Callie saw that a barbell-shaped piercing bisected it. “Hey there,” he said in a voice that was low and smoky. “What are you kids doing in Vermont?”

Sweet baby Jesus. Even his voice was hot.

Willow gave him a quick hug. “We’re here to put my old farmhouse on the market. And Hank, this is my best friend, Callie. She’s local.”

Hank stuck out a hand, and Callie took it. As his hand engulfed hers, she felt her cheeks heat. His face was like the sun—too bright to look at directly. Hank gave her a quick head-to-toe, not even bothering to be subtle about it. And when he seemed to dismiss her out of hand, she wasn’t even surprised. He was the sort of guy who existed in an alternate universe, far from beeping medical equipment and green hospital scrubs.

She was almost relieved when he let go of her hand and looked back up at Dane. “Where are we drinking later?”

But Dane hesitated, glancing toward Willow. “I’m not sure what our plans are.”

First, the snowboarder’s grin grew tight. “Holy fuck, Danger,” he growled. “Seriously? You are so whipped that you can’t agree to a beer tonight? Let me ask again. Where are we drinking later?”

Dane chuckled, and shook his head. “Chill, asshole. We need to make sure that the house we haven’t seen in six months is still standing. Barring total destruction, I think a stop at Rupert’s could work out.”

As if she wanted a vote on the matter, baby Finley let out a squawk then. Dane bent his knees to bounce her gently, running one of his big hands soothingly under the bulge in his jacket.

Hank Lazarus watched his friend do this with a bemused expression on his face. “All right. Unless you get downvoted by the little family, Rupert’s it is.”

“Sounds good,” Willow said. “Baby’s first trip to the bar.”

The snowboarder glanced uphill, toward the top of the pipe. “I’d better get a move on. Dane. Ladies.” He gave them a sexy lift of his chin. “I’ll see you later.”

The very idea gave Callie a thrill. But of course she probably wouldn’t be there. She was on call today, and that usually didn’t end well. Even if she wasn’t summoned to the hospital, she couldn’t even have a drink like a grown-up.

Her life was pure glamour.

Not.

At least her pager hadn’t gone off yet. The headliner event—the elite exhibition—was about to start. The music kicked up a decibel or two, and the champion snowboarders began to line up at the top of the pipe. Pictures of the elite athletes began to slide across the big screen overhead, shifting every few seconds in time with the music. The shots showed each man in street clothes, complete with stats and nicknames. Compared to the clean-cut skiers that Callie had met through Dane, these were the bad boys of winter sports. There were more goatees, ponytails, tattoos and piercings than a biker bar would boast. Not that Callie had spent much time around bikers, except when they landed in the hospital.

When Hank “Hazardous” Lazarus’s picture popped up, Callie could only stare. In the photo, he was shirtless, and entirely drool worthy. He was all muscle, covered with ink. “Olympic Silver Medalist,” the screen read.

“They say he’s going to bring home the gold this time,” Willow mused beside her.

But Callie wasn’t interested in his stats. She was still admiring the man. He was sex on a snowboard, and so far out of her league it wasn’t even funny. Even if she did show up for drinks tonight, if he tried to talk to her she’d probably swallow her tongue.

The screen flipped back to show the first man in the lineup, and then the crowd roared. Callie watched one of Hank’s teammates take the pipe. And…wow. The aerial feats were on a completely different level than the competitors she’d seen before. The rotations were faster, and the tricks more complicated. And as soon as he finished, another boarder dropped into the pipe. Since there was no need to pause the action for judging, the exhibition was continuous. Callie’s gaze became trancelike as the colorful bodies soared and twisted before her eyes.

And then Hank Lazarus’s photo reappeared, and Hank came into view on the lip of the pipe, wearing his silver helmet and goggles. Callie stood up a little straighter as he dropped into position, his body in a loose, confident stance. At the opposite peak, he popped higher off the lip than seemed possible. With that big body tucked tight, he flipped backward with such casual finesse that Callie gasped. He landed the trick neatly, his shoulders bobbing with a cocky shrug.

“So that’s what it’s supposed to look like,” Dane muttered. And it was true. The comparison between Hazardous and the others was stark.

He shot through the pipe again, and his next trick went so high, and with such whirling ease, that time seemed to stop as he hovered in the air. The rules of physics appeared not to apply to him. The crowd whooped when he landed, gliding at top speed through the gully.

Callie held her breath, wondering what miracle he’d pull off next. He launched again, grabbing the board in one hand and rotating through the air—once, twice and then a third time. The scenery seemed to change then, and it took Callie a split second to realize that the sun had gone behind a cloud. And just as she registered the phenomenon, something else happened. The snowboard smacked the lip of the pipe, instead of the snow on the slope below it. Since he’d achieved so much lift, the force of impact flexed the board, ricocheting the rider back into the air. Callie watched, helpless, as momentum yanked the man’s body through space, propelling him headfirst and at high speed toward the curving ice below.

And then his helmet hit the surface first. Hard.

Callie heard herself gasp. After a sickening bounce, his body slid down the ice into the center of the gully.

“Jesus Christ,” Dane whispered.

People rushed onto the snow, a dozen of them quickly surrounding him.

Dane took a step forward, as if he wanted to run through the crowd to help. But Willow put a hand on his arm. “There are a lot of people down there,” she said gently.

He just shook his head. “Get up, man.”

But Hazardous lay crumpled and still.

Callie couldn’t look away. In her head she heard the drumbeat of emergency procedure. Checking the vital signs, supporting his neck and back. But this time, it wasn’t her job. At least three of the people down at the scene wore medical jackets. And even now she could hear the approach of ambulance sirens. On busy winter weekends, there was always a bus parked at the bottom of the ski-mountain access road.

“When you broke your leg,” Willow said to Dane, “I’m sure it looked really bad from the stands.”

But Dane just shook his head. “Christ. The Olympics.”

From inside his jacket, the baby made a sound of protest. Dane tore his gaze away from the medical swarm and leaned inside to kiss her. Watching him, Callie’s heart squeezed with some unnamed feeling of yearning.

“She’s probably hungry,” Willow said. “I’ll take her inside and feed her.”

Dane watched an ambulance thread toward the huddle on the ice, a look of unease still washing across his face. “I guess I’ll come, too,” he said.

Following them, Callie fingered her pager in her pocket. The odds of it going off today had just escalated. She pulled out her phone to check in.

“Busy?” she asked the triage nurse who answered the doctors’ line. “If I were you, I’d pull up the call sheet for ortho and neuro. There was an injury during the snowboarding event at the ski mountain. You should be seeing them in fifteen minutes.”

“Will you get called in?” Willow asked after Callie hung up. The ambulance was already threading its way out to the state road, its lights whirling.

“I’m not their first call,” Callie said. “But give it an hour or two.” Callie was a hospitalist—a doctor who kept track of admitted patients’ medical needs.

“Okay,” Willow said, her eyes on the retreating ambulance. “I guess Dane and I will go to the farmhouse now, and check things out. Then we’ll swing by the hospital to try to learn what we can. We don’t know him all that well, but…” She swallowed. “That looked bad, didn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Callie admitted. The force with which he’d hit the pipe was scary. “But bodies can be tougher than they look.”

Willow shivered. “Can I call you in a couple of hours? No matter what, I want to see you tonight. Or tomorrow before we go.”

“Absolutely. I need to hold that baby some more.” She wanted that now more than ever, given the scary accident she’d just witnessed.

God, life was short. Maybe hers wasn’t working out so badly, after all.

As it happened, Callie was not handed Hank Lazarus’s chart until the following day. And even though she’d had twenty-four hours to process what she’d seen, the first sight of him in a hospital bed gutted her.

Pale and swollen from the IV fluids, he lay perfectly still. Since she’d last set eyes on him, he’d undergone an eight-hour spinal surgery. In place of the goggles and technical fabrics was a new sort of gear—tubes and monitors snaking from his body in every direction.

Even though he was sedated, Callie found herself holding her breath as she checked the tag on his IV bag. As his powerful chest rose and fell, Callie realized how limited her view of her patients usually was. Never before had she gotten such a shocking demonstration of “before” and “after.” She met patients hours or days after things went sideways. But the ashen, broken man in room nineteen was such a frightening contrast to the one she’d seen drop into the half-pipe, it hurt her to look at him.

She forced herself to linger a moment longer. Though it shamed her to say it, there were times when she found herself judging the people in these beds. She might wonder why the patient had thought it was a good idea to ride that zip line so near to the trees, or drive so fast in the rain. Callie had always lived cautiously, and when she saw the results of a preventable accident, it seemed like such a waste.

But the memory of Hank Lazarus flipping effortlessly against the blue sky was burned in her brain. And in spite of the danger of it all, so cruelly proven by the sleeping figure in the bed, she didn’t have to ask why he’d choose to take such a risk. She’d seen the power and the beauty of it with her own two eyes.

Beneath the sheet, he breathed. In and out. At that moment, there was nothing he needed from her. And nothing more she could do.

Dane and Willow tried to see Hank before they left again for Utah, but the first time they stopped by, he was in surgery. The second time, he was asleep. With the Olympics just weeks away, they had to go back to Dane’s training. “Will you give him our love?” Willow asked, looking shaken in the waiting room.

“Of course,” Callie answered, fully intending to do it.

As it happened, she never did.

In the first place, when Callie finally saw Hank conscious, he didn’t seem to remember her face. And this was not at all surprising. They’d only met for a second, and the mind often forgot the events just before a trauma.

And Hank had a distracting swirl of other visitors as the days went by. His parents, Callie learned, were a sort of Vermont royalty. They were part owners of the ski mountain. And Hank’s father had built half of the condos in the county. There was a daughter, too, another athlete.

Callie gleaned many of these facts from the local paper, which ran a front-page story about Hank and his accident. At age eighteen, he’d left Vermont for the Rocky Mountains, where he’d taken a job as a dishwasher to pay for his lift tickets. He was as famous for partying as he was for winning competitions.

Reading about him made Callie feel like a stalker. But there it was in black and white, on the table in the break room.

From her chair beside Hank’s bed, his mother was a silver-haired force of nature, barking orders at every nurse who dared to enter her son’s room. And whenever Callie saw Mr. Lazarus in the hospital corridors, he was always on his phone

“They’re flying in specialists. Three of them,” nurse Trina told her. The nurse’s station was another excellent source of news.

“That’s a lot of firepower,” Callie said.

“The Lazarus family can afford it. They gave a truckload of money to the hospital,” she said, cracking her gum. “The pediatric wing built ten years ago? That was all them.”

“Wow, really? You’d think their name would be over the door.”

Trina shrugged. “They don’t do bling. Mama Lazarus has those fancy shoes that no sane person wears in Vermont, right? And pearls? But no bling.”

Callie had noticed that, too, actually. Even during this time of crisis, Hank’s mother paced his room in camel-colored cashmere and suede. It was expensive, but not flashy.

“Their daughter survived some kind of childhood cancer,” Trina continued. “They gave the money afterward as a thank-you.”

“That’s generous.”

“Sure. But they’re also exacting. That woman was on my ass tighter than a bumper sticker while I did his blood draw. Like I haven’t been doing this for thirty years.”

“It’s because you look so young, Trina. She probably thought it was your first day.”

The woman rolled her eyes, and Callie moved on to her next patient.

On Hank’s third day at the hospital, a new visitor showed up. Outside Hank’s room, seated on a plastic chair, wept a very pretty girl. Callie assumed this was Hank’s sister. But again the nurses had the dirt. The statuesque blond was the girlfriend, and a slalom skier. And a model. She even had a glamorous name: Alexis. Her only obvious flaw was temporary—she’d cried raccoon eyes onto herself each time Callie glimpsed her.

As Hank’s medical coordinator, Callie was in and out, checking to be sure that the prescriptions his various specialists had ordered were appropriately dosed and would not conflict. She kept tabs on his vitals and watched for signs of infection. She was just one in a sea of faces caring for him.

It wasn’t until the fifth day after his accident that they had a real conversation.

Outside the door to his room, his parents were engaged in a heated conversation with a spinal specialist they’d whisked in from Cleveland. Callie slid past them to find Hank staring out the window. When he turned his head to meet her eyes, she could see that the post-surgical drug haze had lifted. In his gaze, she saw a man awake to the world, but in terrible pain. It was her job to try to figure out if that pain was something physical that she could relieve, or rather the distress of waking up to find he could not move his legs.

“Hi,” Callie said softly. “I’m Doctor Anders. Or Callie, if you wish.”

“Callie,” he cleared his throat. “You look really familiar.”

That wasn’t what she had expected him to say. It would have been as good a time as any to mention that they’d met about ten minutes before his accident, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Who would want to be reminded of that afternoon? “I’ve been here all week,” she said instead. “But we don’t expect you to keep track of the dozens of people who prod you all day.”

“And all night,” he added.

She sat down on a stool next to his bed. “That’s my fault. I need to know that they’re looking at your vitals every three hours. It helps me sleep.” She winked, and was rewarded with half a smile. “Now, quick—before the room is invaded again by nurses’ assistants—how’s your pain? Is there anything you need?”

Hank lifted one hand to his face, and Callie was glad to see it. If his injury had happened farther up his spine, he wouldn’t have been able to do that. With his palm, Hank rubbed several days’ worth of whiskers, which only served to make him look more rugged, while he considered her question. “Let’s see…I need a full rack of Curtis’ ribs, with spicy sauce and a baked potato. And I need to get the hell out of this hospital.”

She nodded obligingly, even though she couldn’t fulfill any of those requests. But if he was talking about food and getting out of here, those were both good signs. “You’ll be transferring to a rehab facility soon.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. His gaze wandered again, his eyes aiming at the window.

“The rehab place will let you sleep through the night,” she said, keeping her voice light. “And you’ll have your own clothes. I hear the food is better, too.”

“Couldn’t really be worse,” he said, turning to face Callie again. His dark eyes locked onto hers, and Callie felt the moment stretch and take hold. He didn’t say anything more, but he didn’t have to. Silently, an understanding passed between them. It didn’t matter if the food got better. Hank Lazarus was in for a shitty time, truly the shittiest time of his life. The distance he’d come these past five days was a descent from the highest high to the lowest low. And there wasn’t a damned thing either of them could do about it.

“Hang in there,” Callie whispered. “This right here is the very worst part.”

He didn’t break their staring contest. “You promise?” he rumbled, his voice pure whiskey and smoke.

But Callie didn’t get a chance to answer, because his parents burst into the room then, both talking at the same time. “Forty percent chance that he’ll walk from this guy, fifteen percent from the other?” Hank’s mother bleated. “These people call themselves scientists?”

“Flew him all the way out here, and it’s just more of the same,” his father muttered.

Callie watched Hank’s face close down as his parents approached.

“It’s ridiculous,” his father sputtered, pulling in a deep breath in order to fuel the next phase of his rant. Meanwhile, Hank’s jaw began to tick.

Callie stood up. “I know why you’re frustrated,” she announced, folding her arms. Hank’s parents eyed her, and Callie knew what they saw—a young doctor at a good but rural hospital. And she wasn’t even a specialist. But she had something important to say, and she wasn’t going to let them stop her. “You need answers, and you need them now. I don’t blame you at all.”

Hank’s mother opened her mouth to speak, but Callie cut her off. “Unfortunately, that’s not how the spinal cord works. It doesn’t care that you’re desperate to know whether he’ll walk again. There’s swelling and bruising, and his body is still in shock. It’s not the specialists’ fault that they can’t tell you what you need to know. The sooner you push for answers, the less accurate those answers will be, okay? Hank needs time, and we all need your patience. You won’t have the answers for maybe a year. And no specialist, and no amount of money can change that.”

Callie ceased her tirade to take a deep breath. God, she really shouldn’t have added that last part. Never mention money to rich people. She expected Hank’s parents to start yelling at her. But they didn’t. His mother only began to blink rapidly with saddened eyes. And Hank’s father wrapped his arms around her protectively.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the silence. “If you’ll excuse me.” Callie took a couple of steps toward the door. On her way out, she turned to look once more at Hank. To her surprise, he winked at her.

Callie walked out, and spent the next few hours wondering if she’d receive a reprimand for raising her voice to the Lazarus family. But the call never came.

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 29 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 282019
 

Blonde Date (The Ivy Years #2.5) by Sarina Bowen

A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could go wrong?

As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman.

Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he’ll be.

Yet staying home would mean letting him win.

Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person.

Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.

Excerpt Blonde Date (The Ivy Years #2.5) by Sarina Bowen

CHAPTER ONE
ANDY
With a growing sense of panic, I pawed through the clothes in my narrow little dorm room closet. For five long minutes I’d stood there inspecting my shirts, tossing them one by one on the bed. That was four more minutes than I’d ever spent before trying to decide what to wear. But I still didn’t have a freaking clue.

It was time to call in the big guns.

Luckily, my older sister answered on the first ring. “I need a consult,” I said. Delia was in med school, and you got further with her if you spoke in medical terms.

“Where does it hurt?” she asked.

“I have a date, and I don’t know what to wear.”

Her laughter was so loud that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to ask for help when I need it.”

“Fair enough. What’s the occasion?”

“That’s the tricky part. First there’s a charity bit, where I’m helping a bunch of sorority girls with their community project. Setting up a Christmas tree, or something.”

Delia laughed again. “What do you know from setting up a Christmas tree, Jew boy?”

“How hard could it be? But there’s also a tree lighting, and, like, cocktails.”

“Hmm,” my sister mused. “And where does this event take place?”

“In their preppy white sorority house with the big columns on the front.”

“Well… This really could go either way. Casual or dressy.”

“That’s what I was afraid of. How should I play it?”

“Who’s the girl? Anyone special?”

Why yes. But I wasn’t going to tell my sister that just hearing this girl’s name gave me a thrill. Katie Vickery. When she’d called to invite me to this thing, she’d opened with “you don’t know me…”

But she’d been wrong. Very wrong. I knew exactly who she was.

In the first place, if you were a lonely junior at Harkness, noticing the frosh girls was like your job. And she made my job easy. I’d picked out those long legs the very first time they’d walked into my art history lecture. And — lucky me — summer’s warmth had held on an extra week or two this year, treating me to a steady parade of Katie’s short skirts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.

The most attractive thing about her, though, was her laugh. It was deeper and huskier than you’d expect from someone so slight and fair. I loved the sound of it. Whenever I heard her laugh, my brain took a short trip around the block.

God, she was hot. But she also had unattainable practically stamped on her forehead. Because Katie was the sort of girl that everyone noticed. And I wasn’t even a little bit surprised when she started sitting with the football crew during lectures.

I didn’t dwell on this. Girls like Katie Vickery were out of my league, and I didn’t bother to sit around wondering why. Some things just were.

As the fall semester wore on, Bridger, my next-door neighbor, started spending a lot of time with Katie’s roommate, Scarlet. So I sometimes overheard updates about Katie. Scarlet mentioned that they sometimes went jogging together. After that, Katie’s long legs began loping through my dreams in spandex shorts.

But that wasn’t a premonition, or anything. It was just the work of a shy guy’s subconscious. In a million years, I’d never thought I’d be standing here, dressing for a date with her. And if she hadn’t invited me out of sheer desperation, I wouldn’t be.

“Um, earth to Andy!” my sister prompted. “I asked you a question. Is the girl anyone special?”

“We don’t really know each other,” I admitted. “She dumped her football player boyfriend a few weeks ago and needed a date for this thing. Enter me.”

“So this is a date of necessity. But how did you get the nod? She must not know your track record with women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” My sister snickered.

“Come on, now, D. If I wanted to be mocked, I would have called my other sister.” Our younger sis was kind of a bitch. “You remember Bridger?”

“Who could forget him?” Delia asked. My neighbor was kind of a stud with the ladies.

“Well, this whole thing was his girlfriend’s idea.”

“I knew I liked that guy,” Delia said. But of course she did. All the women did. “And his girlfriend has good taste, too.”

“In me? Or in Bridger?” I teased.

“Both. And this sorority girl is going to love you. You’re pretty cute for a skinny guy.”

I didn’t have time to argue with her. But even if it was true, pretty cute for a skinny guy probably wasn’t going to be enough to win me Katie’s undying affection. I’d been invited on this junket because the newly single Katie was apparently done with football players. “And jerks of all stripes,” Scarlet had explained. “I told her, ‘Andy is absolutely not a jerk.’”

For a second I’d felt awesome about that. But then I’d realized that being absolutely not a jerk also wasn’t enough of an endorsement to fill the utter void that was my love life.

Oh, well.

“Are you going to help me or what?” I prodded.

“Of course. So you want to impress her, but you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard,” my sister said.

“Exactly. So tell me what to wear. While I’m young, if possible.”

“Well, when the Jew boy goes to the Christmas tree lighting at the WASPy sorority house, he should always wear nice pants. You have some wool trousers, right?”

I looked at the three pairs I’d draped over my desk chair. “Won’t that be too dressy?”

“Not if they’re khaki-colored. How about the ones you wore when we saw that show in Boston?”

How did she even remember that shit? If Delia asked me to name three items of clothing that she’d ever owned in her lifetime, I couldn’t do it.

I lifted the pants off their hanger. “All right. What else?”

“The shirt should be a dark color. Dark blue, maybe? With the collar open. Whatever you do, don’t button that sucker all the way up. Wear a t-shirt underneath, and it’s okay if the t-shirt is visible at the collar. That takes you one notch back toward casual. And no tie.”

See? This was why a guy called his sister. I hopped into the pants using one hand. “And the shirt is tucked in, right?”

“Tuck it in! Absolutely. Unless you really don’t want to get laid.”

I laughed and had to grab the phone to keep it from hitting the floor. “That’s not happening.”

“Are you saying that because you’re talking to your sister? Or because you really believe it?”

“Uh, why? Are you doing a psych rotation at school, or something?” I pulled a clean t-shirt over my head.

“I was only teasing about your record with girls. You know that right? You’re a catch, Andy. As long as you tuck your shirt in.”

“That must be what I’ve been doing wrong.”

My sister laughed. “Your only real problem is confidence.”

I stuffed my feet into a pair of shoes. “Am I wearing a jacket, too? Or just my coat?”

“Your plain black sport jacket. It still fits, right? God, I hope your arms aren’t getting any longer. Because you’re already kind of like an orangutan.”

“And you wonder why I don’t have any confidence,” I mumbled.

“Kidding! But seriously, if the jacket sleeves are too short, then skip it. And you need to shine your shoes.”

“I don’t have time.”

“What? When is this date?”

“Ten minutes.”

“Andrew Isaac Baschnagel! Did you shower and shave?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Hang up and go meet your girl. Crap. I wanted you to send a picture before you left. In case you need tweaking.”

“No time for tweaking. Bye, Delia! Thanks.”

“Bye, orangutan.” Then she clicked off. Delia loved getting the last word.

But never mind. I put on exactly what she’d told me to. I hung up the pants that hadn’t made the cut. Then, shoving my keys and my wallet into a pocket, I ran out the door and down the entryway stairs. Checking my phone, I saw that I had plenty of time. It was a two-minute walk to Katie’s dorm, and I had twice that.

My phone buzzed with a text from Delia. Good luck with the WASPs, string bean.

Holding up my phone and grinning like a dork, I took a selfie and sent it to her.

The clothes look great. But UR hopeless, she replied.

That was probably true. And I’d never admit it to my sister, but she wasn’t totally off base with her remark about my confidence. Some guys just had a kind of swagger that worked for them. My neighbor Bridger? All he had to do was walk into a room, and the girls hurled themselves at him, like moths at a window screen on a summer night.

But what was swagger, really? It came from the belief that hot girls wanted to take you to bed. So, to acquire it, you’d need at least a little evidence that this was true.

Yeah. I didn’t have that. All I had was evidence that a hot girl needed a date for a party. But that was better than nothing, right? And I’d have a couple of hours in the company of the lovely Katie Vickery.

Life could really be worse.

Apparently Delia wasn’t done with me, though. When my phone buzzed again, she’d written: Ask her out on your way home 2nite. Don’t chicken out.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. But my sister was a smart girl. Okay. If things go well, I’ll do it, I replied.

If U do, I’ll buy you a sundae at Lou’s. If U chicken out, I win a sundae.

That seemed like a perfectly good incentive to do something that I already wanted to do. Deal, I replied.

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 28 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 282019
 

The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen

The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe’s help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can’t be extinguished.

Excerpt The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen

I held her a little closer as we danced. The band had no vocalist, but I could hear Louis Armstrong’s voice in my head. Give me… a kiss to build a dream on. “I’ve always loved this song,” I confessed.

“Wait, really?” Bella stood up taller so she could look me in the eye. “Have you listened to the lyrics? The guy gets a single kiss, and he basically says that it’s enough — he’s just going to fantasize about it for the rest of his life. I mean… what a rip.”

I bit back a smile. “It’s romantic.”

“It’s unsatisfying,” she countered. “Here, I’ll show you.” Before I knew what was happening, Bella came closer. Her silky thumb stroked once across my cheekbone. Then she stood up on her toes and kissed me.

The first press of her sweet lips against mine stopped my breathing. Though you couldn’t have paid me to resist her. Sheer instinct made me lean into that kiss with my entire being.

Bella’s mouth melted onto mine, and a needy little sound issued from the back of her throat. Heaven. I deepened the kiss, and our tongues touched once. She tasted of red wine and desire. An electric pulse traveled the length of my body. Unbidden, my hands pulled her closer, my fingers in her hair…

The sound of applause brought me back to earth with a thunk. The song had ended, and the band segued into some kind of swing tune. Bella and I broke apart on a gasp. For a second we just stared at each other. “See?” she said eventually.

But I didn’t have the faintest recollection of the point she’d been trying to make. “What?”

Amusement tickled her features. “Never mind. I hear my wine glass calling me.” She tugged on my hand.

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 28 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 272019
 

Steadfast (True North #2) by Sarina Bowen

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there’s no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie’s police chief father. But it’s a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

Excerpt Steadfast (True North #2) by Sarina Bowen

NOVEMBER, COLEBURY VT
JUDE
The last time I drove through Colebury, Vermont, I sat behind the wheel of a 1972 Porsche 911 restored to mint condition, with a sweet new paint job in Aubergine.

Compare and contrast: three years later, I rattled down Main Street in a tattered 1996 Dodge Avenger I’d just bought for nine hundred bucks. The front fender was held together with duct tape.

None of that would have bothered me if the Avenger and I didn’t have so fucking much in common. We’d both ended up in the gutter, broken in body and spirit. The car’s muffler was shot. Exposed wires hanging out from under the dashboard were a perfect proxy for my jangled nerves. I was five months out of rehab and I still couldn’t sleep more than three hours in a row.

My arrogant teenage self would never have driven this heap, but that punk’s opinion didn’t matter anymore. I hated that guy. And while we’re marking all the contradictions, I should also add that the last time I drove through Colebury, Vermont, I was high as a kite on opiates.

Today I was stone cold sober. So at least I had that going for me.

In the minus column, I was now a convicted felon. I served thirty-six months for possession and vehicular manslaughter. I had very little money, and even fewer friends. The one lucky thing in my life — a live-saving job at an orchard in the next county — had just ended. It was November, and there were no more apples to pick or sell. So heading home was my only option.

There was, as usual, no traffic in Colebury. The little town where I grew up didn’t have a rush hour. It was more like a rush minute, and that hadn’t started yet…

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 27 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 272019
 

Coming In From The Cold (Gravity #1) by Sarina Bowen

He can’t have her. And he can’t tell anyone why.

Ski racer Dane “Danger” Hollister does not do relationships, though he keeps his reason a secret. The real-life curse he’s inherited from his mother will eventually cost him everything: his place on the Olympic ski team, his endorsement income, and his ability to fly downhill at top speed.

Reluctant country girl Willow Reade meets Dane by accident. Literally. Her skidding truck forces him off the road during a blizzard. Stranded together in his Jeep as night falls, the two loneliest people in Vermont find themselves sharing more than they’d planned. And not just conversation.

Yet neither can guess how their unlikely tryst will threaten Dane’s frightening secret and Willow’s tentative peace with her own choices. Only mutual trust and understanding can end their pain and give them a hard won shot at love.

Excerpt Coming In From The Cold (Gravity #1) by Sarina Bowen

One

WILLOW NEEDED TO keep the old truck on the road and out of the snowy ditch for just one more mile.

At six o’clock on a December evening, the sky over Vermont had been dark for two hours already. She had the heater cranking on the highest setting, but still the windshield was icing over, the heavy snow plastering itself to the top of her field of vision. Willow hunched in her seat for a better view of the road. Creeping along at fifteen miles per hour, she’d be home in five minutes.

She hadn’t meant to drive in blizzard conditions. She’d done her storm preparation—filling the old claw-foot bathtub with water, preparing herself for the inevitable loss of electricity. She put blocks of ice in her freezer and set the candles out on the kitchen table, with a box of matches at the ready.

She’d almost gotten everything right.

And then, heading into the barn to tuck the chickens in for the night, she’d opened their feed bin to find it empty. If she were snowed in for two days, as the Weather Channel predicted, she would have nothing to feed them.

“Damn it!” Willow had said, startling several of her Buff Orpington hens into a nervous flutter. Only the most stalwart remained at her feet, still hoping she would produce a pocketful of raisins.

Instead, she had turned on her heel, latching the barn door behind her. Just because Willow had never intended to become a chicken farmer didn’t mean she wanted to kill off her stock. She and The Girls had a deal—clean feed for organic eggs. She meant to keep her end of the bargain.

The old truck had started right up, and she drove down her lengthy driveway and turned left, away from civilization, toward the country feed store. But snow had accumulated frighteningly fast since her outbound trip just a half hour before. Gripping the wheel, Willow saw another vehicle spotlit ahead—a green Jeep moving even more slowly than she was. Willow stepped on her brakes. But instead of stopping, she felt the sickening sensation of several tons of metal skidding to the right.

Time slowed to a crawl as the truck slid in an awkward direction toward both the Jeep and the ditch. The Jeep’s taillights grew brighter as they approached, and Willow held her breath. At the last second, the Jeep seemed to leap to the left, causing Willow a moment of confusion over which of them—the Jeep or the truck—had moved so quickly. Was she still on the road?

The cab tilted abruptly to the right, and Willow felt a scream catch in her throat. But then the truck stopped suddenly, heaving her torso against the seatbelt. The force pressed a gasp from her lungs, and she bounced backward against the seat.

And then all was still.

With her heart banging away in her chest, Willow took stock. The cab listed to the right. Her wheels must have landed in the drainage culvert beside her road. At the sudden stop, Willow’s feet had slipped off the pedals, and now the truck shuddered and died in place.

Immediately, the windshield began to fill with a white blanket of snow.

She took a deep breath. You’re okay. You’re fine. Thank goodness she’d been going so slowly when she lost control.

A tap on her door made Willow jump. Someone was standing outside. She grasped the window crank—the sort that dated her truck to the premodern era—and rolled down her window. A man’s face—rugged, with a chiseled chin—looked back at her. He gave her an anxious frown. “Are you okay?”

“Yes?” she replied, still stunned.

“Well, now we’re both stuck,” he said. “I veered across the road to get out of your way, and I’m over a stump.” Even in the dark she could see his handsome jaw flex with irritation.

“It’s my fault that you hit a stump on the other side of the road?” Willow knew she ought to focus on the problem at hand. But the handsome stranger in front of her was every bit as distracting as their fender bender. She couldn’t help but admire his sleek white jacket, of the sort of technical fabric sold at the fancy ski shops in town. He had a silver wool hat pulled down over his head, but brown curls escaped from the bottom of it, framing his eyes. He reminded her of a snow god. A slightly ornery one.

He threw up his hands. “I don’t know,” he huffed. “Never mind.” He walked away from her. The snow was falling so fast that the blizzard swallowed him up before he’d taken five steps. He was a big man, she noticed—tall, with long legs and a tight backside.

Nice work, Willow. She had just run the most attractive guy in the county off the road.

Snow blew into her car, so Willow cranked the window closed again. Then she pressed down on the clutch and brake, turning the truck’s key.

Nothing.

Damn.

Willow pumped the gas pedal a couple of times and tried the key again. And again. But the engine wouldn’t even turn over.

“Oh no,” Willow said aloud. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” She needed to call roadside assistance. Digging a hand into her purse for her phone, she turned it on. Willow already knew what it would say, but she looked anyway.

Searching.

She stared. “Come on.”

No signal.

It was just so typical of her recent troubles. Calling for help was like so many other things in her life—an escape hatch that worked for people who weren’t Willow. Other girls might have family to fall back on or catch a break financially, but she had to go and fall hard for a man so inappropriate, so uninterested in her continued happiness that he’d sealed off the exits. Her money was sunk into their old farmhouse; her credit was maxed out by his plans. And he had gone to California with another woman. There Willow sat, in a fifteen-year-old truck that wouldn’t start, chicken feed in the back.

She couldn’t even call 9-1-1. He’d taken that away, too. It had been his dream to move out to the middle of nowhere together.

And then he’d split, leaving her holding the feed bucket.

Damned Vermont. Damned snow. Damned truck. Damned cheating ex-boyfriend who’d fled to California. Damn. Damn. Damn.

* * *

Back in his Jeep, Dane Hollister smacked the steering wheel. Then he pulled the stick into reverse and tried again. But the wheels spun without catching. Whatever was holding him off the ground must be something quite large, because the Jeep had good clearance, four-wheel drive and sturdy snow tires. Only very bad luck could put him in a snowbank.

But Dane was used to being unlucky.

Calm down, he ordered himself.

He had snapped at that girl. It was true that he’d still be driving toward the town of Hamilton if she hadn’t come along. But the blizzard wasn’t her fault.

Dane rested his hands in his lap and analyzed the last few minutes. He’d seen the truck coming too fast. He’d turned the wheel a little too hard, and the new snow had slicked against the salted road, causing the Jeep to spin.

He probed the incident like the ski team doctor fingering tendons for an injury. But in this case, it could have happened to anyone. He had not experienced any unusual muscle reflexes. The incident was just a fluke.

It had not been caused by a symptom.

Dane blew out a breath, and then focused his thoughts on the real problem at hand. He was stuck about eight miles from the crappy little room he rented on Main Street. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground, and the forecast was for much more.

And he needed to apologize to the pretty girl in the ugly black truck.

He put his gloves on. Leaving the engine running, he got out. Christ. The snow was coming down fast and furious. His own headlights did little to illuminate the road, but he knew where she was—kitty-corner to him. He pointed himself in a diagonal line away from his headlights and found her. Again he knocked on her window. The cab was dark and he couldn’t see inside.

“Hello?” he called.

There was no answer.

“Are you okay?” he asked again. There was only silence. Had she vanished? It was even a little creepy. But there was really only one thing in the world that Dane Hollister was afraid of, and it wasn’t standing there on the road.

He grasped the handle and opened the truck’s door, and there she was again. Only now there were tears drying on her face.

Nice, Dane. Good work, asshole.

The girl wiped her face quickly with her hand, embarrassed.

“Hey!” he said, in a voice that was much warmer than before. “Christ, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to flip out on you. Can I help?”

She tried to pull herself together, clearing her throat. “The truck won’t start.”

“Do you want me to give it a try?”

She looked up at him then, one eyebrow raised cynically. “Because I might have forgotten how to do it myself?”

He laughed. “Right. I get it. But I don’t know what else to offer.”

She slid across the seat, swinging her legs over the gearbox. “Go ahead. And if she starts, I won’t even hold it against you.”

He swung into the cab and closed the door. Then he tried to start the engine. Since the seat was set for her petite frame, his knees were jammed up against the steering column. Not that it mattered. When he turned the key, there was only silence. “She won’t even turn over? Not once?”

“Not once.”

He leaned back, or tried to. “Sorry. Our options for getting out of here aren’t very good.”

“I’ll just walk it,” she said. “My house is about a mile away.”

“Hmm,” he said quietly. He didn’t want to insult her again, but unless she had a snowmobile with floodlights on it, she’d be lost before you could say nor’easter. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.” He groped for the high beams. “Look, the road is gone.” The lights illuminated all of about four feet in front of the truck, a deep flurry of falling snow, punctuated by only blackness beyond.

“Wow,” she whispered.

“Do you know any of your neighbors? I didn’t see any lights….”

She shook her head, silky hair sliding over her shoulders. “There aren’t many houses out here. This land is held in conservation.”

“Okayyy…” he said. “I’m out of ideas. I guess we’re going to have to call 9-1-1.”

She tipped her head back and let out a musical laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Not for years,” Dane admitted. He’d grown up two towns away, but that felt like a lifetime ago.

Reluctantly he turned off her headlights, saving her battery, yet plunging the cab into darkness. He’d been enjoying the sight of a pretty girl laughing, cheeks flushed, perfect pink lips smiling up at the ceiling. Just because Dane planned never to get involved with a woman didn’t mean he didn’t like looking at them. (Especially the occasional naked woman between his legs.) And this one was really quite extraordinary. Late twenties, slender, and with a long graceful neck. Even with the bulk of her down jacket he’d noticed a full bust that heaved as she laughed.

“There’s no reception anywhere on this road,” she said, “until you’re almost into Hamilton.”

“Right,” he said. “I’d forgotten. The mobile phone companies have no love for the forty-ninth most populous state.”

Dane had spent the past ten years traveling on the World Cup skiing circuit. This was his first time back in Vermont in years. Elite skiers didn’t train in Vermont—the mountains weren’t tall enough, and the snowfall was unreliable. Instead, they trained at the big western mountains, in Colorado or Utah.

But this year, Dane and his coach were making an exception. They’d camped here for the season—between races—to be close to Dane’s latest family tragedy. In Vermont, he was able see his sick brother every week, yet keep his troubles far away from the prying eyes of the ski association.

“So…” the girl took a deep breath. “That leaves us waiting for the plow to come by. The driver can radio in for help.”

Dane shifted on her uncomfortable bench seat. With the cab listing to the right, he had to hang on with the heels of his boots to avoid sliding into her. “Okay,” he said. “Look, my name’s Dane, and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry I barked at you before.”

Her head turned in the dark. “It’s okay. Skidding is scary, and it made me a little cuckoo too—I actually felt drunk for a minute there.”

“Are you going to tell me your name?”

“Sorry, it’s Willow Reade.”

Willow. He cleared his throat. “Willow, your truck is ferociously uncomfortable. Do you mind if we wait for the plow in my Jeep? I left it running.”

“Oh!” she said. “Um, sure. If that’s okay. I’m kind of up against the door here.”

He forced open the driver’s side door. “I don’t know how long we’ll be waiting. Do you happen to have any emergency supplies in your glove box…whiskey? Chocolate?”

She laughed. “Sorry. I am a completely useless human.”

The way she said it was bitter. As if she believed it.

Anyhow, Willow followed him toward his Jeep, which was lit by his running lights. But in every other direction it was utterly dark. “Ladies first,” he said. “Do you mind climbing across? You could go around to the passenger door, but I don’t know what you’d be walking into over there.”

He held the door while she slid inside, climbing carefully over the automatic gearshift.

Dane closed the door behind her and walked around to the back, opening the tailgate. He saw her spin around to watch him. Quickly, so as not to let too much heat out of the car, he dragged a half dozen pairs of skis out of the back and then slammed the door. He set the skis against the back of the Jeep, in a lean-to formation.

When he opened the driver’s side door again, her worried face looked up at him. He closed the door, plunging them into darkness. “I cleaned all the snow away from the tailpipe, and tented skis over it,” he explained. “We should be able to run the engine for a while before the exhaust gets clogged.”

“Oh!” He could hear her shiver beside him. “Thank-you, Boy Scout. It crossed my mind that you were making room for my mutilated body. But I forgot to worry about accidental asphyxiation.”

“Christ,” he laughed in what he hoped was a non-threatening way. “The only thing I’d like to mutilate is a cheeseburger, medium rare. And a side of onion rings.”

“Good,” she said. “Because it’s been a pretty crappy day already.”

“Has it?” He leaned back against the headrest. “Let’s name all the shitty things about this day. You start.”

“Well, okay,” her voice was tentative. He wished he could see her face. Her tone suggested a frown across that pink, kissable mouth he’d spied earlier. “My truck may have breathed its last. And I can’t afford a new one.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Your turn,” Willow pressed.

“Sure. I was supposed to drive to Keene tonight. And I have a flight out of Boston tomorrow. But the roads are trashed, and the Jeep is stuck. Your turn.”

“That is inconvenient. I shouldn’t have been on the road at all. I drove out because I needed chicken feed, which seemed important. But now I realize that I didn’t check their water, and the chickens are far more likely to die of thirst than hunger. Go.”

“We might die of thirst first. Go.”

He felt her turn toward him in the dark. “I have to throw a flag on that one, mister,” she said. “We’re not trapped in a barn like them, we’re surrounded by water. How about this: I left a pot of chili cooking in my kitchen, and it might burn. Go.”

“New rule,” he announced. “Let’s not talk about food. I’ve been working out since five-thirty this morning, and lunch was five hours ago. Your turn.”

“All right…” Willow sounded as if she was running out of complaints, at least the ones she was willing to tell a stranger. “There is going to be some world-class shoveling to do tomorrow.”

“Well, I have to flag that one,” Dane said. “Because shoveling means snow, and I live for snow. So here’s the real bummer. We’re getting two feet of freshy, and I can’t ski on it tomorrow. I have to travel.”

“The snow will still be here when you get back,” Willow pointed out.

“You aren’t a skier, are you? There’s nothing like first tracks. Flying down a slope in un-tracked powder is the best thing there is. It’s better than sex.”

Willow burst out laughing. “You did not just say that.”

“What?”

“I feel sorry for your girlfriend,” she giggled.

“I don’t have one.”

But that only made her laugh harder. “Sorry, I’m no expert on skiing, so it’s possible that you know something I don’t. On the other hand, it’s also possible that you’re meeting the wrong girls.”

He grinned in the dark. “Fair enough. I think it’s your turn.”

“Ah.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, my ex called today and asked me to sell his motorcycle and wire him the money. As if that would take no effort on my part. Even though he left me in debt.” Her voice quavered a bit at the end. Their little game had turned into a peculiar little confessional. “Your turn.”

“My brother is dying,” Dane bit out. “And I’m supposed to be driving to see him right now.”

Christ. He had no idea what made him tell her that. To say that he wasn’t a sharer was putting it mildly. But the dark and the warm sound of her voice had loosened up his tongue.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

He shook his head in the darkness. “It’s been a long illness. I’ve known it was coming.”

“What’s his name?” she asked.

Her choice of questions made him like her even more. It wasn’t a nosy what’s wrong with him? Instead, she’d asked something much more relevant, something which honored his brother the way Dane thought of him—a happy, laughing man. The father that Dane never had.

“He’s Finn,” he answered. “We’re Finn and Dane. My mother had a thing for Scandinavia.”

Poor Finn.

For almost fifteen years, Dane had known Finn would die. When Dane was a teenager, his brother sat him down and explained it. “It killed mom, and it will eventually kill me, too. But maybe not you, Danger man, you just keep skiing fast, and maybe you’ll outrun it.”

He and Finn were ten years apart. His brother had been twenty-five at the time he received his diagnosis. Poor Finn had started showing symptoms a good decade earlier than most people with the disease. Now Finn was not quite forty, and Dane was about to turn thirty.

And eventually, the symptoms would come for him, too.

No matter what his brother said, Dane was sure of it. He had spent the last fifteen years trying to accept it. And this was Dane’s true secret. The fact that his brother was sick could slip out, sitting next to a silky-haired girl in a dark car…that didn’t matter—not really. But nothing could shake that other truth from his lips. If anyone ever found out about the genetic time bomb that awaited him, Dane would lose his place on the ski team, his endorsements. Everything.

“It can’t be easy,” Willow said, her voice low. “Watching somebody die.”

He lifted his arms behind his head, grabbing the headrest with both hands. “We all go someday, right?” How many times had Dane said that aloud—a million? And always with the unfortunate knowledge that while there are many ways to die, he’d seen one of the ugliest. First his mother, and now Finn.

“I guess so,” she said softly.

“Including your chickens?”

She laughed. “Don’t say that. They’ll probably be fine. I’m just mad at myself for driving out through the storm. I’ve tried to become a country girl, but it just never quite stuck.”

“So you’re not from around here either, like you accused me of a little while ago….”

She laughed again, and it was a musical sound. He decided he wanted to hear that laugh a few more times before the plow truck showed up. “No, before we moved here, I lived in Manhattan for seven years. I went to NYU, and then did most of a doctorate.”

“So…then you decided to move to the sticks and raise chickens?”

“Ugh. Do I have to tell this part?”

“No,” he said quickly. “Not if it’s painful.”

“It’s just painfully stupid,” she sighed. “I followed a guy here two years ago. He was very interested in the back-to-the-land movement. Unfortunately he was also very interested in a twenty-one-year-old folk singer. So now I own a hundred-year-old farmhouse on fifteen acres, which I cannot sell. I can’t get a decent job, and I can’t finish my graduate degree. I’m kind of stuck, and there’s nobody to blame.”

“Except for the asshole.”

“Except for him. But if I’d been smarter, it wouldn’t have happened. Now he’s in California. He’s gotten smarter, too, I think. She has a trust fund.”

“Christ,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

A silence fell between them. “Excuse me for a minute, I’m going to check the tailpipe,” he said. He opened the door, which brought the dome light on again, and he got another look at Willow’s face. This time she smiled at him, and her big hazel eyes shone. God, she was pretty. In a perfect world he could run his fingers through that hair, taste those perfect lips. Hell, if he was going to dream big, in a perfect world he could go home to something like that every night.

But not this world. Never in this one. He shut the door.

The wind whipped his face as Dane walked to the back of the car. For a moment, he couldn’t see at all. The gust pushed on his chest so fiercely that he put a hand out, his fingers finding the Jeep’s frame. He followed it around to the back, where his taillights revealed that snow was drifting everywhere, accumulating in spite of the wind block he’d tried to make with the skis. He kicked as much snow away from the rear of the Jeep as he could. But it was falling incredibly fast. So much for the comfort of the heater.

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 27 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 272019
 

Speakeasy (True North #5) by Sarina Bowen

Sometimes you fall for Mr. Right. And sometimes for Mr. Right Now…

MayDid you hear the one about the girl who walks into a bar and catches her live-in lover kissing someone else? No? You’re the only one in town who missed it.Luckily Alec is there to wrap me up in strong arms and carry me out the door before things get too ugly. And that’s not all Alec is good at. Our unexpected chemistry makes him the perfect rebound guy.

AlecI should know better than to hook up with my rival’s little sister, but the fiery look in May’s eyes really turns my crank. She needs cheering up, and I’m just the guy for the job.It’s not like I’ll fall in love. Not even after a string of scorching hot trysts, and the realization that we’re good at the same things: wild nights and familial disappointment. I don’t do love, never have, never will. So this is the perfect arrangement, for both of us. Nobody would approve, but nobody has to know…

For fans of: Melanie Harlow, Corinne Michaels, Penelope Ward, Vi Keeland, K. Bromberg, Sawyer Bennett, Penny Reid, Lex Martin, Kylie Scott, Helena Hunting, Lauren Blakely, Amy Daws, Lili Valentine, Sara Ney, Elle Kennedy.

Keywords: Vermont romance, friends to lovers, forbidden romance, craft beer, entrepreneurs, bartender, best friend’s little sister, big brother’s best friend, small town romance.

Excerpt Speakeasy (True North #5) by Sarina Bowen

Someone appears in my peripheral vision. I get half a glance at a lithe body and long hair as a woman appears and then just as quickly retreats.

Wait. Was that…?

I ease my way down the aisle, past the snowboard bags and ski duffels, and then I peer around the corner just in time to spot May Shipley exiting the store.

Several lengthy strides carry me right out the door after her. May has exquisite long legs, so she’s making good time escaping from me across the parking lot. I put two fingers in my mouth and make a cat-call whistle.

May halts midstride. Busted. She turns around and regards me with a sheepish smile.

God, just one smile from her and I feel better already. I raise a finger and beckon. Then I lean against the brick exterior of the shop and wait.

She lifts her chin and walks toward me.

“May Shipley,” I complain as she approaches. “Am I crazy or did you just leave the building to avoid me back there?”

She puts one hand over her pretty eyes and laughs. “Okay, you caught me. Don’t make me feel worse.”

“Do we have a problem, here?” I reach out and tag her hand, then pull her closer to me. We’re toe to toe, though several layers of winter clothing separate us. Still, my whole body hums at the memory of her riding me in my truck. Gawd. So hot. “I get that our lawyer party date got a little crazy.”

“You think?” she squeaks. “I’m so embarrassed.”

“Why? So we had a little spur-of-the-moment sex. You really enjoyed my spur for a moment.”

“Omigod, stop.” May throws her head back and laughs. Her eyes dance, and I’m wearing a giant smile and feeling much more like myself.

“Don’t be embarrassed. I had a lot of fun.” That’s an understatement. I can’t stop thinking about it. Spontaneous truck sex with a long-legged beauty moaning on my dick? That night has made my personal hall of fame.

“Okay. I’ll try.” But the color in her cheeks is unmistakable. It’s cute as fuck.

“Come here.” I pull her into a hug, and she feels terrific against my body. “Let’s not be weird.”

May lifts her face in surprise. “I said that same thing to a good friend once.”

“Did it work?” I whisper because we’re so close together.

“Nope. Still weird.” She grins.

I laugh. And then I kiss her. I don’t even know how it happens. One second I’m just appreciating her smile, and the next second I’m owning it with my mouth.

May lets out a surprised whimper before her mouth softens under mine. I take my time kissing her until her hands spread the two halves of my jacket, finding my chest, gripping my flannel shirt. I need to taste her, so I part her lips with my tongue.

Suddenly my shoulder blades hit the bricks as May presses me up against the wall.

No, ma’am. I’ve just spent five nights imagining a scenario where our next encounter plays out in reverse—with me in charge. So I spin her around and back her up against the wall instead. And for good measure I pin her questing hands in mine, just because I can.

She makes a hungry noise, and I feel it in my balls. And then I dive back into her kisses, one of my thighs between her long legs.

May fights me, if by fighting me you mean she presses her hips against mine and gives me a nice, dirty grind.

I never liked the Shipleys, but now I realize I was hanging out with the wrong ones.

We lose our minds for several amazing minutes until the door of the ski shop opens suddenly. I take a quick step backward to preserve what’s left of our dignity.

Not that it works. We’re both flushed and panting, and I look like I’m trying to conceal a ski pole in the crotch of my jeans.

The young woman exiting the shop gives us a quizzical look as she bleeps the locks on her car.

“Jesus,” May breathes as we blink at each other.

“I know.” Every part of me is horny now. It’s cold outside, but I’m hot everywhere. My clothes feel constricting. I want to drag May back into my truck and have my way with her again.

“What are we doing?”

“Well, babydoll, we’re dry-humping each other in a parking lot.”

“Alec!” She reaches up, clapping a hand over my mouth. “That was a rhetorical question.”

I nod to show her I understand. But then I stick out my tongue and lick her palm where it’s pressed to my lips.

“Omigod, stop.” She removes her hand and wipes it on my flannel.

“You don’t really want me to. Admit it.”

“No, really I do.” Her embarrassed smile comes back. It’s so fucking cute. “I don’t need to be arrested for indecent exposure.”

“Fair enough. But that’s why you’re going to come over tonight. Late. Like eleven.” I’m supposed to be tending bar until ten and then closing up early, because it’s Sunday night.

“Why?”

“Why do you think? So I can strip you down and lick you all over until you’re screaming my—”

May puts that hand over my mouth again. “Anyone could hear you.”

“Nah,” I say from under her hand. She removes it. “I have brick walls at home. It helps with sound control. So even when my headboard starts to bang while I’m fucking you—”

She tries to cover my mouth again, but this time I catch her hand in midair, because I’m a sex ninja. And I hold it in mine. “Just come over. I’ve been thinking about you all week. Once wasn’t enough.” I lift her palm to my mouth and kiss it tenderly.

“Apparently not.” Her cheeks pink up. “But I really can’t get involved with anyone right now.”

“Duh.” I actually roll my eyes. “I’m your rebound lay. Relationships aren’t my style, and I’m allergic to commitment. So we’ll have exactly the same expectations—some very athletic sex.”

Her lips part on an dreamy expression, but then she snaps them closed again.

“Don’t overthink it, counselor. The judge orders you to his chambers at ten.”

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 27 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 262019
 

Bountiful (True North #4) by Sarina Bowen

No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules. Now a USA Today bestseller!

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave From Brooklyn will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Hockey star Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

Excerpt Bountiful (True North #4) by Sarina Bowen

“Last call,” she said to me as she wiped down the bar. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Not unless you’ll let me buy you a drink. Seems like you might need to unwind after that last bit of bullshit.”

She gave me a wry smile. “You’re sweet to ask. But I can’t accept. Company policy.”

“Uh-huh.” I took out my wallet and put a fifty on the bar. “First of all, I’m not sweet.”

Her eyes widened a little when I said that. Now I had her attention.

“And secondly, company policy my ass. It’s you who calls the shots in this place. Nobody else but you. I can see why you need a handy excuse, though. If you couldn’t pull the ‘company policy’ out of your pocket sometimes, the men would be buying the sexy bartender drinks left and right all night long, I bet. You’d never get a moment’s peace.”

A smile stole across her features. “Yeah, sure. I have to keep a stick back here behind the bar just to beat back all the men.”

“You don’t need that stick, gorgeous, because you give ’em the evil eye and they run off, knowing they’re not man enough for you. But every guy who drinks in this bar has the secret, fervent wish that fortune would smile down on him just long enough for him to earn an hour of your undivided attention.”

Zara rolled her dark eyes, but a telltale blush splashed her cheekbones. “You know how to lay it on thick.”

“No need.” I shook my head. “Just telling you how it is. Now I think you should do a shot with me, and we’ll toast your unapproachability.”

She laughed, and her eyes lit up for the first time tonight. “You are smooth, mister. I’m almost tempted.”

“Almost? Damn.”

She smiled. “There aren’t any taxis out here in the woods, and I’ve been pouring your beers all night. If you do a shot with me, it won’t be safe to drive away from here. And it’s quitting time.”

“Well. Now that you mention it…” I reached across the bar and laid a hand very gently over her smooth one. Our gazes collided as I stroked my thumb across the back of her hand. “Driving after doing shots with you wouldn’t be such a great plan. I’d have to stick around for a couple hours until it wears off.”

Zara waited a beat before retrieving her hand from beneath mine. “I see.”

“Do you?” I put both elbows on the bar and leaned forward. She was trying to play it cool, but my not-so-subtle message was getting through. I saw the blush beginning to creep across those fine cheekbones. She and I had chemistry, damn it. We’d been eye-fucking each other all night. “Look. I think you had a stressful evening. And I’m really good at stress relief. Like, pro level.”

She braced both hands on the bar and smiled at me. “Are you always this forward?”

“Nope.” I shook my head. “Some women can’t handle the truth. But I’ve watched you run this place. You’re in charge of everything that happens inside these walls, and I’ll bet that gets old. I’m thinking you might like to hand over the reins once in a while. Let someone else take charge. Tonight that someone is gonna be me…”

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 26 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 242019
 

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen

The first novel in a sexy new series featuring the hockey players of the Brooklyn Bruisers and the women who win their hearts—from the USA Today bestselling author of the Ivy Years series.

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold…

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast….

Excerpt Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen

“Come right this way,” Georgia heard her coworker and roommate Becca say, the clomp of her Dr. Martens echoing through the grand old passageway. “Nate is excited to meet you.” Becca was the owner’s assistant, and Georgia lingered half a second to wave her down and offer her a donut, too.
But Becca didn’t happen to look in Georgia’s direction as she led a tall man down the corridor. Something about his gait snagged Georgia’s subconscious. So she took a second look.
And that’s when her heart took off like a manic bunny rabbit. Because she knew that man. She knew the chiseled shape of his masculine jaw, and the length of his coal-black eyelashes.
Oh my God.
Omigod, omigod, omigod.
“How was your flight?” Becca asked him, oblivious to the fact that Georgia was spying.
“Not too bad. I got in late last night.”
The sound of his voice fluttered right inside Georgia’s chest. It was the same smoky sweet timbre that used to whisper into her ear while they made love. She hadn’t let herself remember that sound in a long time.
Now it was giving her goosebumps. The good kind.
“Welcome to Brooklyn,” Becca said while Georgia trembled. “Are you familiar with the area?”
“Grew up about thirty miles from here,” he answered while chills broke out across her back.
Holding her breath, Georgia eased her office door further closed, until only a couple of inches remained. She could not be caught like this—freaked-out and speechless, hiding behind a door.
The movement caught Becca’s eye, though. Georgia saw her turn her head in her direction and then pick her out in the crack where the door was still open. Becca raised one eyebrow—the one with the barbell piercing in it.
All Georgia could do was close her eyes and pray that Becca wouldn’t call out a greeting.
There was a pause before Georgia heard Becca say, “Right this way, please.”
Quietly, Georgia stepped into her office and shut the door. After flipping on the light, she let her briefcase and pocketbook slide right to the floor. Only the folder that Nate had given her was still in her shaking hands. She flipped it open, her eyes searching for the new player’s name on the page.
But she didn’t even need the paperwork to confirm what her racing heart had already figured out. The newest player for the Brooklyn Bruisers was none other than Leonardo “Leo” Trevi, a six-foot-two, left-handed forward. Also known as her high school boyfriend, the boy she’d loved with all her heart until the day that she’d dumped him. And now he was here?
“Thanks, universe,” she whispered into the stillness of her office.

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 24 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 232019
 

The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

A YA novel from USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Never ask a question unless you’re sure you want the truth.

I’ve been listening to my father sing for my whole life. I carry him in my pocket on my mp3 player. It’s just that we’ve never met face to face.

My mother would never tell me how I came to be, or why my rock star father and I have never met. I thought it was her only secret. I was wrong.

When she dies, he finally appears. Suddenly I have a first class ticket into my father’s exclusive world. A world I don’t want any part of – not at this cost.

Only three things keep me going: my a cappella singing group, a swoony blue-eyed boy named Jake, and the burning questions in my soul.

There’s a secret shame that comes from being an unwanted child. It drags me down, and puts distance between me and the boy I love.

My father is the only one alive who knows my history. I need the truth, even if it scares me.

Excerpt The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

After the last course—chocolate mousse—the three of us go tripping back across the cold lawn in the dark, Aurora in the lead. I’m the tiniest bit tipsy and wearing heels. So naturally, I stumble on a frozen clod of snow and nearly fall. But Jake catches my hand to steady me. “Thanks,” I breathe.

Curiously, his warm fingers remain curled around mine until we reached the door of Habernacker.

I try not to feel ridiculously excited about it.

He lets go when we all reach the third floor. When Aurora opens the door, he follows us inside until we all collapse on the S.L.O., with me in the center.

“Oh! I forgot to steal my plate,” I realize.

“Me too.” Aurora sighs.

Jake reaches into his jacket and pulls out a plate.

“Well done, Mr. Jake!” Aurora laughs. “The party in the annex starts in fifteen minutes.” She heaves herself off the squishy couch. “I have time to redo my makeup.”

I watch her walk over to the stereo, where my phone is already ensconced, and turn on our Christmas playlist. Then she grabs her makeup bag off her desk and leaves the room.

When the door clicks shut, neither Jake nor I speak for a moment. The low chords of a Straight No Chaser song play through our little speakers.

Suddenly, it’s awkward. We’ve been circling each other for a while now—since the night he was trying to be nice and I wrecked it.

“You’re probably sick of a cappella by now,” I say, just to find something to talk about.

But Jake turns slowly toward me and says something unexpected. “Rachel, I need to ask you a question.”

My stomach does a little flip flop, and I turn to face those blue eyes I love so much. “What?” I whisper.

“Well…” He clears his throat. There is a very long pause, during which I hold my breath. “Will you come skiing some time?”

I exhale. “I guess so?” Another beat of silence passes. “That was your big question?” I ask, feeling like I’ve missed something.

His color deepens. “Well, no. I just…” His brow furrows, as if he’s trying to explain some point of astronomy. I love his look of concentration. I’ve missed it.

Jake’s blue eyes lock on mine, and I see how our own orbits might finally collide. This time, I will not send the moment winging back into space. Instead, I lean an almost imperceptible degree in his direction.

And that’s all it takes.

Reaching up, Jake cups his hand to the side of my face. I’m still processing the sweet touch of his fingers when he leans in farther, his lips brushing the sensitive corner of my mouth. His eyes are tentative, seeking permission. My heart thuds with expectation.
And then—finally—Jake kisses me for real. We come together the way a well-timed drummer kicks into the chorus of a song—swiftly, and without hesitation.

We broke apart a moment later, eyeing each other while I try not to smile. “Can I do that again?” he asks, his voice rough. “That was my real question.”

“Well, since you asked so nicely…”

Jake makes a low noise of approval, then draws me closer. I reach up for the back of his neck, my fingers grazing that golden patch of skin I’ve always wanted to touch. He kisses me again, his arm finding the velvet waist of my dress and encircling me.

My heart flutters, but not from fear. Warm lips tease mine gently apart. And when his tongue tangles with mine, I lose myself.

He tastes like champagne. Everything is wild and sweet, until the moment Aurora’s voice rings out. “Ay, caramba!”

I feel an unwelcome rush of cool air between us as Jake retreats.

“I did say I was going into the bathroom, right? And not on a trip to Fiji?”

Neither of us says a word; we only look sheepishly at Aurora.

“Just to be clear, now I’m ducking into the bedroom for my coat, which only takes a second.” She steps into the bedroom, and I hear the rustling of fabric. Then she peers dramatically around the door frame. “Good listening! Now I’m going to the party. Will I see you both there? Don’t answer that. We’ll speak later.”

Jake laughs. “Sorry, Aurora.”

“I’ve seen worse.” She departs, the door closing behind her.

And now I’m self-conscious. Rising, I decide to fiddle with the music playlist. “Do you want to go to the party?”

“I’ll go. But I’m not great at parties. It’s all shouting over the music, drinking warm beer out of a plastic cup.”

“Then let’s not.” My fingers shake as I adjust the volume. I go back over to the sofa and sit down.

“So.” He clears his throat. “Where are you going for break?” As he asks, he takes one of my hands in his, massaging my palm with his thumb.

His light touch is so distracting that I almost forget to answer. “Kansas City,” I manage. “To meet my grandfather for the very first time.”

“Um, what?” He squeezes my hand.

So I tell Jake the embarrassing highlights of my weird story—that I hadn’t met Frederick until this past summer.

“Wow. I’m sorry,” he says.

“Don’t be.”

“I guess I’m not that offended now that you wouldn’t introduce me. If the normal waiting period is seventeen years.”

My laugh begins with an unladylike snort. Ah, well. “With me it’s just all soap opera, all the time. Believe it or not, a year ago I was really a boring person.”

“I don’t see how.” He regards me with darting eyes. “You look beautiful tonight.”

“It’s Aurora’s dress,” I whisper.

But Jake doesn’t seem to care. He slips his arms around my waist. Scooting closer, he slides his lips from my forehead, down my nose and onto my mouth. And we begin again.

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 23 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 222019
 

Pipe Dreams (Brooklyn Bruisers #3) by Sarina Bowen

A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.

Excerpt Pipe Dreams (Brooklyn Bruisers #3) by Sarina Bowen

The conversation around him seemed to fade away while he watched her silk-clad body maneuver between two men in tuxes. His eyes weren’t fooling him, either. She was wearing the dress he’d bought her on the weekend he’d spent all day trying not to remember. But there it was—a column of silk the color of flower blossoms, clinging gently to the feminine shape of her body. It draped teasingly across the line of her bosom.

She’d worn it. Here, of all places. His throat constricted, and his chest got tight.

“Beak, your tongue is hanging out. Hey.” Patrick O’Doul snapped his fingers in front of Mike’s face. “You okay?”

“Not really.”

“What’s the matter?”

He shook his head like a waterlogged dog. “Seeing Lauren every day. It’s killing me. I feel like I’m watching a highlight reel of my own life.”

O’Doul put a big hand on his shoulder. “Dude, I’m sorry you miss her.”

He spent a moment being surprised that the captain wasn’t giving him shit for that kind of sentimental talk. But Doulie was a lucky man these days—in love with Ariana, and still in the honeymoon stage of the relationship where nothing is ever wrong. Lucky bastard.

Once you’d tasted the sweetness of it, you were never the same.

“You never hook up,” O’Doul pointed out. “Maybe there’s someone else here who will catch your eye?” He looked pointedly toward Connie who was now chatting up Silas. Maybe she really did have a thing for goalies.

Slowly, he shook his head. This roped-off section of the beach was crammed full of attractive, moneyed people who could pay five hundred bucks to chat with athletes and their billionaire team owners. The women were all tanned and dressed to kill.

“You’re right. I don’t hook up,” he told O’Doul. “I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who’s gotten very good at noticing everything I do. God forbid I spend the night with some chick who snaps a photo of me, or brags about it on Twitter. Try explaining that to my nosy teenager. If I take somebody to bed it has to be somebody I trust. It has to be worth it.” Unbidden, his eyes cycled back through the scene to find Lauren again.

“Well.” O’Doul chuckled. “I hear you. And I never really had much interest in the hookup scene, either. But then you need another hobby to burn off some of your energy. Shuffleboard, maybe. Or wakeboarding.”

“Let me ask you something.” He tore his gaze off his ex. “Let’s say you bought Ari a beautiful dress. The first time she wore it, the two of you had frantic sex in a hammock on a Florida beach.”

“There are hammocks on the beach?”

Mike cuffed Doulie’s shoulder. “There are. But focus, okay? So, three years later, Ari wears the dress again, at a party on a Florida beach. What do you think that means?”

O’Doul stroked his chin. “I think it means—let’s have sex again in a hammock on the beach.”

“Who’s having sex in a hammock?” Leo Trevi asked, stepping between them. “You and Beak? Does Ari know? And how big is this hammock?”

“You are such a comedian,” O’Doul grumbled while Leo laughed at his own joke.

“Are there really hammocks nearby?”

Mike sighed. “Yes, and you’re welcome.” He scanned the crowd again for Lauren. “It’s not over between us,” he said suddenly. If it was over, he wouldn’t still feel like this—as if just standing in the same zip code with Lauren had his body humming with newfound possibility.

“What’s not over?” Leo Trevi asked, sipping a fresh beer.

“Beak wants his girl back,” O’Doul explained. “But he’s facing some pretty steep odds.”

“I waited six years to get mine back,” Leo said.

Shit. “I don’t have six years. I don’t even have six weeks. Once the play-offs are over, she’ll be gone. You assholes better put some goals on the scoreboard in Tampa. I need to take this thing all the way to the Cup.”

“That’s the weirdest motivation I’ve heard for wanting to reach the finals,” Leo said. “But whatever works for you, man.” Laughing, O’Doul high-fived him. “Some people play for glory. Some want the money.” “But Beak plays for the puss . . . Hi, sweetheart!” Leo changed his tone in a hurry as Georgia sidled up to him.

“What inglorious conversation have I stumbled into?” Georgia asked, relieving Leo of his beer and taking a gulp. “With twice as many athletes present as usual, I’m sure the smack talk is flying. It better not be about me.”

“Never,” he said, kissing her jaw. “Dance with me?”

“Only if you share your drink. The line at the bar got long all of a sudden.” She took another sip.

“Of course.” Leo cupped her elbow in his hand, guiding her toward the dance floor. “Want to take a walk on the beach, later? I heard there were hammocks …”

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 22 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 212019
 

Studly Period (The Ivy Years #5.5) by Sarina Bowen

She’s a brilliant writing tutor. Too bad she’s tongue-tied every time he sits down in front of her…

There are 1016 people in the freshman class at Harkness College. I can’t be the only socially awkward nerd girl virgin among them. Right?

It’s time I learn to talk to guys without blushing and stammering. So I take a confidence-building job at the student tutoring center. Twelve bucks an hour, plus human interaction. What could go wrong?

A fun-loving French Canadian hockey hunk, that’s what.

When Pepe St. George sits down at my tutoring table, my brain shuts off and my mouth goes right into hyperdrive. Even the sound of my name on his lips—Josephine—gives me a mini orgasm.

I want to hand him my V-card. But all I manage to hand him is…my thesaurus. And my dignity. All seems lost, until I hatch a plan to get him alone…

Excerpt Studly Period (The Ivy Years #5.5) by Sarina Bowen

“Bonjour.” The deep voice—from right above me—startles me so badly that I jump. My phone goes clattering to the desktop as I whip my chin upward to see whomever snuck up on me.

“Désolé!” he says. “I should come back later?”

“No,” I say, fumbling my phone back into my bag. “Please sit down.”

My heart is banging against my ribs, and not only because he startled me. If possible, I’m even more awkward with men than with women. It’s worse if they’re attractive.

And this guy? Very attractive. Wow. He has a wide, handsome face and coal-dark eyes ringed by impressively thick lashes, and a broad face. Broad shoulders.

Broad everything. Wow. He must eat a lot of protein. And now I’m staring as he arranges himself in the chair opposite me and draws out a folder. He’s really handsome. One of the BPs, for sure.

I can’t stop staring. There’s something rugged about him that’s hard to describe. There’s color in his cheeks—at least the part that’s not covered with dark scruff. And his biceps bulge from the sleeves of his T-shirt. He reminds me of a superhero going incognito, concealing his identity among the ordinary college students.

Though the muscles can probably be explained by the logo on his T-shirt—Harkness Hockey.

It’s always the jocks who need tutoring. I swear. Nadia I have a disagreement about this. She says that jocks are used to coaching, and thus accept tutoring help more readily than the general population.

“I think they’re just not as smart,” I always tell her.

She just shakes her head. “You say that, but you’re still intimidated by them. So which is it?”

Indeed.

“How can I help you,” I whisper up at this handsome giant.

He frowns, and then folds massive hands onto the desk between us. “Excusez-moi?”

People always tell me my voice is soft. That I’m hard to hear. He must agree, because he leans forward, those big, dark eyes blinking in close proximity. It doesn’t help the knee-knocking, teeth-rattling nerves that overtake me whenever a beautiful man looks at me.

Get a grip, Josie. “How can I help you today,” I ask carefully.

“Bon. I have the paper due for English. And my English is not so excellent. So I hope you will help me find all the places I fuck it up. I bring it…” He opens a folder and rifles through some papers.

For a long moment I just blink at him. “Your English…” Did he just say that he didn’t speak the language?

“When I come to Harkness last year? I don’t speak much English at all,” he says, dropping a rough draft of an essay on the table between us. “Please help me find zhe places where I fuck up the grammar.”

His honesty has stunned me. The Harkness students I’ve met so far would never admit to any kind of weakness. In fact, they tell me that most students wait until their grades are in jeopardy to find the tutoring center at all.

And I don’t blame them. Struggling? That’s shameful. Harkness is a top-notch school where everyone worships at the alter of intellectual exceptionalism. With an admissions rate that hovered around nine percent, having a big brain is the only way to get in.

Or at least I thought it was. Every year, something like a thousand valedictorians get rejections from Harkness. Who would dream of implying that he isn’t as qualified as the next student?

This guy.

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 21 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 192019
 

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.
Also, he’s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.

Excerpt The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

Chapter One: Gargoyles and Barbecue

— Corey

“This looks promising,” my mother said, eyeing the dormitory’s ivy-covered facade. I could hear the anticipation in her voice. “Try your key card, Corey.”

It was move-in day at Harkness College, and parents of the new frosh were oohing and ahhing all around campus. As the official tour guides will tell you, three of the last six presidents held at least one degree from the 300-year-old college. And twice a day, students from the Carillon Guild climb 144 steps into Beaumont Tower to serenade the campus on bells weighing upwards of a ton each.

Unfortunately, my mother’s interest in the dorm was neither historical nor architectural. It was the wheelchair ramp that captivated her.

I rolled up to wave my shiny new Harkness ID in front of the card reader. Then I pushed the blue button with the wheelchair on it. I held my breath until the pretty arched door began to swing slowly open.

After everything I’d been through in the past year, it was hard to believe that this was really happening for me. I was in.

Wheeling up the ramp and into the narrow building, I counted two dorm rooms, one on my left and one on my right. Both had wide doors — the telltale sign of a handicapped-accessible room. Straight ahead, there was a stairway with a pretty oaken banister. Like most of the old dorms at Harkness University, the building had no elevator. I wouldn’t be visiting any of the upstairs rooms in my chair.

“The floor is very level,” my mother observed, approvingly. “When they told us the building was eighty years old, I had my doubts.”

That was putting it mildly.

The fact that my parents had begged me not to come to Harkness was just the latest bitter irony in a long string of bitter ironies. While other new Harkness parents were practically throwing confetti for their offspring today, mine were having two heart attacks apiece, because their baby girl had chosen a college a thousand miles from home, where they couldn’t check up on her every half hour.

Thank goodness.

After the accident, my parents had pleaded with me to defer for a year. But who could take another year of hovering, with nothing better to fill the time than extra physical therapy sessions? When I’d put my proverbial foot down about heading off to college, my parents had changed tactics. They tried to convince me to stay in Wisconsin. I’d been subjected to a number of anxious lectures entitled “Why Connecticut?” And “You Don’t Have to Prove Anything.”

But I wanted this. I wanted the chance to attend the same elite school that my brother had. I wanted the independence, I wanted a change in scenery, and I really wanted to get the taste of last year out of my mouth.

The door on my left opened suddenly, and a pretty girl with dark curly hair stuck her head out. “Corey!” she beamed. “I’m Dana!”

When my rooming assignment had arrived in our Wisconsin mailbox, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dana. But during the past month we’d traded several emails. She was originally from California, but went to high school in Tokyo, where her father was a businessman. I’d already filled her in on my physical quirks. I’d explained that I couldn’t feel my right foot, or any of my left leg. I’d warned her that I was in a wheelchair most of the time. Although, with a set of cumbersome leg braces and forearm crutches, I sometimes did a very poor imitation of walking.

And I’d already apologized for her odd rooming assignment — living with the cripple in a different dorm than the rest of the First Years. When Dana had quickly replied that she didn’t mind, a little specter of hope had alighted on my shoulder. And this feathered, winged thing had been buzzing around for weeks, whispering encouragements in my ear.

Now, facing her in the flesh for the first time, my little hope fairy did a cartwheel on my shoulder. I spread my arms, indicating the chair. “How ever did you recognize me?”

Her eyes sparkled, and then she said exactly the right thing. “Facebook. Duh!” She swung the door wide open, and I rolled inside.

“Our room is fabulous,” Dana said for the third time. “We have at least twice as much space as everyone else. This will be great for parties.”

It was good to know that Dana was a beer-keg-is-half-full kind of roommate.

And in truth, ours was a beautiful room. The door opened into what Harkness students called a “common room,” but the rest of the world would call a living room. Off the common room were two separate bedrooms, each one large enough to turn a wheelchair around in. For furnishings, we each had a desk and — this was surprising — a double bed.

“I brought twin sheets,” I said, puzzled.

“So did I,” Dana laughed. “Maybe accessible rooms have double beds? We’ll just have to go shopping. Oh, the hardship!” Her eyes twinkled.

My mom, huffing under the weight of one of my suitcases, came into the room. “Shopping for what?”

“Sheets,” I said. “We have double beds.”

She clapped her hands together. “We’ll drive you girls to Target before we leave.”

I would have rather gotten rid of my parents, but Dana took her up on it.

“First, let me have a look around,” my mother said. “Maybe there are other things you need.” She traipsed into our private bathroom. It was amply proportioned, with a handicapped accessible shower. “This is perfect,” she said. “Let’s put a few of your things away, and make sure you have somewhere to dry your catheters.”

“Mother,” I hissed. I really did not want to discuss my freakish rituals in front of my roommate.

“If we’re going to Target,” Dana said from the common room, “we should look at the rugs. It echoes in here.”

My mother hurried out of the bathroom to humiliate me further. “Oh, Corey can’t have an area rug while she’s still working on walking. She could trip. But where do you girls want Hank to install the television?” my mom asked, turning about.

I jumped on the change of topic. “My father is hooking us up with a flat-screen, and a cable subscription,” I said to Dana. “If that’s okay with you. Not everybody wants a TV.”

Dana put a thoughtful hand to her chin. “I’m not much of a TV watcher myself…” Her eyes flashed. “But there may be um, certain sorts of people who will want to gather in our room, say, when sporting events are on?”

My mother laughed. “What sort of people?”

“Well, have you met our neighbor yet? He’s a junior.” My new roommate’s eyes darted towards the hallway.

“Across the hall?” I asked. “In the other accessible room?” It wasn’t the first place I’d look for a hot guy.

She nodded. “You’ll see. Just wait.”

Our shopping trip took far longer than I’d hoped. My mother insisted on paying for Dana’s new bedding, with the argument that the peculiar accessible beds were all our fault. Dana chose a comforter with a giant red flower on it. I chose polka dots.

“Very cheery,” my mother said approvingly. My mom had always liked the cheery look. But after the year we’d just had, she clung to cheery like a life raft. “Let’s get the matching shams, ladies. And…” she went into the next aisle. “An extra pillow for each of you. Those beds won’t look right otherwise.”

“She doesn’t have to do this,” Dana whispered.

“Just go with it,” I said. “Wait…” I beckoned, and Dana leaned down so I could add something privately. “Take a peek at the rugs. If you see anything good, we’ll come back another time.”

She frowned at me. “But I thought…”

I gave her an eye roll. “She’s insane.”

With a wink, Dana ducked into the rug aisle.

When we got back, my father was standing in the center of our empty room, flipping channels on the TV he’d mounted on our wall. “Success!” he called out.

“Thanks, Dad.”

His smile was tired. “No problem.”

As irritating as I’d found my mother this past year, things were even trickier with my father. He and I used to talk about ice hockey all day long. It was our shared passion, as well as his livelihood. But now an uncomfortable silence hung between us. The fact that I couldn’t skate anymore just killed him. He’d aged about ten years since my accident. I hoped that with me out of the house, he would be able to get back into his groove.

It was time to ease my parents into hallway, and send them on their way. “Guys? There’s a barbecue for First Years on the lawn. And Dana and I are going to it. Soon.”

My mother wrung her hands. “Hold up. I forgot to install your night-light.” She darted into my bedroom, while I bit back an angry complaint. Seriously? I hadn’t had a night-light since I was seven. And when my brother went off to Harkness four years ago, there wasn’t any handholding for him. Damien got only a plane ticket and a clap on the shoulder.

“She can’t help herself,” my father said, reading my face. He picked his tool kit up off the floor and made his way toward the door.

“I’m going to be fine, you know,” I said, wheeling after him.

“I know you are, Corey.” He put one hand on my head, and then took it away again.

“Hey, Dad? I hope you have a great season.”

His eyes looked heavy. “Thanks, honey.” Under other circumstances, he’d be wishing the same for me. He would have inspected my safety pads, and we would have found a corner of the room to accommodate my hockey bag. He would have booked plane tickets to come out and watch one of my games.

But none of that was going to happen.

Instead, we went into the hallway together in silence. But there, my reverie was broken by the sight of a guy hanging up a white board on the wall outside of his door. My first glimpse was of a very tight backside and muscled arms. He was attempting to tap a nail into the wall without letting his crutches fall to the ground. “Damn,” he said under his breath as one of them toppled anyway.

And when he turned around, it was as if the sun had come out after a rainy day.

For starters, his face was movie-star handsome, with sparkling brown eyes and thick lashes. His wavy brown hair was a bit unkempt, as if he’d just run his fingers through it. He was tall and strong-looking, but not beefy, exactly. It wasn’t a linebacker’s body, but he was definitely an athlete.

Definitely.

Wow.

“Hi there,” he said, revealing a dimple.

Well hello, hottie, my brain answered. Unfortunately, my mouth said nothing. And after a beat I realized I was staring at his beautiful mouth, frozen like Bambi in the forest. “Hi,” I squeaked, with great effort.

My father leaned over to fetch the crutch this handsome creature had dropped. “That’s some cast you have there, son.”

I looked, and felt my face flush. Because looking at the cast meant allowing my eyes to travel down his body. The end of my slow scan revealed one very muscular leg. The other was encased in white plaster.

“Isn’t it a beauty?” His voice had a masculine roughness which put a quiver in my chest. “I broke it in two places.” He extended a hand to my father. “I’m Adam Hartley.”

“Ouch, Mr. Hartley,” my father said, shaking his hand. “Frank Callahan.”

Adam Hartley looked down at his own leg. “Well, Mr. Callahan, you should see the other guy.” My father’s face stiffened. But then my new neighbor’s face broke into another giant grin. “Don’t worry, sir. Your daughter isn’t living next door to a brawler. Actually, I fell.”

The look of relief on my dad’s face was so priceless that it broke my drooly spell, and I laughed. My gorgeous new neighbor extended a hand to me, which I had to roll forward to shake. “Well played,” I said. “I’m Corey Callahan.”

“Nice to meet you,” he began, his large hand gripping mine. His light brown eyes loomed in front of me, and I noticed that their irises had a darker ring around each one. The way he leaned down to shake my hand made me feel self-conscious. And was it hot in here?

Then the moment was broken by a shrill female voice erupting from inside his room. “Hartleeeey! I need you to hang this photograph, so you won’t forget me while I’m in France. But I can’t decide which wall!”

Hartley rolled his eyes just a little bit. “So make three more of them, baby,” he called. “Then you’ll have it covered.”

My father grinned, handing Hartley his crutch.

“Honey?” came the voice again. “Have you seen my mascara?”

“You don’t need it, gorgeous!” he called, tucking both crutches under his arms.

“Hartley! Help me look.”

“Yeah, that never works,” he said with a wink. Then he tipped his head toward the open door to his room. “Good to meet you. I have to solve the great makeup crisis.”

He disappeared as my mother emerged from my room, her face a tight line. “Are you sure there’s nothing else we can do for you?” she asked, fear in her eyes.

Be nice, I coached myself. The baby-proofing is finally over. “Thanks for all your help,” I said. “But I think I’m all set.”

My mother’s eyes misted. “Take good care of yourself, baby,” she said, her voice scratchy. She leaned over and hugged me, crushing my head to her chest.

“I will, Mom,” I said, the words muffled.

With a deep breath, she seemed to pull herself together. “Call if you need us.” She pushed open the dormitory’s outside door.

“…But if you don’t call for a few days, we won’t panic,” my father added. Then he gave me a quick salute before the door fell closed behind him. And then they were gone.

My sigh was nothing but relief.

A half-hour later, Dana and I set off for the barbecue. She bounced across the street, and I wheeled along beside her. At Harkness College, students were split into twelve Houses. It was just like Hogwarts, only bigger, and without the sorting hat. Dana and I were assigned to Beaumont House, where we would live from sophomore year on. But all First Years lived together in the buildings ringing the enormous Freshman Court.

All the First Years except for us.

At least our dormitory was just across the street. My brother had told me that McHerrin was used for a jumble of purposes — it housed students whose houses were undergoing renovation, or foreign students visiting just for a term.

And apparently, McHerrin was where they put gimps like me.

Dana and I passed through a set of marble gates and headed toward the scent of barbecued chicken. This was Freshman Court, where each building was more elegant and antique than the last. They all sported steep stone steps stretching up to carved wooden doors. I couldn’t help but ogle their ornate facades like a tourist. This was Harkness College — the stone gargoyles, the three centuries of history. It was gorgeous, if not handicapped-accessible.

“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry that we’re not living in Fresh Court with the rest of our class,” I said, using my brother’s slang for the first year dorms. “It’s kind of unfair that you’re stuck in McHerrin with me.”

“Corey, stop apologizing!” Dana insisted. “We’re going to meet lots of people. And we have such a great room. I’m not worried.”

Together, we approached the center of the lawn, where a tent was set up. The strains of someone’s guitar floated on the warm September air, while the smell of charcoal wafted past our noses.

I never dreamed I’d show up for college in a wheelchair. Some people say that after a life-threatening event, they learn to enjoy life more. That they stop taking everything for granted.

Sometimes I felt like punching those people.

But today I understood. The September sun was warm, and my roommate was as friendly in person as she was over email. And I was breathing. So I had better learn to appreciate it.

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 19 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 192019
 

Shooting for the Stars (Gravity #3) by Sarina Bowen

For one night she had everything.

Pro snowboarder Stella Lazarus has always loved her brother’s best friend. But the one time she tried to show him, she was shot down faster than you can say “competitor disqualified.”

Until one blissful night in Tahoe, when Stella finally gets her man.

Or does she? In the morning, Stella and Bear wake up to horrible news. The sort that sends them racing back to Vermont, and straight into the arms of guilt and family obligations.

For all of Bryan “Bear” Barry’s life, three natural laws held true: his best friend Hank was destined for greatness, Hank’s sister Stella was off-limits, and Bear would always manage to negotiate the rocky paths that life threw his way. In the space of two days, that’s all shattered.

Bear can’t believe he slipped up so badly with Stella. Even if his best friend wasn’t lying broken in a hospital bed, it would still be unforgivable. Determined to do better, he devotes himself to his friend’s recovery, denying himself the very person he loves. And the very thing he needs.

Excerpt Shooting for the Stars (Gravity #3) by Sarina Bowen

December
Stella Lazarus lifted her eyes from her snowboard to the shimmer of Lake Tahoe in the distance. She was standing atop a ridge so steep that the spectators below could not easily be seen. But that was just as well, since one spectator in particular might make her knees feel even shakier.

Chill already, she chided herself. This isn’t your first rodeo.

This momentary panic always arrived, though. At every competition. The scariest part of the race was not the actual descent. Those seventy-five or so seconds of bombing down the mountain were so adrenaline-filled that there wasn’t any time for nerves.

No, the worst bit was right now — these last three minutes before her run. From the moment the previous competitor disappeared over the cornice, Stella had to fight the surge of nervous energy fizzing in her gut.

By now, it was too late to rethink her line of descent. And it was too late to decide which of her many snowboards was the best fit for the icy conditions. All the important stuff had already been decided. Yet it was too early to exorcise the demons coiled like springs inside her chest.

So the seconds ticked by in slow motion. Each glug of her heart was audible, as was the wind whistling through her helmet. The weather was fierce today. Stella was too pumped up to worry much about the chill, yet the bystanders could be seen bracing against the wind, curling in on themselves during each harsh blast.

The snow underfoot was crunchy, icy stuff. There’d been quite a bit of complaining among her fellow competitors about the crusty conditions California had dished up for the freeriding competition, especially at this resort so famous for its lofty powder.

Bring it, Stella thought, bouncing her body up and down to keep her muscles warm. She was from Vermont, where hardpack was the norm. She’d grown up hearing that scrape of the board against the ice every time she swung into a turn. Today’s “poor” conditions actually favored her.

The loudspeaker, garbled by the wind, mumbled out her predecessor’s score. So now all eyes would turn to her.

No fear, baby.

A few yards away, the lead judge raised a hand, indicating she was free to begin. He cracked his gum and smiled at her. “Rip it up, sister,” he said. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Thanks, man.”

Snowboarding was a sport that refused to take itself too seriously, and Stella loved that. A freeriding competition was not a race, per se. There was no gatehouse, and no fancy-ass timing equipment. Freeriding competitions weren’t about beating the clock. The judges cared about speed, but only as it related to style and prowess.

Stella bent down to check her bindings one last time. Standing tall again, she rocked her feet, testing the fit. Everything was solid.

Now it was just girl versus mountain, and Stella liked her chances. This was it right here. It could very well be her greatest moment as a snowboarder. The Master of the Mountain Championship was the biggest American event of the Big Mountain Cup. Not only was Stella in good shape and injury free, but she’d trained harder this year than any other in her life.

I can win this, she told herself.

The assorted coaches and competitors standing in the wind began to clap for her.

“Kill it, girl!” somebody shouted.

With a deep breath, Stella bent her knees and tipped the board over the edge. Just like that, her whole existence was reduced to motion and instinct.

Gravity kicked in immediately. The top of the course was a wicked fifty-degree pitch. The first three women had taken it with extreme turns, keeping their speed in check by jamming the board back and forth.

Not Stella.

She straight-lined it, pointing the nose of her board directly downhill to maximize her acceleration. She was ready for the course’s sudden turn to the left. But when the lip of a fifteen-foot cliff rushed into view, there was barely enough time to flex her knees and watch the ground fall away. Airborne now, she snapped her hips and grasped for the board’s edge with one hand — she’d get points for the grab. And then she was spotting the landing, setting the board down smoothly enough to keep herself upright and moving fast.

The landing was almost perfect. She experienced a nanosecond of terror when her board wobbled. Clenching her quads, she rode it out.

You’ve got this, she reassured herself as more terrain came into view. The next rock wasn’t as big as the cliff, so Stella used it to throw a one-eighty. Lake Tahoe’s icy blue shimmer swung from one side of her body to the other. Landing the jump, she was now riding switch, her back to the fall line below. It was risky as hell, but Stella needed the points. She needed this win. Hanging on for all that it was worth, she dropped switch into another little chute, propelling herself toward the last section of terrain. It wasn’t as steep, but Stella was already carrying some wicked speed.

Time to lay down a few more tricks before the finish line.

And here her brain shut off entirely as she jumped and whirled and landed at a velocity too fast for logic and reason. Years of muscle memory and plain old reflex kicked in. There was a final snarl of trees to navigate, and then a sweet little double jump. By the time she landed the second one, the finish line was rushing towards her, the faces of the spectators blurring together as she swept past.

Less than a minute and a half since dropping in, Stella stood panting in the run-out.

Unclipping her bindings, she walked, chest heaving, over to the scoring area. She stood in front of the sponsor board, the corporate logos shining in the afternoon sunlight, trying not to shake. There would be cameras trained on her here. So the trick was to wait calmly for her score, even though her body was still coursing with adrenaline, her synapses quivering from hyper-stimulation.

There was no other rush like it.

It would take a few minutes until she felt fully human again. That kind of speed and danger brought you to a primal place. In high school biology class, when the teacher had explained the fight-or-flight response, Stella had had no problem grasping the concept. By then, she’d already been the most daring female snowboarder in her corner of Vermont.

She heard her score before she actually saw it. “Seventy three point five,” the announcer’s voice said. It took her heart a half second to process the news. But when she did, her giant smile could not be contained. On the leader board, she saw her name pop into first place.

This was the moment when an athlete was supposed to turn into the waiting arms of her… boyfriend? Husband? Parents? Stella unclipped her helmet, shook out her hair, and smiled for the cameras. Then she began looking around for her fan club of two.

“You rock, little girl!” someone shouted. But it was a stranger.

“Thanks!” she called, scanning the crowd. “Crowd” being a relative term, of course. Freeriding didn’t bring out the masses, like her brother’s superpipe events did. Hers wasn’t an Olympic sport, which meant that few people even knew what freeriding was. Also, the competitions weren’t very accessible. The hundred or so spectators here today had taken three different chairlifts to reach the finish line. Some of the fans were probably on the mountain for an ordinary ski day, and had stumbled on the event while picking out their next run.

When Stella’s gaze landed on the face she sought, her heart tripped over its own feet. Her whole life, Stella had been a fierce and graceful athlete. She’d had to be — how else could a girl keep up with a brother who was four years older and his best friend, Bear?

But while Stella’s body had always been sure-footed on the snow, her heart was a total klutz. The large object of her affection was now staring at her, a proud, quirky smile lighting up his handsome, scrufftastic face.

What she wouldn’t give to be the frequent target of that smile.

This thought was interrupted by something hard crashing into her chest. It was her brother, Hank. “That was sick,” he enthused, grabbing her into a hug. “The way you ate up that first chute. The jump in switch! The tail grab off that last boulder. I mean, dayum.” He pounded her back.

For once, Stella just hung there in his arms, eating up the praise. Because there was a chance that the run she’d just put down was every bit as good as Hank said it was.

Then, when Hank set her back onto her feet, Stella held her breath. Because it was Bear’s turn to congratulate her. Usually, when Stella knew she was about to come face to face with Bear, she braced herself. Because there was never any point to letting him read on her face how much she cared.

Just once she’d tried to let him know and had been brushed off so fast it had made her head spin. But that was years ago.

Today was special, though. She had just kicked some serious ass up there, and nobody expected her to play it cool. So Stella didn’t dim her smile when she looked up into Bear’s eyes. She just let it all hang out — her joy at doing well, her excitement at seeing him for the first time in months. Her love.

Not that he’d notice.

When those silver-gray eyes met hers, there was more unguarded warmth in them than Stella usually saw there. That gave her a zing that no drug could ever touch. Her run must have been spectacular to get that kind of approval from Bear. Given the choice, Stella would have stood there forever, soaking up that look in his eye. Instead, she found herself briefly crushed against his side, one of his big arms pinning her.

“Awesome job, buddy,” he said in that rumbling voice which she always felt everywhere.

“Thanks,” she whispered. Just as her mind formed the words Bear is holding me, he wasn’t anymore. There was nothing but cold air where his body had just been.

Meanwhile her brother was still singing her praises. “…so fast and so solid. Nobody is going to touch that run,” Hank said.

“Don’t jinx me,” Stella yelped. Like any red-blooded athlete, she was deeply superstitious.

“Honey, I couldn’t,” he said. “When you ride like that nobody can step in front of you. The first event of the season belongs to you.”

“Stop, already,” she laughed. “Jesus.” There were several more competitors to follow. Any one of them could put down the run of a lifetime, too.

But none did.

Thirty minutes later, she took her phone out of her pocket and snapped a picture of the final standings, showing STELLA LAZARUS on top. She forwarded the photo to her parents back home in Vermont. They would probably reply with “great job, Sweetie.” But their absence spoke volumes. They hadn’t really been listening when Stella told them how important this single competition was to her. Yet they’d bought their plane tickets to the Olympics three months ago. And Hank wouldn’t even be named to the American team for another four weeks.

Whatever. She had won this thing, and she was going to be happy about that. “I’m picking the cocktails tonight,” Stella announced.

“Oh, man,” Bear teased. “Don’t pick anything that will lose me my man card.”

She socked him in the arm, which was their usual form of affection. “Just for that, there’s going to be an umbrella in your drink.”

“Great,” Bear muttered.

“Stell-Bell, I’m going to have to take a rain check on the drinking,” Hank said.

“God, why?” Hank never took a rain check on partying. He’d earned his nickname “Hazardous” both on the snow and off.

“I’m flying back to Vermont tonight for the exhibition event.”

“Oh, shit,” Stella complained. “That’s this weekend?”

“Yep. I’m really sorry.”

For a second, she was disappointed. But then Stella realized two things. First, her brother had come to Lake Tahoe for no reason other than to watch her compete. And, secondly, for the first time in years, she was going to have an evening alone with Bear. Well then. “I’m sorry to see you go, but I totally understand,” she said.

“You do? Aw.” Hank ruffled her hair. “Will you still be this nice about it if I ask you to drive Bear back to South Tahoe? Then I can take my rental straight to the Reno airport.”

Stella laughed. “Fine.”

“I didn’t check out,” her brother added. He fished a key card out of his pocket. “You can have my room tonight, and it’s awesome. I got upgraded.”

“You always get upgraded.” Stella took the card. “For once, I’m going to be the lucky beneficiary.”

“The room is penthouse number one. Just like your standing.” He cocked his head toward the leader board. Then he hugged her one more time. “I’m outie. Got a flight to catch.”

“Bye, Hank!” Stella called after him. As she watched her brother duck under the roped-off boundary, a swarm of people descended to ask him for an autograph. That always happened, and not just on mountains. In shopping plazas and airports, people recognized her Olympic champion brother.

Stella shook her head. “Think I’ll be mobbed like that later?”

“I’ll fight ’em off for you,” Bear offered. He lifted his snowboard off the ground and mimed bashing heads with it.

She gave him another gentle punch to the bicep. “I knew you were good for something.” Weirdly, Bear actually flinched. Then his mouth drew into a tense, straight line. Stella watched him, studying his silver gaze, trying to figure out what she’d said to make him frown.

Bear turned away. “Let’s ride down,” he said. “I mean, if you’re ready. Is there a press conference?”

Stella sighed. “Nope. The back-country events don’t draw many journalists. And I already spoke to Outside Magazine and Snowboard today. Which way do you want to head down? I was thinking the Rock Garden.”

He hesitated. “There’s always Dead Tree.”

“Bear, you know where this is leading right?” Stella stuck out a fist. The two of them had always been competitive. Since they were preschoolers inventing stunts on their tricycles, he’d had a bossy, alpha-dog personality. And Stella could admit she was just a wee bit strong-headed herself. Their entire childhood had been a long series of petty disagreements which needed settling.

Even though they hadn’t seen each other in months, Bear knew exactly what to do. Removing his glove, he put his fist across from hers. In unison they chanted: “Rock, paper, scissors, SHOOT!”

Stella was about to protest that Bear had hesitated when she realized she’d won. “Scissors cut paper! Rock Garden it is.” She hiked her board under one arm and ran toward the cornice.

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 19 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Nov 192019
 

Top Secret by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Bestselling authors Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy return with their first Male / Male romance in 3 years.

LobsterShorts, 21
Jock. Secretly a science geek. Hot AF.

LobsterShorts: So. Here goes. For her birthday, my girlfriend wants…a threesome.

SinnerThree: Then you’ve come to the right hookup app.

LobsterShorts: Have you done this sort of thing before? With another guy?

SinnerThree: All the time. I’m an equal opportunity player. You?

LobsterShorts: [crickets!]

SinnerThree, 21
Finance major. Secretly a male dancer. Hot AF.

SinnerThree: Well, I’m down if you are. My life is kind of a mess right now. School, work, family stress. Oh, and I live next door to the most annoying dude in the world. I need the distraction. Are you sure you want this?

LobsterShorts: I might want it a little more than I’m willing to admit.

SinnerThree: Hey, nothing wrong with pushing your boundaries…

LobsterShorts: Tell that to my control-freak father. Anyway. What if this threesome is awkward?

SinnerThree: Then it’s awkward. It’s not like we’ll ever have to see each other again. Right? Just promise you won’t fall in love with me.

LobsterShorts: Now wouldn’t that be life-changing…

Q&A about Top Secret:

Q: Have we met these characters before in another book?
A: No! These guys are brand new, and we can’t wait for you to meet them.

Q: Is this story MM? Or is it a MMF / MFM / menage?
A: This book is MM.

Q: Is this a love triangle story?
A: Not really. You’ll see.

Excerpt Top Secret by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Chapter One

Keaton

“Look,” Annika whispers in my ear. Under the table, her small hand squeezes my thigh, while her cheek gently nudges my chin toward the doorway. “He’s cute.”

“Subtle,” I tease before giving the object of her attention a cursory glance. He’s just a tall guy with brown hair, nothing special as far as I can tell. “How about we save this conversation for later?”

She rolls her eyes. “We both know there won’t be a conversation, Keaton. You like playing along, but you won’t actually go through with it.” This time she forgets to lower her voice.

“Go through with what?” one of my frat brothers asks from across the table. Tanner, Judd, and I had popped into the campus Starbucks for a caffeine fix after practice. Annika’s next class is directly across the street, so she’d come to say hi before class.

“Nothing,” I tell Tanner.

If you can call your girlfriend wanting a threesome with another dude “nothing.”

Yup, my girlfriend wants a threesome. And here I’d thought that, after six years together, Annika couldn’t surprise me anymore.

She and I have been inseparable since junior year of high school. I know every last detail about her, from her food preferences to her pet peeves. I know she gets anxiety in long lines, that she sneezes any time she gets a whiff of cinnamon, that she loves the beach but hates skiing.

What I didn’t know was that my girlfriend fantasizes about threesomes. The first time she brought it up, I thought she was kidding around. Annika Schiffer, heiress to a home-furnishings fortune, wants to bang two guys at the same time? Yeah right.

My girl is the president of her sorority, wears a pearl necklace (and not the fun kind) on a daily basis, and made me wait until we were eighteen to lose our virginities to each other. Don’t get me wrong—she’s not some uptight rich bitch with a stick up her butt. She’s fun and warm and fierce when someone tries to mess with her or her loved ones.

But she’s also… I’ll just say it: vanilla.

I didn’t think she was serious about the threesome thing until last week, when I’d asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she brought up the idea again.

I move my lips to her ear so Tanner and Judd can’t overhear. “Don’t you worry, babe, there’ll be more than just a conversation,” I rasp.

She shivers, and then flashes me a dazzling smile. Her face is flawless. Classic features, pouty lips, and smooth skin that’s just the right amount of dewy. She works hard and spends a lot of money for that skin. I’ve been in her bathroom at the sorority house, so I’ve seen all the products she puts on her face to keep it looking so perfect. Not to mention the monthly facials, which require her to fly to New York every month because this little college town we live in doesn’t have a “competent aesthetician”—her words, not mine.

It helps that her father owns a helicopter that can accommodate her monthly treks. I’m not one to judge, though. My dad has his own jet.

“I can’t wait,” she says before hopping off my lap. “Come over tonight after practice, okay, baby? I have to go to class now.”

“I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, boys.” Annika’s hand flutters in a wave on her way to the door.

“Later!” Tanner calls after her. And if I’m not mistaken, he takes a longing look at her ass.

“Dude,” I say. “If you’re going to eye-fuck my girlfriend, you could at least be subtle about it.”

“Why?” Tanner argues. “She’d be flattered. And you should know how good you’ve got it. Besides, I’m harmless.” He flashes me a big smile. “What are we doing this weekend, anyway?” Tanner asks. “The Presidential Dance-off, right?”

I shake my head. “That’s, like, in two weeks, man.”

“Really? Why did I think it was sooner?”

“Because you’re stupid,” Judd offers helpfully.

Tanner gives him the finger, before turning back to me. “Do you know what you’re doing for yours yet?”

I have no clue. And no, dancing isn’t an actual requirement for our fraternity’s presidential race. But it used to be. A few decades ago, the candidates running for frat president decided a dance-off was the only way to decide who was more fit to lead. Hence, the Presidential Dance-off was born. On our living room walls, there are old photos of well-dressed men with slicked-back hair and girls in poodle skirts on their arms.

My fraternity has long-held traditions that began well before the invention of the red Solo cup. But these days, Alpha Delta has evolved. Or devolved, depending who you ask. Instead of perfecting his twist and his mashed potato, the presidential candidate is expected to dazzle the other members by planning a kickass event. I’m talking epic. Monumental. The kind of party that will be remembered for years to come.

Although, like dance moves, I’m not entirely sure that party planning is a solid indicator of what makes a good president. Sure, frats throw a lot of parties, but there’s a social committee for that.

The role of president is actually pretty lame, according to Reedsy, our current prez. He pulled me aside after I threw my name in the race and admitted that it’s a boring gig and that I should reconsider. “So much fucking responsibility on your shoulders, dude,” he’d bemoaned.

For a moment, I’d almost bailed. To be honest, I’m only running because my dad was president of Alpha Delt in his heyday, and my granddad before him. But that’s also the reason I couldn’t bail. My father would lose his shit if the Hayworth legacy ended with me.

So I have ten days to plan a legendary party.

“Maybe I can just hire an event planner?” I suggest.

“No way.” Judd’s response is immediate. “If that fuckhead Bailey finds out, he’ll have you impeached.”

“You can’t impeach someone until he’s elected,” Tanner points out.

Still, I don’t want to be accused of cheating. What a pain in the ass this whole thing is. “We can brainstorm about this on Sunday night. We have a game to win on Saturday.”

“Oh, we’re going to win,” Tanner promises.

But I’m not so sure. Not only am I worried about the Northern Mass offense, I think my father is driving up for the game. So winning isn’t even enough. If the Northern Mass players aren’t crying into their helmets after the fourth quarter, my father will still give me hell at brunch the next day.

And here I thought weekends were meant to be relaxing.

“Fine,” Judd says. “We’ll talk about your campaign after the other meeting on Sunday night.”

“What other meeting?” I search my brain and come up empty.

“Pledge Committee,” he says, gulping the last of his coffee.

Oh, phew. “I don’t have to go to that one. I’m not on PC this year.”

“But I sent you that email?” Judd whines. “I told you I need you there. Initiation night is coming up and my committee is lame.”

“Who’s on it, anyway? What do you have planned?” Note to self: be conveniently unavailable on Sunday night. There is no way I’m sitting on the Pledge Committee again. Dealing with last year’s pledge class was a total pain in the ass.

“There’s Ahmad, who’s smart but boring. Paul, who’s just boring. Owen, who’s fun but not exactly creative. And Paxton, who’s just a tool.” He sighs. “Whatever. At least Bailey isn’t on it this time. Remember what a buzz kill he was last year? I fucking hate that guy.”

No big secret there. Judd’s had it in for Luke Bailey ever since the guy rushed Alpha Delt sophomore year. And say what you will about Judd, but he’s not an asshole unless he feels you’ve given him a reason. He’s a bro to the core—he believes in male bonding, high fives, and, in his mind, a friendship isn’t official unless you’ve bled together, partied together, and nursed your twin hangovers the morning after.

Luke Bailey doesn’t subscribe to this philosophy. The moment he scoffed at Judd’s attempt at a fist bump, he earned himself an enemy in Judd Keller.

Since then, their tumultuous acquaintanceship has only gotten worse. Luke is a cocky ass when he wants to be, and Judd hates feeling like he’s being mocked or judged.

Oh, and then Bailey banged Judd’s ex. So there’s that.

“You exert too much mental energy on that guy,” Tanner informs Judd. Tanner’s a psych major, so he’s constantly dishing out (pretty good) advice that everyone mostly ignores. “Holding onto anger isn’t conducive to robust mental health.”

“First of all, say the word robust one more time and I’ll clock you. You know how I feel about that, bro.” Indignation flashes in Judd eyes. “And second of all, Luke Bailey screwed my girlfriend! I’m never not gonna be angry at that prick.”

“Ex-girlfriend,” I hedge, but it earns me a deep scowl from Judd. The two of us are teammates, and I do feel loyalty to him, but I’m also not afraid to call it like it is. “You and Therese were broken up for months.”

“Me and Therese are never broken up. Sure, we take short breaks, a hiatus or two. But she’s my girl,” Judd says tightly. “Everybody knows that.”

“Bailey says he didn’t,” Tanner says.

“That’s bullshit. He’s a liar. And now he’s trying to screw K over!” Judd growls. “He joined the presidential race to get back at me. I just know it.”

“You think?” Tanner looks skeptical. “Because that would be sociopathic lengths to go to just to spite you.”

“Yeah,” I agree with a chuckle. “Bailey’s a prick, but I can’t see him taking on the huge responsibility of running a fraternity just to flip you the metaphorical bird.” Although if I’m being honest, I don’t know why Luke Bailey is running for prez. The guy hasn’t shown much interest in frat activities since he joined us.

“He totally would,” Judd argues.

“Hey, we got class now,” Tanner reminds our sulking buddy. “We should book it over there.”

“Fine.” Judd scrapes his chair back and gets to his feet. His cloudy gaze meets mine again. “I’m serious, man. Bailey is bad news, and we need to kick his ass in this campaign. There’s no way I’m letting him be our president.”

“Don’t worry. He won’t be.”

Once my friends are gone, I let out a tired sigh. I don’t particularly care about Judd’s beef with Bailey at the moment. I have a football game to win, a campaign to plan, and a father to impress.

And a girlfriend to please.

I go up to the counter to get a refill, then settle in my cozy corner of the coffeehouse and open the app I downloaded last night. I hadn’t lied to Annika earlier—her birthday request is in the forefront of my mind. I just need to do some investigating first.

Welcome to Kink!

Add a profile pic.

Add bio.

I’d wanted to fill all this out last night, but my frat brothers suckered me into an epic session of Red Dead Redemption that lasted till three a.m. Now I quickly scroll through the camera roll on my phone until I find a suitable one. It’s of Annika and me, taken in Easthampton last summer. She looks smokin’ hot in a teeny string bikini, and my abs are looking tight, if I do say so myself. I crop out our faces and load the photo.

I skip the bio for now, because I’m feeling impatient. I want to see what this app has to offer more than I want to break my brain thinking of one hundred and forty-five characters to describe how my girlfriend wants to bang two men at the same time.

Actually, that’s pretty much the gist of it.

Still, I’m curious to check out the goods. Kink is more hookup app than dating app, and I’m pleased to discover it lets you search for users who’ve expressed interest in certain arrangements.

I click on the threesome box in the search section. There are an eye-opening number of options, combinations that hadn’t even occurred to me. Annika wants another guy, though, so I ponder the easiest combos.

m/f/m

m/m/f

My finger hovers over the m/f/m button. The other option means the men are allowed to touch, I think. It’s the moment of truth. Some guys would hate this idea. I don’t, though. I’m a scientist. Experimenting is what I do.

I even dreamt about sex with men once. Or twice. I never mentioned that to Annika. But why would I? I’ve also dreamt of meeting a dragon who smoked clove cigarettes. The things my brain invents while I’m sleeping aren’t newsworthy.

But I’d be lying if I said that Annika’s shocking birthday request turns me off. I’ll try anything once. And the app lets you click as many boxes as you want. So after looking over my shoulder once more just to make sure nobody I know is watching, I tap both options and usher in the possibility of taking a walk on the wild side.

The threesome has to be with a stranger, though. I’m certain that any one of my frat brothers would be down to help me give my girl a night to remember. Well, except Dan, who’s only down for dudes. And, well, Bailey, who thinks I’m an ass. I think he’s an ass, too, so I guess we’re even.

But I can’t do this with someone I know. What if the whole night is awkward as fuck? If it’s a brother, I’ll still have to live with him. If it’s a teammate, I’ll still have to see him in the locker room.

And then there’s the opposite scenario. What if it’s not awkward as fuck? What if I like it a whole lot?

Yeah, I don’t want my buddies judging me. A stranger for the win, then.

I lean back in my chair and start swiping.

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 19 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Nov 192019
 

The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years #5) by Sarina Bowen

Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.

She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.

But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel “DJ” Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. Something’s haunting his dark eyes, and she needs to know more.

DJ’s genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.

Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can’t get close to Lianne, and he can’t tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

Excerpt The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years #5) by Sarina Bowen

FROM CHAPTER ONE

Trevi refills my beer and then pours one for his evil girlfriend. He’s missed the whole exchange because he’s busy arguing with another hockey player about the Winnipeg Jets.

I’m just about to ask, aren’t the Jets in New York? But then I remember that those Jets are a football team, and save myself the embarrassment. My sports ignorance knows no bounds. I’m bored by their conversation, but I wish I weren’t. It’s nobody’s fault that I grew up among people who bet on the outcome of the Tony Awards instead of the Stanley Cup.

I want to fit in, it’s just that I don’t speak the language.

Even as I’m rounding out this depressing thought, another male body appears in the doorway.

I don’t even have to turn my head to be sure that it’s DJ. I’ve been waiting so long to see him again that I just know. He’s there in the periphery, hands stuck in his jacket pockets, leaning against the door frame talking to one of the players. The muscular set of his shoulders is just how I remember him.

All at once, my pulse quickens and I feel a little dizzy. As if I’d walked out onto the edge of a diving board, and felt it wobble beneath my feet. What on earth will I find to say to him?

The sad truth is that I only sound clever when I’m reading from a script.

For several minutes I sit still, as if enthralled by the complexities of the Jets-who-don’t-play-football. DJ stays where he is, and so do I. There aren’t any seats open near me, though. So if I want to talk to him, I’m going to have to make my own luck.

Rising, I dig a couple of quarters out of my pocket. I don’t head over to DJ, because I’m not that brave. Instead I make a beeline for the jukebox in the corner. I put in my quarters and then I check out the selection. The last time someone updated this puppy looks to be during the 1990s. I hadn’t noticed that the first night I met DJ. Probably because I was drunk. But now it’s a problem, because I need to play something that reflects the girl I wish I was—easygoing, casual, a little bit hip.

Hard to do that when I’m staring down at choices like Madonna’s Vogue (a perfectly good song, but not exactly cutting edge,) or Achy Breaky Heart.

Then my heart kicks into a higher gear, because I feel him approaching. I’m desperate to turn and look, but I make myself pick a song instead. I’m proud to say that I don’t spare him a glance until I’ve tapped in the code for the track of my choice.

Only then do I stand tall and turn to him. And, whoa—my memory hasn’t even done him justice. I’d remembered the thick brown hair and the dimple that’s darkened by his five o’clock shadow. But his eyelashes are darker and more devastating than I remember, and was his mouth always so full and sinful-looking?

And now I’m staring, damn it!

“Hey there,” he says, one elbow on the scarred wooden paneling. “Remember me?”

“DJ, right?” It comes out as a croak. Because I’m cool like that.

God help me—his smile is slow and sexy. “That’s right. I’m surprised you remember, though.”

I clear my throat and try again. “Are you saying that because we only met once? Or because I got senior-prom drunk that night?” I never went to a prom, but I heard another actress say that once and it sounded cute.

He rewards me with an even bigger smile. “You said it, not me.” His eyes drop to the jukebox. “Pick out something good?”

“It wasn’t easy.”

“Right? I love this old thing, though.” He rubs the gleaming surface of the jukebox, and I am suddenly fixated on his wide, masculine hand. I wish I could pick it up and compare the size of it with mine. I want to know if his skin is rough or smooth…

That’s when I notice the abomination coming from the jukebox. An electro-beat that I’d never choose, and some ridiculously high male voices…

“Interesting pick,” DJ says, and the corners of his mouth are twitching.

“Hell!” I bend over the box, peering at the song codes again. “How is this possible? I was trying to play M.C. Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This.’”

DJ chuckles. “And instead you got…”

The chorus from the long-forgotten Color Me Badd kicks in, singing “I Wanna Sex You Up!”

Nooooo! Either my subconscious has betrayed me, or the machine is miscoded. It’s probably fruitless, but I have to at least try to distance myself from this error. “You should know that I would never willingly play a song by somebody who can’t spell “‘bad.’”

“Really?” He grins. “Yet you went for some Hammertime. And that dude spells ‘mother’ with a ‘u’ and an ‘a.’”

Shoot me already. “DJ, Your grasp of nineties hits is…”

“Impressive?” His smile is cocky, and I have to restrain myself from reaching up to measure it with my fingertips.

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 19 November 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
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